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Lane v. Main and Associates, Inc.

Supreme Court of Alabama

June 8, 2018

Barbara Lane, as administrator of the Estate of Ora Sullins, deceased
v.
Main and Associates, Inc., d/b/a Southern Springs Healthcare Facility

          Appeal from Bullock Circuit Court (CV-16-900025)

          PARKER, JUSTICE.

         AFFIRMED. NO OPINION.

         See Rule 53(a)(1) and (a)(2)(E), Ala. R. App. P.

          Bolin, J., concurs.

          Stuart, C.J., and Bryan and Sellers, JJ., dissent.

          Main and Wise, JJ., recuse themselves.

          SHAW, Justice (concurring specially).

         I concur to affirm the summary judgment in this case that, for purposes of this writing, essentially held that the underlying action was untimely filed. The background of this case is provided in Justice Sellers's dissenting opinion, and I see no need to repeat it here.

         The dispositive issue[1] to me is whether the defendant, Main and Associates, Inc., d/b/a Southern Springs Healthcare Facility ("Main and Associates"), [2] was properly and timely served with process. The chief executive officer and part owner of Main and Associates is also a part owner of Main Drug Store, a pharmacy. It appears from the record that these are two distinct businesses that are not affiliated and do not operate as alter egos and that they are both located in Union Springs.

         Barbara Lane, as administrator of the estate of Ora Sullins, deceased, attempted to commence a wrongful-death action against Main and Associates but apparently served the complaint on another business. When she discovered Main and Associates' identity, she attempted service of process by a certified letter addressed and mailed to Main and Associates' registered agent at Main and Associates' street address. For some inexplicable reason, the letter was not delivered to that address but was instead placed in Main Drug Store's post-office box. That letter was received and signed for by Dorothy Surles, an employee of Main Drug Store.

         Surles received the letter after the statute of limitations for Lane's wrongful-death action had expired, but it is alleged that she received it within the 120-day period provided in Rule 15(c)(3), Ala. R. Civ. P. Main and Associates apparently received the letter from the drug store after the 120-day period had expired. For Lane's action to be considered timely, Lane was required to show that Surles's receipt of the letter imputed service to Main and Associates. The pertinent legal issue is whether Surles was an "agent" for Main and Associates as contemplated by Rule 4(i)(2)(C), Ala. R. Civ. P. That rule states:

"Service by certified mail shall be deemed complete and the time for answering shall run from the date of delivery to the named addressee or the addressee's agent as evidenced by signature on the return receipt. Within the meaning of this subdivision, 'agent' means a person or entity specifically authorized by the addressee to ...

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