Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County,
Jacqueline Hogan Scola, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 18-31741
| McKown, and Luis F. Navarro and Tania M. Varela, for
& Whitebook, P.A., and Carlos D. Lerman, (Hollywood), for
SCALES, HENDON, and LOBREE, JJ.
Mattress One, Inc. appeals from the trial courts February
2019 order denying its motion to set aside the entry of
default judgments, to quash service of process and vacate the
writ of garnishment. We reverse.
to an action against Mattress One for breach of a commercial
lease and non-residential eviction, Sunshop Properties, LLC
("Sunshop") served the summons and complaint at
Mattress Ones designated principal place of business, which
was also the address designated for its registered agent for
service of process. The record shows that the process server
went to Mattress Ones place of business at 10:59 a.m., where
the agent for service of process was required by statute to
be between 10 a.m. and 12 noon each day. § 48.091, Fla. Stat.
(2018). The agent for service of process was
not present when the process server arrived. The return of
service indicates that the process server gave the summons
and complaint to an unknown employee of Mattress One,
described only as "Drew Doe (refused to provide full
Mattress One failed to respond to the summons and complaint,
the trial court subsequently entered default final judgments
against it as to both the breach of lease and eviction
counts. Mattress One became aware of the defaults when its
funds were seized pursuant to Sunshops writ of garnishment.
Mattress One immediately filed an emergency motion to set
aside the default judgments and to quash the writ of
garnishment. After a hearing, the trial court denied the
motion, concluding that the return of service was legally
sufficient on its face.
standard of review of a trial courts ruling on a motion to
quash is de novo. Hernandez v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins.
Co., 32 So.3d 695, 698 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010). Florida law
requires strict compliance with all the statutory
requirements for service of process. York Commcns, Inc.
v. Furst Grp., Inc., 724 So.2d 678 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999);
§ § 48.21, 48.081, 48.091, Fla. Stats. (2018). Section
48.081(1) directs that process is to be served on specified
officers of the corporation or, in their absence, on any
director or, in their absence, on any officer or business
agent. Id. To bind a corporation for jurisdictional
purposes, a return of service must show the absence of all
officers of a superior class designated in the statute before
can be obtained by serving an officer or agent of an inferior
class. See Space Coast Credit Union v. The
First, F.A., 467 So.2d 737, 739 (Fla. 5th DCA 1985). If
this requirement is not met, a courts jurisdiction is not
perfected, and any judgment entered is void. Id. at
740. As an alternative to any of these, service may be
perfected on the registered agent designated by the
corporation to accept service of process. See §
48.081(3), Fla. Stat. (2018). The object of section 48.081 is
to have service made upon someone who is held responsible by
the corporation, "and it contemplates that service shall
be made, whenever possible, upon the more responsible
officers before resorting to service upon one of the inferior
officers or agents of the corporation." Morgan
Stanley Smith Barney, LLC v. Gibraltar Private Bank & Tr.
Co., 162 So.3d 1058, 1060 (Fla. 3d DCA 2015) (quoting
Bank of America, N.A. v. Bornstein, 39 So.3d 500
(Fla. 4th DCA 2010)). Here, service of process was not
perfected on Mattress One through its officers pursuant to
section 48.081(1) because the return of service does not show
the absence of all officers of a superior class before
resorting to service on an officer or agent of an inferior
class. Further, the return of service fails to contain any
statement supporting alternative service on the registered
agent pursuant to section 48.081(3). Finally, although the
registered agent was not present on the corporate premises
when he or she was required to be under section 48.091, the
return of service does not indicate that service of process
was proper based on the absence of the registered agent.
Instead, the attempted service was made on an unidentified,
random employee. See, e.g., Nationsbanc Mortg.
Corp. v. Gardens N. Condo. Assn, 764 So.2d 883 (Fla.
4th DCA 2000) (holding service on random employee of
corporation was facially void because the affidavit did not
contain any statement supporting the necessity for the
substitute service); Saridis v. Vista St. Lucie Assn,
Inc., 804 So.2d 372, 373 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) (affirming
quashal of service of process on corporation where the
affidavit filed by the process server noted that service was
effected on a corporate employee, referred to "F.S.
48.081(3)" but said nothing more).
therefore reverse the order finding service was legally
sufficient on its face, and remand with directions to quash
the October 3, 2018, service of process as void, to set aside
the default final judgment of eviction, to set aside the
default final judgment for breach of lease, quash the ...