FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Orange County, John E.
S. Israel, Orlando, for Appellant.
Manno, Ashley L. Moore, and Tina D. Gayle, of Federated Law
Group, PLLC, Juno Beach, for Appellee, Cach, LLC.
Appearance for other Appellees.
Laura Murphy, appeals the order denying her motion to quash
service of process. Appellant asserts that the trial court
never acquired personal jurisdiction over her because the
amended affidavit of substitute service did not strictly
comply with section 48.21, Florida Statutes (2015), as it
does not provide the name of the person upon whom service was
made. We agree and, as explained below, reverse and remand
for further proceedings.
was sued for damages by Appellee, Cach, LLC, for breach of a
personal guaranty on a debt owed by a codefendant. The
amended affidavit of service filed in this case states that
substitute service of process was obtained upon Appellant
when a copy of the summons and a copy of the complaint with
exhibits was personally left with "John Doe, " who
was described in the affidavit of service as a
"black-haired white male" and Appellant's
"co-resident." The affidavit also relates that
service was obtained at Appellant's usual place of abode
in Apopka, Florida. Appellant timely moved to quash service
of process and, following a hearing at which no evidence was
received, the trial court entered the unelaborated order now
as here, the trial court's ruling on a motion to quash
service of process is based on issues of law, our review on
appeal is de novo. Davidian v. JP Morgan Chase Bank,
178 So.3d 45, 47 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) (citing
Robles-Martinez v. Diaz, Reus & Targ, LLP, 88
So.3d 177, 179 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011)). Further, "[s]tatutes
governing service of process must be strictly construed and
enforced." Koster v. Sullivan, 160 So.3d 385,
388 (Fla. 2015) (citing Shurman v. Atl. Mortg. & Inv.
Corp., 795 So.2d 952, 954 (Fla. 2001)).
as the party seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of the court
over a party, bears the burden of proving proper service.
Id. at 389. To that end, "[t]he return of
service is the instrument a court relies on to determine
whether jurisdiction over an individual has been
established." Id. at 388 (citing Klosenski
v. Flaherty, 116 So.2d 767, 768-69 (Fla. 1959) (holding
that an officer's return of service "is merely
evidence to enable the trial judge to conclude that the court
has acquired jurisdiction of the person of the defendant, or
has not done so, as the case may be")). Thus, "[i]f
. . . the return is defective on its face, [then] it
'cannot be relied upon as evidence that the court
acquired jurisdiction over the person of the
defendant.'" Klosenski, 116 So.2d at 769
(quoting Gibbens v. Pickett, 12 So. 17, 18 (Fla.
dispositive question in the present case is whether the
amended affidavit of service of process is regular or valid
on its face. Section 48.21 governs the return of execution of
process. This statute provides in pertinent part:
(1) Each person who effects service of process shall note on
a return-of-service form attached thereto, the date and time
when it comes to hand, the date and time when it is served,
the manner of service, the name of the person on whom it was
served and, if the person is served in a representative
capacity, the position occupied by the person. The
return-of-service form must be signed by the person who
effects the service of process. . . .
(2) A failure to state the facts or to include the signature
required by subsection (1) invalidates the service, but the
return is amendable to state the facts or to include the
signature at any time on application to the court from which
the process issued. On amendment, service is as effective as
if the return had originally stated the omitted facts or
included the signature. . . .
§ 48.21, Fla. Stat. (2015). Therefore, for a return of
service of process to be facially valid, it must include the
following four facts: (1) the date and time the pleading is
received by the process server; (2) the date and time that
process is served; (3) the manner of service, and (4) the
name of the person served and, if served in a representative
capacity, the position occupied by the person.
Koster, 160 So.3d at 389 ...