EARVIN DAVIS, JR. APPELLANT
SHELTER INSURANCE a/k/a SHELTER MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a/k/a SHELTER GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY APPELLEES
FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72CV-15-2126]
HONORABLE JOHN C. THREET, JUDGE.
Osborne Law Firm, by: Ken Osborne, for appellant.
Lambert, Lovelace, Bingaman & Wood, LLP, by: James
Bingaman and Jerry L. Lovelace, for appellees.
W. GRUBER, CHIEF JUDGE.
Davis, Jr., appeals the Washington County Circuit Court's
dismissal of his lawsuit for underinsured-motorist benefits
for a January 3, 2012 motor-vehicle accident with A ndrea
Johnson in Springdale, Arkansas. After receiving the maximum
policy limitation from Ms. Johnson's insurance carrier,
USAA, Mr. Davis filed his initial suit against his own
insurance carrier. On September 30, 2015, that action was
nonsuited. On November 12, 2015, he filed the present action,
styled "Earvin Davis, Jr. v. Shelter Insurance a/k/a
Shelter Mutual Insurance Company, a/k/a Shelter General
Insurance Company." On October 28, 2016, Shelter
Insurance a/k/a Shelter Mutual Insurance Company, a/k/a
Shelter General Insurance Company filed a motion to dismiss
or, alternatively, motion for summary judgment. The motion
alleged that the summons was void for lack of strict
compliance with Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 4 and that
the attempted service was improper and insufficient pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(5). On January 6, 2017, the circuit court
entered its order dismissing Mr. Davis's complaint with
prejudice "as against the named defendants, Shelter
Insurance, Shelter Mutual Insurance Company, and Shelter
General Insurance Company."
Davis now appeals. He contends that the circuit court erred
in dismissing his case for three reasons: (1) the summons was
not defective, and an officer of the company was properly
served; (2) the court did not have jurisdiction to dismiss a
nonparty; and (3) the original responsive pleading did not
raise a sufficiency-of-service argument. Appellees, Shelter
Mutual Insurance Company and Shelter General Insurance
Company, respond that the circuit court did not err in
granting the motion to dismiss. We affirm.
Whether the Summons Was Defective and an Officer of the
Company Was Properly Served
Davis first contends that the summons was not defective and
that an officer of the company was properly served. A circuit
court acquires no jurisdiction over a defendant unless the
plaintiff strictly complies with service-of-process rules.
Union Pac. R.R. Co. v. Skender, 2016 Ark.App. 206,
at 3, 489 S.W.3d 176, 178. Strict compliance specifically
applies to the technical requirements of a summons, and a
defendant's personal knowledge of the litigation will not
cure a fatal defect in the summons. Id. We review a
circuit court's factual conclusions regarding service of
process under a clearly-erroneous standard, and when
dismissal is a matter of law, conduct a de novo review of the
summons that was issued in this case reads in its entirety as
Rule of Civil Procedure 4, which governs the form of a
summons, provides in relevant part:
(b) Form. The summons shall be styled in the name of
the court and shall be dated and signed by the clerk; be
under the seal of the court; contain the names of the
parties; be directed to the defendant; state the name and
address of the plaintiff's attorney, if any, otherwise
the address of the plaintiff; and the time within which these
rules require the defendant to appear, file a pleading, and
defend and shall notify him that in case of his failure to do
so, judgment by default may be entered against him for the
relief demanded in the complaint.
Ark. R. Civ. P. 4(b) (2017).
4(d) governs personal service inside the State of Arkansas,
and Rule 4(e) allows personal delivery in the same manner for
outside-of-state service that is authorized by our law and is
reasonably calculated to give actual notice. A copy of the
summons and complaint "shall be served together."
Ark. R. Civ. P. 4(d). Service upon a domestic or foreign
corporation is to be made by delivering a copy of the summons
and complaint to an officer, partner other than a limited