final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower
Tribunal No. 18-31741, Jacqueline Hogan Scola, Judge.
Navarro | McKown, and Luis F. Navarro and Tania M. Varela,
& Whitebook, P.A., and Carlos D. Lerman, (Hollywood), for
SCALES, HENDON, and LOBREE, JJ.
One, Inc. appeals from the trial court's 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 One's 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 One's 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 name)."
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 Sunshop's 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 court's 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 Commc'ns,
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 service 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 court's
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.
Ass'n, 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 Ass'n, 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 writ of
garnishment, and for further proceedings consistent with this
and remanded with instructions.