Walker v. Orkin, No. 77954-1-I, 2019 Wash. App. LEXIS 2392 (Ct App Sep. 16, 2019)

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September 16, 2019

Washington Court Orders Dismissal After Plaintiff’s Attorney Fails to Sign Summons

Case: Walker v. Orkin, No. 77954-1-I, 2019 Wash. App. LEXIS 2392 (Ct App Sep. 16, 2019)

Issue: Will failure to sign a copy of a complaint and summons served on the defendant in a case be
grounds for dismissal in Washington? YES

Facts: The plaintiff filed suit for personal injury occurring after the defendant’s employee was
involved in a car accident with the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed his complaint with the court, then
served the defendant with summons and the complaint; however, the summons was not signed, and
the complaint was not dated or signed. The defendant answered the complaint, raising the
affirmative defense of insufficient service of process. The plaintiff did not correct the defect in his
process by serving Defendant with signed and dated copies of the summons and complaint before
the expiration of the statute of limitations. After the statute expired, Defendant filed a CR 12(b)
motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process, which the trial court denied. The Court of
Appeals of Washington reversed and remanded to the trial court, ordering that the motion to
dismiss be granted.

Holding & Analysis: The Court of Appeals held that failing to sign the summons and complaint
was grounds for dismissal when the plaintiff failed to correct those defects within the statute of
limitations. In their opinion, the Court emphasized the importance placed on the procedural rules,
specifically proper service of process, and held that the procedural rules must be interpreted under
their plain meaning. CR 4(a)(1) unambiguously states that the summons and complaint served upon
a defendant must be signed by either the plaintiff or her attorney, and several other rules regarding
service of process make it clear that the summons must be signed. The Court opined that minor
errors and technicalities should not give rise to dismissal of a suit; however, the rules of civil
procedure allow a plaintiff to cure any technical errors by amending their documents under CR
4(h). The plaintiff’s attorneys failed to take curative measures under 4(h), and therefore, dismissal
was warranted.

Contributing Attorney: Nicolas Ball
Nicolas Ball is an Associate in the Portland office of Holt Woods & Scisciani LLP. Mr. Ball
focuses his practice on civil litigation, including the defense of businesses and individuals against
construction defects and personal injury lawsuits.

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