Deo v. NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) Department of Water Quality
ORDER granting 14 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim - The complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Signed by Chief Judge James C. Dever III on 7/29/2014. (Tripp, S.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
NARAYAN PRASAD DEO,
NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT
OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL
On July 1, 2013, Narayan Prasad Deo filed a prose complaint against the North Carolina
Department ofEnvironment and Natural Resources ("DENR"), alleging employment discrimination
in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. See [D.E. 4]. On November 20, 2013,
DENRmoved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, for insufficient service
of process, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. [D .E. 14]; see Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(1), (5), (6). On December 16, 2013, Deo responded in opposition [D.E. 18]. As
explained below, the court grants DENR's motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process.
On July 2, 2013, the day after Deo filed his complaint, the clerk issued a summons [D.E. 5],
and mailed the summons to Deo along with a letter instructing Deo:
It is your responsibility to serve the defendant properly (See Rule 4--Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure). Improper service may result in the dismissal of your case. You
may not serve the summons yourself. Rather, the summons, complaint, and fmancial
disclosure statement may be served on the defendant as follows:
Personal Service by any person over the age of 18 who is not a party to the
Certified mail, return receipt requested, by any person over 18 who is not a
party to the case.
Service by a United States Marshal or appointed person if the court grants
[D.E. 6]. The initial summons was addressed to "Mr. Charles Malone, EEO Officer." On October
22, 2013, Deo notified the court that he had been unable to serve Malone because Malone had
retired. See [D.E. 11]. The same day, the clerk issued a second summons, this time addressed to
"Mr. Paul Harrell, EEO Officer" [D.E. 10]. Deo sent the summons to Harrell by certified mail, and
filed the return receipt as proof of service. See [D.E. 12].
In its motion to dismiss, DENR argues that it has not been properly served. See Mem. Supp.
Mot. Dismiss [D.E. 15] 3-5. Deo responds that "[t]he summons was served per the guidance ofthe
clerk office of the court, and to the official addressee which EEOC had used on my case filing."
Mem. Opp'n Mot. Dismiss [D.E. 18] 1.
"Absent waiver or consent, a failure to obtain proper service on the defendant deprives the
court of personal jurisdiction over the defendant." Koehler v. Dodwell, 152 F .3d 304, 306 (4th Cir.
1998). The plaintiffbears the burden of proving proper service. See Johnson v. BAC Home Loans
Servicing. LP, 867 F. Supp. 2d 766,773 (E.D.N.C. 2011); O'Meara v. Waters, 464 F. Supp. 2d 474,
476 (D. Md. 2006). Rule 4 ofthe Federal Rules of Civil Procedure details the means of properly
effecting service of a summons and complaint. Under Rule 4, a non-party must serve the summons.
The plaintiff may not serve the defendant. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(c)(2); Constien v. United States,
628 F.3d 1207, 1213-14 (lOth Cir. 2010); Doughertyv. Snyder, Civil No. l:CV-10-1071, 2010 WL
3168323, at *1 (M.D. Pa. July 29, 2010) (unpublished); Price v. Hous. Auth. ofNew Orleans, Civil
Action No. 09-4257, 2010 WL 2836103, at *1 (E.D. La. July 16, 2010) (unpublished). This
principle in Rule 4(c)(2) applies "[e]ven when service is effected by use of the mail[.] [O]nly a
nonparty can place the summons and complaint in the mail . . . . [T]he rule contains no mailing
exception to the nonparty requirement for service." Constien, 628 F.3d at 1213-14; see Kelley v.
Enviva.LP,No. 7:13-CV-197-B0,2014 WL 1323186,at *1 (E.D.N.C. Apr. 1,2014) (unpublished);
Pitts v. O'Geary, No. 5:13-CV-116-D, 2014 WL 229350, at *4 (E.D.N.C. Jan. 21, 2014)
(unpublished); Reale v. Wake Cnty. Human Servs., No. 5:11-CV-682-D, 2013 WL 2635181, at *2
(E.D.N.C. June 12, 2013) (unpublished); Knotts v. Univ. ofN.C. at Charlotte, No. 3:08-CV-478,
2011 WL 650493, at *8-9 (W.D.N.C. Feb. 10, 2011) (unpublished).
Deo has improperly attempted to personally serve DENR by certified mail. See [D.E. 12].
Deo has not served DENR through a nonparty. Thus, DENR has not been properly served. Even
prose plaintiffs must comply with the Federal Ru1es of Civil Procedure.
Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-52 (1984) (per curiam); Sys. Signs Supplies v. U.S.
Dep't of Justice, 903 F.2d 1011, 1013-14 (5th Cir. 1990) (per curiam). Although the court
recognizes that it enjoys some discretion in enforcing Rule 4 when there is actual notice, ''the rules
are there to be followed, and plain requirements for the means of effecting service of process may
not be ignored." Armco. Inc. v. Penrod-Stauffer Bldg. Sys .. Inc., 733 F.2d 1087, 1089 (4th Cir.
Rule 4(m) permits the court to extend the 120-day time for service when a plaintiff shows
good cause for the failure to serve a defendant.
Hansan v. Fairfax Cnty. Sch. Bd., 405 F.
App'x 793,793-94 (4th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (unpublished); Giacomo-Tano v. Levine, 199 F.3d
1327, 1999 WL 976481, at *1-2 (4th Cir. Oct. 27, 1999) (per curiam) (unpublished table decision);
Scruggs v. SpartanburgReg'l Med. Ctr., 198 F.3d 237, 1999 WL 957698, at *1-3 (4th Cir. Oct. 19,
1999) (per curiam) (unpublished table decision); Mendez v. Elliot, 45 F.3d 75, 78-79 (4th Cir.
1995). Additionally, the court has discretion to extend the 120-day period if a plaintiff can show
excusable neglect. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1)(B); Henderson v. United States, 517 U.S. 654,
662-63 (1996). Deo has not shown good cause or excusable neglect. The clerk's instructions made
clear that Deo could not effect service, yet Deo ignored the instruction. See [D .E. 6]. Accordingly,
the court dismisses Deo's complaint without prejudice.
In sum, DENR's motion to dismiss [D.E. 14] is GRANTED and the complaint is
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. In light of this decision, the court does not address the
arguments under Rule 12(b)(l) or 12(b)(6).
SO ORDERED. This _ti day of July 2014.
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