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Ramos v. Homeward Residential, Inc.

California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, First Division

February 20, 2014

Ariel V. RAMOS, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
HOMEWARD RESIDENTIAL, INC., Defendant and Respondent.

APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Robert P. Dahlquist, Judge. Affirmed. (Super.Ct. No. 37-2011-00055649-CU-OR-NC)

COUNSEL

Southland Law Center and Rick L. Raynsford for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Wright, Finlay & Zak, T. Robert Finlay and Charles C. McKenna for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

BENKE, Acting P.J.

Our Code of Civil Procedure provides a number of ways to serve process on a corporation doing business in the state. The most common method is by service on [168 Cal.Rptr.3d 117] the corporation's designated agent for service of process. (Code Civ. Proc.,[1] § 416.10, subd. (a).) Otherwise, a corporation may be served by personally delivering a summons and complaint to those corporate officers, managers and employees identified in section 416.10, subdivision (b), or by delivering process to someone in charge of the office of one of the individuals identified in section 416.10, subdivision (b) and then mailing the individual a copy of the summons and complaint. (§ 415.20.)

Here, the plaintiff used none of the methods prescribed in the Code of Civil Procedure for service of process on a corporation. Rather, the plaintiff simply left a summons and complaint with someone who was in charge of a branch office of the defendant corporation and then mailed the corporation, rather than any individual officer or manager, a copy of the summons and complaint. Although service was defective, the plaintiff nonetheless obtained a default against the corporation and a $254,000 default judgment.

Because service on the corporation was defective, the trial court properly granted the corporation's motion to set aside the default and default judgment. Accordingly, we affirm its order doing so.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Well before this litigation was initiated, on December 17, 2007, defendant American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc. (AHMSI/Homeward) [2] filed a statement with the Secretary of State's office designating CT Corporation System (CT) as its agent for service of process. The designation stated that CT's address is 818 W. Seventh Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017.

On June 23, 2011, plaintiff Ariel V. Ramos filed a complaint against AHMSI/Homeward that alleged a number of causes of action related to the foreclosure of a deed of trust on Ramos's home.

A process server retained by Ramos attempted to serve AHMSI/Homeward at an office the corporation operated in Irvine. In attempting to effect service on AHMSI/Homeward, Ramos's process server asked to speak to whomever was in charge of the Irvine office. A woman responded to his request and identified herself as being in charge of the office. The process server handed the woman the summons and complaint, and she advised the process server that she could not accept the documents. The process server was unable to obtain the name of the woman to whom he delivered the summons and complaint.

Later, Ramos's process server mailed a copy of the summons and complaint to AHMSI/Homeward at the Irvine address. However, the copy was not addressed to any officer or named individual but instead was simply sent to AHMSI/Homeward.

On July 21, 2011, Ramos's counsel received in the mail the summons and complaint that had been served at the Irvine address. Attached to the summons and complaint, on a sheet of paper with AHMSI/Homeward's letterhead, was an unsigned message which stated: " Please send to our registered agent at: [¶] CT ...


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