Monday, July 1, 2024

Court Addresses Proper Method of Serving Out-of-State Defendants

In the case of Morgan v. Compton, No. CV-22-01100 (C.P. Lyc. Co. Carlucci, J.), the court found that a pro se Defendant satisfied the three prongs required to open a default judgment entered against him on a Plaintiff’s Complaint for personal injuries.

According to the Complaint, the parties were formerly in a romantic relationship. With regards to that relationship, the Plaintiff filed a three (3) Count Complaint alleging various personal injury allegations against the Defendant, who resided in California.

The court confirmed that the Plaintiff mailed the Complaint to the Defendant by certified mail but the certified mail was returned marked “unclaimed.”

The Plaintiff then mailed the Complaint to the Defendant by regular mail, which was not returned.

Thereafter, the Plaintiff mailed the Defendant a Notice of Intention to take a Default Judgment by first class mail and certified mail. The certified mail envelope was returned as unclaimed.

No responsive pleading was filed by the Defendant thereafter. A default judgment was then entered.

When the Plaintiff requested a trial on damages, the Defendant attended a conference by telephone and advised the court that he intended to defend the case.

Thereafter, the Defendant filed a Petition to Open the Default Judgment and the court held a hearing by Zoom. The Defendant claimed that he mailed a written response to the Complaint but that filing did not appear in the court file.

Judge Carlucci ruled that Pa. R.C.P. 4003 and 4004 governed service by mail on out-of-state parties. Under those Rules, if service by mail is returned as unclaimed, then the Plaintiff must make service by another means that does not include ordinary mail.

The court found that, at the time the default judgment was entered, the court lacked jurisdiction over the Defendant due to a lack of any completion of service of process.

The court also found that the Defendant had promptly filed a Petition to Open a Default Judgment, had explained the reasons for the delay due to the improper service, and had alleged not only a defense of improper service under Rule 403 but had also denied the allegations in the Complaint.

As such, the court granted the Defendant’s Petition to Open the Default Judgment and the ordered the Defendant to file an Answer within twenty (20) days.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source:, “The Legal Intelligencer Common Pleas Case Alert” (May 22, 2024).

Source of image:  Photo by Abstrakt XXcelence studios on

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