Tootle v. Dawson et al
ORDER denying 4 Motion for Entry of Default Final Judgment. Ordered that Plaintiff must properly serve Defendants and must file the proper proofs of service with the Clerk of Court, all in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4, no later than9/7/17. Signed by Chief District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr. on 8/4/17. (RLW)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
SAMUEL E. TOOTLE, II
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:17cv154-LG-RHW
ANTHONY DAWSON, et al.
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR
ENTRY OF DEFAULT FINAL JUDGMENT
BEFORE THE COURT is the  Motion for Entry of Default Final Judgment
filed by Plaintiff Samuel E. Tootle pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55.
Plaintiff Tootle, who is proceeding pro se, requests that the Court enter a default
judgment against Defendants. Because Plaintiff has failed to properly serve
Defendants, the Court will deny his Motion, and, further, will order Plaintiff to
serve Defendants by September 7, 2017.
Plaintiff filed a Complaint against multiple Defendants on May 22, 2017.
Plaintiff represents that Defendants are all employees of the Gulf Coast Veterans
Health Care System (“the VA”) in Biloxi, Mississippi. (See Compl. 3-4 (¶¶ 11-16)).
He further states that “[a]t all times herein, the individual defendants acted for
an[d] on behalf of the [VA] and in their own capacitys [sic] . . . .” (Id. at 4-5 (¶17);
see also id. at 2 (¶3)). He has attempted to state claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and requests monetary damages, injunctive relief, and declaratory relief
On June 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed Proofs of Service with the Court. (See
Proofs of Service, ECF No. 3). The Proofs of Service reflect that Plaintiff served
Defendants via certified mail, return receipt requested, at their work address at the
VA, and by no other means. In his Motion, Plaintiff also represents that he served
Defendants via certified mail “at their place of employment . . . .” (Mot. 1 (¶2), ECF
No. 4) (see also Affidavit, ECF No. 4-2). He argues that Defendants have “failed to
plead or otherwise defend this action, and that [he] is entitled to judgment by
default . . . .” (Mot. 2 (¶4)).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4, governing service of process, does not itself
authorize service by certified mail on individuals such as Defendants. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 4(e). The Rule does permit service by “following state law for serving a
summons in an action brought in courts of general jurisdiction in the state where
the district court is located or where service is made . . . . .” Id. “However, under
Mississippi law, service by certified mail is not permitted upon an in-state
defendant” such as each Defendant here. See Darnell v. Jimenez, No. 1:16cv30HSO-JCG, 2017 WL 2634365, at *3 (S.D. Miss. June 19, 2017) (citing Miss. R. Civ.
P. 4(c) and Triple C. Transp., Inc. v. Dickens, 870 So. 2d 1195, 1198 (Miss. 2004));
Shorty v. Sparkman, No. 5:12-cv-114(DCB)(MTP), 2013 WL 4773943, at *2 (S.D.
Miss. Sept. 4, 2013). Additionally, Plaintiff has not complied with Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 4(i) regarding service on government employees. See, e.g., Johnson
v. Shinseki, No. 3:14CV304-DPJ-FKB, 2014 WL 5363781, at *2-3 (S.D. Miss. Oct.
Moreover, Rule 4(c)(2) states that “[a]ny person who is at least 18 years old
and not a party may serve a summons and complaint.” (emphasis added). The
Fifth Circuit has recognized that there is no mailing exception to the nonparty
requirement for service. See Shabazz v. City of Houston, 515 F. App’x 263, 264 (5th
Cir. 2013). Therefore, Rule 4(c)(2)’s prohibition of service by parties to a lawsuit
applies even where a plaintiff attempts service by mail, and Plaintiff’s service on
Defendants is also deficient in this respect. See, e.g., Finkley v. Shulkin, No.
1:16CV290-LG-RHW, 2017 WL 1380468, at *1 (S.D. Miss. Apr. 11, 2017). Plaintiff
cannot be both a party and a process server.
The Court may deny a motion for default judgment where the plaintiff has
not properly served a defendant. See Thompson v. Dir. Tex. Dep’t of Criminal
Justice, 291 F. App’x 581, 581-82 (5th Cir. 2008); Arceneaux v. Davidson, 325 F.
Supp. 2d 742, 744 (S.D. Miss. 2004) (“The law is clear . . . that unless there has been
valid service of process a default judgment may not be entered.”). Indeed, any
default judgment entered under these circumstances would be void. See, e.g.,
Rogers v. Hartford Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 167 F.3d 933, 940 (5th Cir. 1999).
Accordingly, taking into account the service issues outlined above, the Court will
deny Plaintiff’s request to enter a default judgment against Defendants.
Finally, the 90-day deadline for Plaintiff to properly serve Defendants under
Rule 4(m) is quickly approaching. Therefore, the Court will grant Plaintiff
additional time to properly serve Defendants. Plaintiff must properly serve
Defendants and must file the proper proofs of service with the Clerk of Court, all in
the manner required by Rule 4, no later than September 7, 2017.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the  Motion for
Entry of Default Final Judgment is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Plaintiff must
properly serve Defendants and must file the proper proofs of service with the Clerk
of Court, all in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4, no later than
September 7, 2017. Plaintiff is warned that should he fail to properly serve
any Defendant or fail to file a proper proof of service in the record as to
any Defendant by September 7, that Defendant will be dismissed without
prejudice and without further notice to Plaintiff pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 4(m).
SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED this the 4th day of August, 2017.
Louis Guirola, Jr.
LOUIS GUIROLA, JR.
CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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