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08/14/91 HANI H. MASRI v. ADAMAR NEW JERSEY

August 14, 1991

HANI H. MASRI, APPELLANT
v.
ADAMAR OF NEW JERSEY, INC., APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. Harold L. Cushenberry, Trial Judge

Rogers, Chief Judge. Ferren, and Farrell, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rogers

Appellant Hani H. Masri appeals the grant of summary judgment to enforce a default judgment entered by the New Jersey Superior Court. He contends that the trial Judge erred in granting summary judgment to appellee Adamar of New Jersey, Inc., because a material factual dispute exists whether service of process was effectuated in accordance with the New Jersey rule on substituted service. Upon interpreting the New Jersey rule on substituted service, we agree, and accordingly, we reverse.

I.

On November 11, 1988, appellee filed a complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey against appellant to collect $245,000 in debts. Proof of service by certified and regular mail was filed with the New Jersey court on November 29, 1988. The return receipt was addressed:

Hani H. Masri

2700 Virginia Avenue, N.W.

#63

Washington, D.C. 20037

The return receipt was signed in the box marked "Signature-Addressee" and the signature was not in appellant's name. On March 16, 1989, a default judgment was entered by the New Jersey court for appellee in the amount of $270,170.60.

On June 30, 1989, appellee filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to enforce the New Jersey judgment. Appellee moved for summary judgment, which was granted with leave to appellant to file a motion for reconsideration for good cause on or before April 27, 1990. The parties thereafter entered into a stipulation to vacate summary judgment on the ground that appellant's counsel had never received service of appellee's motion for summary judgment. On May 1, 1990, appellant filed an opposition to the motion for summary judgment on the ground, inter alia, that a genuine issue of material fact existed whether he had been properly served with process in the New Jersey proceeding. In his motion and affidavit appellant stated that he had never received the New Jersey process and that the signature on the return receipt was not his; he argued that the certified mail was apparently delivered to a person unknown to him. Appellee responded that service was proper because a copy of the summons, complaint and exhibits was mailed by certified and regular mail to appellant and the regular mailing had not been returned.

The trial Judge granted summary judgment to appellee, concluding that appellant had an opportunity to be heard under New Jersey law and process was proper, and denied appellant's motion for reconsideration.

II.

Appellant contends that summary judgment was inappropriate since there exist material facts in dispute regarding appellee's compliance with New Jersey Civil Rule 4:4-4(e) on substituted service. He maintains that Rule 4:4-4(e) requires proof that the certified mail was received or refused by appellant or was received by his authorized agent. Thus, he argues, the existence of an unknown signature on the return receipt card, and his denial by affidavit that the signature on the ...


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