United States District Court, District of Columbia
J. NICHOLS United States District Judge.
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP filed this civil
action in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
seeking unpaid legal fees and expenses. See
generally Notice of Removal, Ex. A, D.C. Super. Compl.,
ECF No. 1-1. Quinn served Defendants Bus-Comm, Inc. and
Crediflash, LLC without issue, Notice of Removal, Ex. A at
53-54, ECF No. 1, and those two Defendants removed the case
to this Court, see generally Notice of
Removal. The six remaining Defendants (collectively,
the “Additional Defendants”), however, challenge
the sufficiency of service as to them. See generally
Defs.' Renewed Mot. to Quash Service of Process
(“Defs.' Mot. to Quash”), ECF No. 21. Quinn,
in turn, seeks remand back to D.C. Superior Court because the
Notice of Removal was not unanimous. See generally
Mot. for Remand, ECF No. 22. For the reasons that follow, the
Court grants the Additional Defendants' Motion to Quash
and, as a result, denies Quinn's Motion for Remand.
April 8, 2019, Quinn served Defendants Bus-Comm and
Crediflash with the Summons and Complaint. Notice of Removal,
Ex. A at 53-54. Approximately two weeks later, Quinn held a
call with Diaz, Reus & Targ LLP (“Diaz
Reus”), a law firm that previously had represented at
least some of the Defendants, to discuss the case and service
on the Additional Defendants. Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. to
Quash (“Pl.'s Opp'n”), Ex. A at 3, ECF
No. 25-1. During that call, Diaz Reus agreed to
accept service on behalf of the Additional Defendants in
exchange for a thirty-day extension for the Additional
Defendants to respond to the Complaint. Id. at 2-3.
Thereafter, Quinn and Diaz Reus exchanged emails in which
both firms expressly confirmed their prior discussion.
Id. On April 29, 2019, Quinn served Diaz Reus on
behalf of the Additional Defendants, relying on Diaz
Reus's agreement to accept service and presumably
believing that Diaz Reus actually had authority to do so.
See Mot. for Remand, Ex. A (“D.C. Superior
Docket”), at 3-4, ECF No. 22-1.
one month later, the Additional Defendants moved in D.C.
Superior Court to quash service, contending that Diaz Reus
had lacked authority to accept service on their behalf.
Id. at 4. Because that motion was filed after
Quinn's Notice of Removal, which had been filed on May
23, 2019, the D.C. Superior Court denied the Motion as moot.
Id. The Additional Defendants renewed their Motion
to Quash in this Court on June 6, 2019, arguing again that
Diaz Reus lacked authority to accept service on their behalf.
See generally Defs.' Mot. to Quash. The same
day, Quinn filed its Motion for Remand, arguing that, because
the Additional Defendants had been served and had not joined
the Notice of Removal, remand is required by 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1455(b)(2) and 1447(c). See generally
Mot. for Remand.
their Motion to Quash, the Additional Defendants argue that
although Diaz Reus represented to Quinn that it could accept
service on behalf of the Additional Defendants, in fact
service was not effective because Diaz Reus was never
“authorized by the [Additional] Defendants to accept
service” as their agent. Mem. in Supp. of Defs.'
Renewed Mot. to Quash at 1 (“Defs.' Mem.”),
ECF No. 21; see also Defs.' Mot. to Quash at 1
(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), (b)(5)). In its Motion to
Remand, Quinn argues that the Additional Defendants were
properly served and that remand is required by 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1455(b)(2) and 1447(c) “because not all
properly joined and served Defendants joined in or otherwise
consented to Defendants Bus-Comm Inc.'s and Crediflash,
LLC's Notice of Removal.” Mot. for Remand at 1.
Both Motions thus require the Court to determine whether
service on the Additional Defendants was effective.
a federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a
defendant, the procedural requirement of service of summons
must be satisfied.” Roland v. Branch Banking &
Tr. Corp., 149 F.Supp.3d 61, 64 (D.D.C. 2015) (quoting
Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd. v. Rudolf Wolff &
Co., 484 U.S. 97, 104 (1987)). The D.C. Superior Court
Civil Rules permit service on an individual or corporate
defendant by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint
to an “agent authorized by appointment or by law to
receive service of process.” D.C. Super. Ct. R. Civ. P.
