Washington Court of Appeals - Division III: Service Upon Contractor Is Not Service on a Resident
Sometimes a case comes along that makes you wonder why things have to be spelled out so clearly. This is one of those cases, and it has everything to do with how service is made.
Baker was allegedly injured by Hawkins on December 16, 2010. She filed her complaint December 16, 2013, on the eve of the three year statute of limitations. Under Washington's rules, a Plaintiff then has 90 days in which to serve at least one Defendant.
A month later, Baker did serve someone at the residence. Unfortunately for Baker, the person served was a contractor who had been working on the home. The contractors worked all day at the residence while the Bakers were gone, but slept at their own home. They used a port-a-potty. They did not use the kitchen appliances. They did not sign for packages. The process server claimed the contractors told him they were "living there" while remodeling the home, and were carrying groceries into the residence when they were served. The contractors were actually loading construction supplies, and denied telling the process server they lived there. The court ruled that statement amounted to hearsay, and could not be used to support service.
Naturally, the Court of Appeals found the contractors were not a person residing at the residence, and Baker's suit was time-barred.
However, what remains to be seen is whether, if they had been using the toilets inside the residence, or had used the microwave in the house, or had signed for packages while there during the day, would the Court have ruled different? One would hope that residency has a higher standard than simply utilizing items of convenience. I use my office microwave, but I would not say I reside here (with the possible exception of during trial).
Hopefully, the factors adopted by the Court in determining there was no service here do not turn into factors for providing service. Residency should mean something more than use during the day.