John M. Kirby
Washington v. Cline
In Washington v. Cline , decided on November 5, 2013, the Court of Appeals addressed issues of service under the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. North Carolina rules generally require strict compliance with service requirements.
In this case, the plaintiff sued several entities for malicious prosecution, including the City of Durham. He served them with process (i.e. the Complaint and Summons) through FedEx. The relevant provision of Rule 4 regarding service on a natural person allows for service "by depositin with a designated deliver service ... a copy of the summons and complaint, addressed to the party to be served, delivering to the addressee, and obtaining a delivery receipt." With respect to the defendants, the packages were either delivered to some other person at the residence, or were left at the residence; these defendants admitted to receiving the items (albeit not directly from the FedEx delivery person).
The court held that service was proper. Using rules of statutory construction, the court concluded that the package need not be initially delivered to the defendant; it is sufficient if it is ultimately delivered to the addressee (defendant).
The court addressed other miscellaneous service issues. The City was not properly served because it was served on the City attorney, who is not a proper person for service upon a City. The court also rejected an argument that service was improper because the summons did not list all of the defendants.