Texas Court: Service Of Process For Civil Suits Must Occur Within Statute Of Limitations

Author:Mr David C. Schulte and Lauren R. Becker
Profession:Holland & Knight
 
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Or Plaintiff Must Demonstrate Diligence in Effecting Service of Process Soon After the Limitations Period Has Expired

David Schulte is a partner and Lauren R Becker is an Associate in our Dallas office.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Under Section 16.003 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a plaintiff must "bring suit" on claims for, among other things, personal injury or wrongful death within a two-year statute of limitations. In a memorandum opinion issued on March 20, 2018, the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals held in Christina Molina v. John Gears, et al. that, in addition to filing suit within the limitations period, a plaintiff must also effect service of process on the defendant within the statutory period – or else show diligence in effecting service of process soon thereafter. The holding is an important reminder that, under Texas law, even a timely filed suit is nevertheless barred by limitations if a defendant is served with process after limitations has passed, unless a plaintiff demonstrates due diligence in its attempts at effecting service of process. Under Section 16.003 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a plaintiff must "bring suit" on claims for, among other things, personal injury or wrongful death within a two-year statute of limitations. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §16.003(a). On March 20, 2018, the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston explained in a memorandum opinion in Christina Molina v. John Gears, et al., No. 14-16-00858-CV, that, in addition to filing suit within the limitations period, a plaintiff must also effect service of process on the defendant within the statutory period – or else show diligence in effecting service of process soon thereafter. The court of appeals held that the plaintiff, Christina Molina, failed to demonstrate that she acted diligently in effecting service of process on defendant John Gears more than one year after Molina filed suit and more than 10 months after the limitations period expired. The court of appeals therefore affirmed the trial court's ruling and dismissed Molina's claims as time-barred.

Background

Molina and Gears were in a car accident on Nov. 8, 2011. Nearly two years later, on Sept. 5, 2013, Molina sued Gears for negligence for causing the accident. Although there are disparities in the record, Molina appears to have waited until Nov. 25, 2013, to first attempt to effect service of process on Gears via a process server, with numerous attempts after that date....

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