Nithyananda Dhanapeetam of St. Louis v. Aarthi S. Rao et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs ex parte motion for an order for substituted service on the defendants is DENIED. Doc. 10 . Signed by District Judge Charles A. Shaw on 12/5/2013. (RAK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
NITHYANANDA DHANAPEETAM OF
AARTHI S. RAO, et al.,
No. 4:13-CV-1683 CAS
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on plaintiff’s ex parte motion for substituted service of
process on the defendants pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e)(1) and in accordance
with Michigan court rules. For the following reasons, the motion will be denied.
This diversity action was filed on August 27, 2013. The Court could not determine from the
face of the complaint that complete diversity of citizenship existed, and ordered plaintiff to file an
amended complaint. The Amended Complaint alleges that plaintiff is a Missouri not-for-profit
corporation with its principal place of business in St. Louis, and that the defendants Aarthi S. Rao
and Manickam Narayanan are married and are citizens of the State of Michigan. Venue is alleged
to be proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because a substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise to the claim occurred in this district. The Amended Complaint asserts state law claims
of defamation and tortious interference with business relationships.
On November 20, 2013, plaintiff filed its ex parte motion for an order for substituted service
on the defendants. An Affidavit of Non-Service attached to the motion avers that the process server
attempted service on the defendants on October 7, 2013, at 2:47 p.m. at 3118 Village Circle, Ann
Arbor, Michigan and states: “At the address I spoke with a black female who says they do not know
the defendants, she confirmed they are the Montgomery family, they are renting the property from
a white male who owns the condo. She said that a few weeks prior the police were there looking
for both defendants.” Mem. Supp., Ex. A.
In the unverified memorandum in support of the ex parte motion, plaintiff states that
defendant Rao was served with a state court complaint in February 2013, and while she travels
frequently between the United States and India, the defendants own real property in Ann Arbor,
Michigan which was refinanced in September 2011. Plaintiff also states that defendant Rao litigated
a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of
Michigan in 2011 and 2012, and regularly treats with doctors in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Plaintiff
states the defendants list their Ann Arbor, Michigan address on their bank statements, and defendant
Rao regularly signs affidavits and correspondence listing her Ann Arbor address and declaring her
Michigan residency. Plaintiff also states that defendant Rao “received notice of numerous pleadings
sent to her on other occasions in various Washtenaw County Trial Court matters at her last known
addresses: 3118 Village Circle, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108 and P.O. Box 1408, Ann Arbor,
Michigan 48106 via First Class Mail.” Mem. Supp. at 3. Plaintiff states that a Postal Tracer shows
that mail is “continuously being [delivered] to the P.O. Box as well as the 3118 Village Circle, Ann
Arbor, MI.” Id.
Plaintiff claims, “There is little doubt that Defendants are aware of this case and are evading
service of the summons and complaint. Given the valid personal service attempts, mailing and
evidence of Defendants retaining counsel in other matters through the Washtenaw County Trial
Court, the Court should order the use of methods of substituted service on the defendants, pursuant
to the Federal Rules and applicable state law.” Mem. Supp. at 4.
Plaintiff seeks an order for substituted service on defendants Rao and Narayanan pursuant
to Michigan Court Rule 2.105(B) that would permit service by (1) sending a copy of the summons
and complaint to the defendants by first class and registered mail to the address at 3118 Village
Circle, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and to P.O. Box 1408, Ann Arbor Michigan; and (2) posting a copy
of the summons and Amended Complaint to the defendants’ last known physical address of 3118
Village Circle, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Under Rule 4(e)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, unless federal law provides
otherwise, an individual may be served in a judicial district of the United States 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[.]” Rule 4(e)(1), Fed. R. Civ. P.
