Substitute Service Survives Restricted Appeal

A pair of California residents sought to set aside a default judgment by means of a restricted appeal. The defendants claimed that the trial court lacked jurisdiction due to defective service of process, which had been accomplished through the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State’s certificate of service stated that process for both defendants had been “Unclaimed.” After the defendants failed to appear, the trial court entered default judgment for $612,500 in damages and another $13,258.27 in attorney fees. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Although the process server had listed the date of execution as taking place the month before he received the citation, that apparent typographical error was not enough to invalidate the return of service, particularly where the other service documents demonstrated the correct date of service. Substitute service through the Texas Secretary of State was also proper, the Court held, because the petition alleged that they were doing business in Texas by entering into a promissory note and guaranty with a Texas company, with the note also secured by real property located in Kaufman County. Nor did the “Unclaimed” notations demonstrate that the citations had not been served. Instead, the Court followed previous cases holding that it indicated only that the defendants had refused or failed to claim the citations from the Secretary of State’s mailings, not that service had not been accomplished.

Dole v. LSREF2 APEX 2, LLC, No. 05-12-01683-CV

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