United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. FRIEDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
2005, the Court entered a final default judgment against
defendant Tonia Shuler [Dkt. No. 17]. Nearly fourteen years
later, Ms. Shuler has moved to vacate that default judgment
[Dkt. No. 183]; the plaintiff, CUMIS Insurance Society, Inc.
opposes that motion [Dkt. No. 185]. Upon consideration of the
parties' filings, and for the reasons set forth in this
memorandum opinion and order, the Court finds that there are
factual disputes created by the parties' competing
affidavits, which can only be resolved at an evidentiary
hearing. See Montes v. Janitorial Partners, Inc.,
859 F.3d 1079, 1084-85 (D.C. Cir. 2017).
motion to vacate the default judgment, Ms. Shuler argues that
CUMIS failed to properly serve process on her, and that the
default judgment entered against her therefore is void.
See Motion to Vacate Order on Motion for Default
Judgment (“Mot. to Vacate”) [Dkt. No. 183] at 1.
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party can be
relieved from a final judgment if the judgment is
“void.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4). When
the requirements for effective service have not been
satisfied, “it is uniformly held that a judgment is
void” because without effective service of process, the
court does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate the rights of
a party. Combs v. Nick Garin Trucking, 825 F.2d 437,
441 (D.C. Cir. 1987). See also Abele v. City of
Brooksville, FL, 273 Fed.Appx. 809, 811 (11th Cir. 2008)
(“[S]ervice of process that is not in substantial
compliance with the requirements of the Federal Rules is
ineffective to confer personal jurisdiction over the
defendant, even when a defendant has actual notice of the
filing of the suit.”) (internal citations omitted); 5B
Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane,
Federal Practice & Procedure § 1353 (3d ed. 2019)
(explaining that “service of process is . . . the means
by which a federal court . . . asserts [personal]
jurisdiction” over the defendant).
evidentiary hearing therefore will focus on resolving the
factual dispute as to whether Ms. Shuler was personally
served with process in 2005. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
4(e)(2)(A) (an individual may be served by delivering a copy
of the summons and complaint “to the individual
personally”). The Return of Service Affidavit filed in
2005 and sworn to by the process server, Dwayne G. Boston,
says that Ms. Shuler was personally served. See
Return of Service as to Tonia Shuler (“Return of
Service”) [Dkt. No. 8]. But Ms. Shuler swears in the
affidavit filed with her motion to vacate that she was never
personally served. See Mot. to Vacate [Dkt. No. 183]
at 3. A comparison of the details in each affidavit reveals
discrepancies in the height, weight, and age of the person
Mr. Boston swears he served, and Ms. Shuler's description
of herself in 2005. With the record consisting solely of
contradictory affidavits, the Court has no choice but to hold
an evidentiary hearing in order to evaluate the credibility
of the two affiants and decide as a matter of fact whether
Ms. Shuler was personally served. See Montes v.
Janitorial Partners, Inc., 859 F.3d at 1084-85. The
essential witnesses at this hearing will be the process
server, Dwayne G. Boston, and the defendant, Tonia Shuler.
The parties may decide whether they wish to call additional
parties are directed to confer with one another and submit a
joint status report, to be filed by the plaintiff, on or
before December 13, 2019 proposing a number of alternative,
mutually agreed upon dates for the evidentiary hearing.
Accordingly, it is hereby
that the parties submit a joint status report on or before
December 13, 2019 with proposed dates for an evidentiary
 The Court's preliminary review of
CUMIS's alternative arguments about service of process -
that someone else was properly served, or that Ms.
Shuler's potential notice of the litigation would cure
ineffective service - is that these arguments are not likely
to succeed. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e)(2)(B)
(requiring that the person served also reside at the
defendant's residence); Hasenfus v. Corp. Air
Servs., 700 F.Supp. 58, 66 (D.D.C. 1988) (finding
service was defective when the Return of Service indicated
the papers were left with a woman only
“believed to reside on the premises”)
(emphasis in original). See also Salmeron v. District of
Columbia, 113 F.Supp.3d 263, 269 (D.D.C. 2015)
(“[P]roof of actual or constructive notice” is
neither a “substitute for proper service” nor can
it “cure . . . defective service.”).
 The Return of Service Affidavit
describes the person served as 5'7” tall; Ms.
Shuler says she is 5'3” tall. The Return of Service
Affidavit describes the person served as weighing 165 pounds;
Ms. Shuler says she weighed about 120 pounds in 2005. The
Return of Service Affidavit describes the person served as
about 45 years old; Ms. Shuler says she was 38 years old in