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Agent for Service of Process

Admiralty courts are engaged in the settlement of disputes between persons engaged in commerce and navigation and it is quite natural that such persons may be absent from their homes for long periods of time, and, often have property or credits in other places.  Thus, to compel plaintiffs to resort to the home of the defendant, and to prevent them from suing the defendant in any district in which h/she might be served with a summons or his/her goods or credits attached, would not only often put them to great delay, inconvenience and expense, but would in many cases amount to a denial of justice. [i]

Hence, courts have held that jurisdiction over a non-resident corporation may be acquired by service upon an agent, depending upon the capacity of the agent to represent the corporation.[ii]  Delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to a “director, officer, managing agent, general agent, cashier, or assistant cashier of the corporation, or any other agent authorized by appointment to receive service” would be sufficient.[iii]

However, the mere presence of an agent to accept summons on behalf of its principal is not sufficient enough to preclude an attachment.  The plaintiff must also satisfy the jurisdictional requirement.  For this, a defendant must be within the jurisdiction for jurisdictional purposes as well as for purpose of service of process.

For instance, the New York court has held that “when a contract is both entered into and allegedly breached by a foreign corporation within the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the corporation is clearly subject to suit in New York, even in the absence of a resident agent expressly authorized to accept process.” [iv]

Further, the agent should be available at the stated address and can be reached with service.  Courts have held that the act of physically accepting process for another party does not mean the acceptor was appointed to do so.  Thus, even if a corporation’s attorneys “had been appointed to accept arbitration demands that do not necessarily mean they were also appointed to accept process.” [v]

[i] In re Louisville Underwriters, 134 U.S. 488, 493 (U.S. 1890)

[ii] Id.

[iii] Royal Swan Navigation Co. v. Global Container Lines, 868 F. Supp. 599, 602 (S.D.N.Y. 1994)

[iv] Antco Shipping Co. v. Yukon Compania Naviera, S. A., 318 F. Supp. 626, 629 (S.D.N.Y. 1970)

[v] Royal Swan Navigation Co., 868 F. Supp. 599, 602

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