Michigan Court Rule 2.105 governs service of process and describes the various methods
of service. Bullington v. Corbell, 809 S.W.2d 657, 661 (Mich. Ct. App. 2011). Michigan Court
Rule 2.105(A) provides that process may be served on a resident or nonresident individual by
(1) delivering a summons and a copy of the complaint to the defendant personally;
(2) sending a summons and a copy of the complaint by registered or certified mail,
return receipt requested, and delivery restricted to the addressee. Service is made
when the defendant acknowledges receipt of the mail. A copy of the return receipt
signed by the defendant must be attached to proof showing service under subrule
MCR 2.105(A)(1), (2).
The Michigan courts have discussed the content and purpose of Rule 2.105 as follows:
The court rule governing the manner to serve process, MCR 2.105, describes
various methods of service. Generally, the rule organizes the service of process
choices according to the individual or corporate nature of the defendant. The
methods described in the rule “are intended to satisfy the due process requirement
that a defendant be informed of an action by the best means available under the
circumstances.” MCR 2.105(J)(1). Compliance with the court rules fulfills the
constitutional requirement of “notice reasonably calculated, under all the
circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford
them an opportunity to present their objections.” Mullane, 339 U.S. at 314, 70 S. Ct.
Bullington, 809 S.W.2d at 661-62.
Plaintiff’s ex parte motion shows only that one unsuccessful attempt at personal service was
made on the defendants. There is no indication plaintiff has attempted to serve the defendants by
sending summons and complaint to them by registered or certified mail, as authorized by Rule
2.105(A)(2). Instead, plaintiff seeks a court order for substituted service on the defendants under
Rule 2.105(B)(1)(b), which permits service “on a nonresident individual” by “serving a summons
and a copy of the complaint by registered mail addressed to the defendant at his or her last known
address.” (Emphasis added).
In Michigan, substituted service of process “is not an automatic right.” Krueger v. Williams,
300 N.W.2d 910, 915 (Mich. 1981). “[C]ourt rules allow for substituted service ‘[o]n a showing that
service of process cannot reasonably be made as provided by this rule . . . .’ MCR 2.105(I)(1).”
Bullington, 809 N.W.2d at 662. “A truly diligent search for an absentee defendant is absolutely
necessary to supply a fair foundation for and legitimacy to the ordering of substituted service.”
Krueger, 300 N.W.2d at 919. MCR 2.105(I)(1) requires that the substituted service be reasonably
calculated to provide the defendant with actual notice and an opportunity to be heard. Lawrence M.
Clarke, Inc. v. Richco Construction, Inc., 803 N.W.2d 151, 159 (Mich. 2011).
MCR 2.105(I)(2) requires that a request for an order permitting substituted service meet the
A request for an order under the rule must be made in a verified motion dated not
more than 14 days before it is filed. The motion must set forth sufficient facts to
show that process cannot be served under this rule and must state the defendant’s
address or last known address, or that no address of the defendant is known. If the
name or present address of the defendant is unknown, the moving party must set
forth facts showing diligent inquiry to ascertain it.
MCR 2.104(I)(2) (emphasis added). Where a plaintiff fails to demonstrate that it could not
reasonably serve the defendants in a manner that complies with the court rules, it is an abuse of
discretion to permit substituted service. Bullington, 809 N.W.2d at 662-63.
In the instant case, plaintiff’s motion for substituted service is fatally defective for several
reasons. First, the motion is not verified as required by Rule 2.105(I)(2). Second, Rule 2.105(B),
on which plaintiff relies, specifically permits substituted service only on non-resident individual
defendants. The factual allegations of plaintiff’s motion recited above make it clear that plaintiff
believes the defendants are residents of Michigan. Finally, the motion is defective because it fails
to demonstrate that plaintiff cannot reasonably serve the defendants in a manner that complies with
Michigan court rules. A single attempt at personal service is patently insufficient. Cf. Krueger, 300
N.W.2d at 919 (verified motion for substituted service was insufficient where it failed to show with
particularity that service of process could not reasonably have been made according to prescribed
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff’s ex parte motion for an order for substituted service on
the defendants in accordance with Michigan Court Rule 2.105(B) should be denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s ex parte motion for an order for substituted
service on the defendants is DENIED. [Doc. 10]
CHARLES A. SHAW
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 5th day of December, 2013.
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