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Rogers v. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 23, 2015

Charles H. Rogers, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, et al., Defendants

For CHARLES H. ROGERS, JR., Plaintiff: John Edward Williams, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF JOHN E. WILLIAMS, Esq., Alexandria, VA.

For AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LOCAL 689, Defendant: Douglas Taylor, LEAD ATTORNEY, GROMFINE, TAYLOR & TYLER, Alexandria, VA.

For WMATA, Defendant: Gerard Joseph Stief, WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Washington, DC.

Page 2

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Amit P. Mehta, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

A federal court cannot exercise jurisdiction over a defendant unless he is properly served under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4. Plaintiff Charles H. Rogers, Jr., attempted to serve Defendant Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689, AFL-CIO (" Local 689" ) via certified mail, but mistakenly sent the summons and complaint to the address of a related but different entity, Amalgamated Transit Union International. Rogers' counsel later had a telephone conversation with Local 689's counsel, who purportedly confirmed " that process was properly served." Local 689's counsel denies that he accepted service on his client's behalf. Rogers made no other effort to perfect service. The court is now called upon to decide the following: (1) whether Rogers' service of Local 689 complied with Rule 4; (2) if not, whether Rogers has shown " good cause" to receive additional time for service as of right; and (3) if he has not demonstrated " good cause," whether the court should exercise its discretion and grant Rogers additional time for service.

The court finds that Rogers failed to comply with Rule 4 and that he has not shown good cause to extend the time for service as of right. Nevertheless, the court will exercise its discretion and afford Rogers an additional 14 days during which to perfect service on Local 689. The court thus denies Local 689's motion to dismiss and grants Rogers' motion to extend time.

Page 3

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Rogers initially filed his complaint in the District of Columbia Superior Court on August 28, 2014. Compl., ECF No. 1-4. Rogers, a bus driver, sued his former employer, Defendant Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (" WMATA" ), for wrongful termination. Id. at 6-7.[1] He also sued his union, Defendant Local 689, for allegedly breaching its duty of fair representation by negligently representing him in arbitration proceedings with WMATA. Id. at 7-10. The arbitration proceedings concluded with a decision on March 4, 2014, affirming Plaintiff's termination. Id. ¶ 30 & Ex.[2]

On the same date he filed his complaint, Rogers obtained a summons from the clerk of the Superior Court addressed to Local 689 at " 5205 Wisconsin Ave N.W. Washington, DC 20016." ECF No. 1-5. D.C. Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 4(c)(3) permits service by certified mail. Five days later, on September 2, 2014, Rogers mailed a copy of the summons and complaint to " Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 5205 Wisconsin Avenue N.W. Washington DC 20016." Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n, ECF No. 5, Ex. at 2.

Sometime after September 2, 2015, Plaintiff's counsel, John Williams, had a telephone conversation with outside counsel for Local 689, Brian Connolly. The parties disagree as to what transpired on the call. According to Williams, Connolly confirmed that Local 689 was properly served process and that " Local 689 accepted service without any further action by Plaintiff." Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n, ECF No. 5, at 1-2. Connolly disputes that version of events. In an affidavit submitted in support of Local 689's motion to dismiss, Connolly recalled that this case was one of several discussed on the phone call and that he informed Williams that Local 689 " had not been served but rather Amalgamated Transit Union International had received service of process." Connolly Aff. ¶ ¶ 2-3, ECF No. 8. Connolly provided Local 689's address to Williams " for purposes of serving process on the Local." Id.

Whatever may have transpired on the call, it is undisputed that Plaintiff's counsel did not try to serve Local 689 at the correct address. Instead, on September 30, 2014, Plaintiff's counsel prepared an " Affidavit of Service by Certified/Registered Mail" in which he affirmed that he had mailed the complaint and summons to Local 689 by " registered/certified mail" and that the return receipt was signed by someone named " Clark," whom he identified as " Defendant's agent." Ex. to Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n, ECF No. 5-1, at 1 (" Affidavit" ). Attached to the Affidavit was a copy of the returned certified mailing receipt. Id. at 2. Plaintiff's counsel also made the following notation by hand on the Affidavit: " I confirmed with Defendant's attorney, Mr. Brian Connolly, Esq. that process was ...


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