Syzak v. Benson
OPINION AND ORDER sustaining 28 Objection to Report and Recommendation Signed by District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds. (DPer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 15-10928
Honorable Nancy G. Edmunds
FOOD SERVICE DIRECTOR BENSON,
OPINION AND ORDER SUSTAINING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTION
TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
In a report and recommendation ("R & R") issued on March 9, 2017, Magistrate Judge
Stephanie Dawkins Davis has recommended that this case be dismissed without prejudice
in light of the failure of pro se Plaintiff Scott Syzak to take the steps necessary to ensure
that the sole Defendant — Ms. Benson (first name unknown), who allegedly served as the
food service director at the Macomb Correctional Facility at the time of the alleged incidents
giving rise to this suit — was timely served with a summons and a copy of Plaintiff's
complaint. Plaintiff has filed a single objection to the R & R, contending that he has
established good cause for the failure to serve Defendant Benson, and that his status as
an incarcerated prisoner prevents him from taking further steps to ensure the proper
service of his complaint. As discussed briefly below, the Court agrees that Plaintiff has
shown good cause for the U.S. Marshals Service's inability to serve his complaint to date,
and finds that the Marshals Service should make further efforts to serve Defendant Benson
using the information provided by Plaintiff.
The Magistrate Judge has ably recounted the history of the Marshals Service's
attempts to serve Defendant Benson with the complaint. (See R & R at 1-3.) Most
recently, after it was determined that Ms. Benson (i) was employed by an outside vendor,
Aramark, rather than the Michigan Department of Corrections, and (ii) no longer worked at
the Macomb Correctional Facility, the Magistrate Judge issued an order directing the
Marshals Service to serve Ms. Benson at an address in Detroit that evidently is associated
with Aramark. (See 9/17/2015 Order at 1.) When this latest attempt at service again did
not succeed, the Magistrate Judge issued a June 28, 2016 order directing Plaintiff to show
cause why this case should not be dismissed for failure to provide an address at which
Defendant Benson could be served with the complaint. In response, Plaintiff insisted that
since he was incarcerated and lacked access to the internet or other research tools, he had
no means to uncover additional information regarding Defendant Benson's address or
whereabouts, and he requested that the Court or the Marshals Service make further efforts
to locate Ms. Benson.1 Similarly, in his present objection to the Magistrate Judge's R & R,
Plaintiff maintains that dismissal is unwarranted because he has done all he can to identify
an address at which Defendant Benson might be served, and he again asks that the
Marshals Service be instructed to make further efforts to locate and serve Ms. Benson.
Upon reviewing the R & R, Plaintiff's objection, and the remainder of the record, the
Court finds that Plaintiff has taken sufficient steps to date to avoid the dismissal of this suit
for lack of service, and that he has established the requisite "good cause" under Federal
Rule of Procedure 4(m) for directing the Marshals Service to make another attempt to
Plaintiff made a similar request for assistance in a June 16, 2015 motion.
locate and serve Defendant Benson. Most notably, the record does not disclose precisely
why the latest attempt at service did not succeed — the relevant docket entry shows only
that the summons and complaint were sent by certified mail to "Aramark Ms. Benson" at
the "Macomb Correctional Facility" located at an address on Ryan Street in Detroit, and that
this delivery failed on the ground that there was "NO SUCH NUMBER." (Dkt. 21.) From
this record, it cannot be said whether this failure of service was due to a faulty street
address for an Aramark facility in Detroit, the curious reference to the "Macomb
Correctional Facility" where Ms. Benson previously (but no longer) was employed, or some
other reason. Certainly, this record provides no basis for concluding that Ms. Benson
cannot be located and served through a corporate address for her apparent employer,
Aramark, or that a straightforward inquiry to Aramark would not reveal additional
information concerning Ms. Benson's current employment status and whereabouts.
As correctly observed in the R & R, it is Plaintiff's burden under Rule 4(m) to establish
good cause for a failure to timely serve his complaint, and a plaintiff, even if incarcerated,
"may not remain silent and do nothing to effectuate service." (R & R at 3-4 (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).) Yet, in Abel v. Harp, No. 03-4474, 122 F. App'x
248, 252 (6th Cir. Feb. 16, 2005), the Sixth Circuit found that an incarcerated plaintiff who
was proceeding in forma pauperis satisfied the "good faith" standard of Rule 4(m) by
"d[oing] what he could to effect personal service through the Marshals Service," including
alerting the Marshals Service to problems in the agency's attempts at service. See also
Byrd v. Stone, 94 F.3d 217, 219 (6th Cir. 1996) (explaining that a plaintiff who proceeds in
forma pauperis must take "reasonable steps . . . to identify for the court the defendants
named in the complaint"); Graham v. Satkoski, 51 F.3d 710, 713 (7th Cir. 1995) (holding
that a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis "need furnish the Marshals Service only with
information necessary to identify the defendants," and that "once [a defendant] former
prison employee is properly identified, the Marshals Service should be able to ascertain
the individual's current address and, on the basis of that information, complete service").
As explained, the Court finds that Plaintiff here has done all he can, at least to date, to
enable the Marshals Service to effect service on Defendant Benson, as he has identified
Ms. Benson's employer, her former place of employment, and the position she held at the
time of the alleged incidents giving rise to this case. This suffices to establish "good cause"
under Rule 4(m) for extending the time for the Marshals Service to effect service on
Defendant Benson, using the identifying information supplied by Plaintiff.
For these reasons, the Court SUSTAINS Plaintiff's objection  to the Magistrate
Judge's report and recommendation . In accordance with this ruling, the Court directs
the U.S. Marshals Service to again attempt service of a summons and a copy of the
complaint upon Defendant Benson at the appropriate Aramark corporate office.2 If this
attempt should prove unsuccessful, the Marshals Service is instructed to attempt service
at the last known address for Ms. Benson as provided by Aramark.
s/Nancy G. Edmunds
Nancy G. Edmunds
United States District Judge
In an earlier September 17, 2015 order, the Magistrate Judge identified Aramark's
address as 18875 Ryan Street in Detroit. It is not clear how this address was determined
or if it is accurate, but the Court requests that the Marshals Service take reasonable steps
to identify an appropriate address for Aramark before attempting to serve Ms. Benson.
Dated: July 12, 2017
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon counsel of record
on July 12, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
s/Carol J. Bethel
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