August 04, 2020 Top Story

Good Cause Not Required for Extension of Service Period

Rules of civil procedure give courts discretion to significantly extend time

By Ashlee E. Hamilton

A trial court may significantly extend the time for service of process without a showing of good cause. In Sholem v. Gass in and for the County of Maricopa, the plaintiff requested and received an extension of time for service months after her time had expired, despite failing to establish good cause for her delay. The rules of civil procedure give the court discretion to permit such an extension, the Arizona Supreme Court held. ABA Section of Litigation leaders find the court’s ruling consistent with public policy favoring resolution of disputes based on merit and recommend that defense counsel facing extreme delays in service focus on developing a detailed record of prejudice.

When the plaintiff attempted to serve the complaint, the defendant evaded service by not answering the door

When the plaintiff attempted to serve the complaint, the defendant evaded service by not answering the door

Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz | iStockphoto by Getty Images

Extension Granted Despite Lack of Good Cause

In 1996, Melissa Langevin’s parents sued Phoenix Baptist Hospital and Medical Center, Dr. Steven Sholem, and Dr. John Carlson for negligently exposing Langevin’s mother to radiation during her pregnancy. That suit settled after completion of discovery and on the eve of trial.

In 2017, Langevin sued the same hospital and doctors in the Arizona Superior Court in Maricopa County. Under Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure (ARCP) 4(i), Langevin was required to serve the complaint within 90 days of its filing. Although she tried to serve Dr. Sholem at his residence six times between July 27, 2017, and August 11, 2017, she stopped attempting service one month before expiration of the service period. During each service attempt, the process server noticed that there were no vehicles in the driveway and the blinds were closed. However, the porch light was on and someone had removed a package addressed to Dr. Sholem from the porch from one day to the next.

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