The Appellate Group

Griffin v. Snow Christensen & Martineau

Griffin v. Snow Christensen & Martineau, 2023 UT App 88 (Tenney, J.) (Oliver, J., dissenting)

Statutory Interpretation

A former client of the law firm Snow Christensen & Martineau filed a legal malpractice suit against the firm. Utah Rules of Civil Procedure rule 4(d)(1)(E) required the former client to serve the firm by delivering a copy of his complaint to “an officer, a managing or general agent, or other agent authorized by appointment or law to receive process.” The client’s process server gave a copy of the complaint to the firm’s “office administrator.” Later, the district court granted the firm’s motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process by concluding that the office administrator did not qualify under any of the three categories. The Utah Court of Appeals reversed, holding:

  • The office administrator qualified as a managing or general agent. Here, “adequate notice” in light of “all the circumstances” ruled the day.
  • Dissent: The majority’s view would require district courts to hold evidentiary hearings. This standard risks actual notice becoming the test and makes it far too unwieldy for district courts.
  • Practice Tip: The circumstantial inquiry above does not mean that constructive notice is enough. Parties must still ensure that service is given to an authorized representative under the rule.

Read the full court opinion