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COA: Serving notice on an adult's parents isn't adequate

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that a trial court can’t serve notice on the home of someone’s parents if that adult doesn’t live there and expect that to serve as adequate notice for the party to appear in court.

A 12-page ruling came from the appellate court today in Jim Norris v. Personal Finance, No. 27A04-1104-SC-183 reversing a decision by Grant Superior Judge Warren Haas.

The case involves a personal loan that Personal Finance granted to Jim Norris in 2008 but that he failed to pay back. In the loan documents, Norris listed his home in Swayzee, Ind., and listed his parents in Middleton, Ind., as references. The promissory note Norris signed didn’t require him to notify Personal Finance of any change in address, and he didn’t. After Norris stopped paying on the loan, Personal Finance filed a claim in small claims court in March 2010 and the sheriff’s office served a copy of the notice to his parents address by personal service and first-class mail.

Norris didn’t appear at the April 2010 hearing and a default judgment was entered against him. In February 2011, an attorney for Norris filed a motion for relief from judgment on grounds that the service of process at the parents’ Middleton address was inadequate because Norris didn’t live there. Norris’ attorney argued that the default judgment was void, but after a hearing the trial judge determined the parents had a duty to either inform Norris of the notice or make sure the trial court knew of address error.

On appeal, the three-judge appellate panel disagreed and found Indiana Trial Rule 4.16 doesn’t impose a duty on the parents and that the notice was insufficient. Specifically, the court looked at the trial rule that says, “Anyone accepting service for another person is under a duty to: 1) promptly deliver the papers to that person; 2) promptly notify that person that he holds the papers for him; or 3) within a reasonable time, notify the clerk or person making the service that he has been unable to make such delivery of notice when such is the case.”

Norris argued that Rule 4.16 applies only to those with authority to accept service for another person and that his parents didn’t have that authority. The appellate judges agreed, basing their decision on LaPalme v. Romero, 621 N.E. 2d 1102 (Ind. 1993) that held parents of a competent adult aren’t included on the list of those with automatic authority to accept service.

The court also found that just because Norris had knowledge of the action and hearing doesn’t grant the court personal jurisdiction, relying on a state Court of Appeals decision from 2001 that found a man hadn’t been adequately served notice even though he eventually received the summons from his parents.
 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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