4(e)(2)(C), (h)(1)(B). “The rule is clear that it must
appear that any agent who accepts service must be shown to
have been authorized to bind his principal by the acceptance
of process and, further, that the authority to accept such
service cannot be shown by the extra-judicial statements of
the attorney.” McLaughlin v. Fidelity Sec. Life
Ins., 667 A.2d 105, 106 (D.C. 1995) (quoting Schwarz
v. Thomas, 222 F.2d 305, 308 (D.C. Cir. 1955)); see
also United States v. Ziegler Bolt & Parts Co., 111
F.3d 878, 881 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (“The mere relationship
between a defendant and his attorney does not, in itself
convey authority to accept service.” (citations
asserts that it served the Additional Defendants through
their attorney at Diaz Reus. Not surprisingly, Quinn relies
on its April 26, 2019 teleconference with Diaz Reus, together
with the emails confirming that teleconference, as proof that
Diaz Reus was authorized to accept service on behalf of the
Additional Defendants. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 6-7.
Additional Defendants do not contest that Diaz Reus
represented to Quinn that it would accept service for the
Additional Defendants. Instead, the Additional Defendants
have submitted a declaration from Cesar Augusto
Rosenthal-Hidalgo, who is one of the Additional Defendants
and who is alleged to either partially or entirely own, or to
control, the various corporate Defendants, see D.C.
Super. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 29-31. According to
Rosenthal-Hidalgo, he “communicated with the attorneys
at [Diaz Reus] . . . on behalf of [himself] and the
[Additional Defendants]” in late April and early May
2019 and “never authorized [Diaz
Reus] or any of its representatives to accept
service in this matter, directly or indirectly.”
Decl. of Cesar Augusto Rosenthal-Hidalgo
(“Rosenthal-Hidalgo Decl.”) ¶ 1, 3 (emphasis
added), ECF No. 21-6. The Additional Defendants thus argue
that, because they never gave Diaz Reus authority to accept
service for them, service on Diaz Reus was improper.
Defs.' Mem. at 4-5.
does not dispute that service on the Additional Defendants
would be ineffective if Diaz Reus lacked authority to accept
it. Instead, Quinn points to emails included with the
Rosenthal-Hidalgo Declaration to argue that, contrary to that
Declaration, the Additional Defendants actually had
authorized Diaz Reus to accept service on their behalf.
E.g., Pl.'s Reply in Supp. of Mot. for Remand at
3-5, ECF. No. 27. In particular, prior to the April 26 call
between Quinn and Diaz Reus, Diaz Reus contacted the
Additional Defendants to confirm that the firm still
represented them in Quinn's newly filed suit, and
Rosenthal-Hidalgo responded that Diaz Reus did in fact
represent the Additional Defendants. Rosenthal-Hidalgo Decl.,
Ex. A at 5-6, ECF No. 21-6. This email exchange, Quinn
argues, demonstrates that Diaz Reus had actual authority to
accept service for the Additional Defendants. See
Pl.'s Opp'n at 4-7.
problem with this argument is that nothing in those emails
says anything about service, including whether Diaz
Reus was authorized to accept service on behalf of the
Additional Defendants. Quinn is therefore left to rely on the
fact that the Additional Defendants' then-lawyers agreed
to accept service on behalf of the Additional Defendants. But
the D.C. Court of Appeals has held that statements by counsel
are insufficient to establish that counsel had actual
authority to accept service. See, e.g.,
McLaughlin, 667 A.2d at 106 (“[T]he authority
to accept . . . service cannot be shown by the extra-judicial
statements of the attorney.” (citation
Rosenthal-Hidalgo Declaration-which states expressly that
Diaz Reus was not an agent appointed to receive
service of process on behalf of the Additional Defendants,
see Rosenthal-Hidalgo Decl. ¶ 3-is therefore
unrebutted. As a result, Quinn has not demonstrated that Diaz
Reus had either actual or implied authority to accept service
on behalf of the Additional Defendants. See, e.g.,
Pollard v. District of Columbia, 285 F.R.D. 125, 128
(D.D.C. 2012) (“‘[A]lthough authority to accept
process need not be explicit, it must either be express or
implied from the type of relationship that has been
established between the defendant and the alleged agent';
put differently, there must be a ‘factual basis for
believing that an appointment' to receive process has
been made.” (quoting Charles A. Wright & Arthur R.
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1097
(3d ed. 2002)). And because Diaz Reus lacked authority to
accept service on behalf of the Additional Defendants,
service on Diaz Reus was insufficient under D.C. Superior
Court Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e)(2)(C).