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Hodges v. Carter

Supreme Court of North Carolina
80 S.E.2d 144 (N.C. 1954)


Facts

Hodges (plaintiff) owned a drugstore that burned down. Hodges had four fire insurance policies, but the company for each one denied Hodges’s claim. Hodges hired D.D. Topping and H.C. Carter (defendants), attorneys, to bring suit on each of his insurance claims. Topping and Carter instituted four actions on Hodges’s behalf, and, as was custom for attorneys in North Carolina, mailed the summonses and complaints to the Commissioner of Insurance of North Carolina. The Commissioner then forwarded the summonses and complaints by registered mail to the insurance companies. Service of process in this way was standard and routinely accepted by insurance companies. However, in this instance, the insurance companies moved to dismiss the complaints on the grounds of lack of proper service of process because the Commissioner did not have the authority to issue service of process against companies not in North Carolina. The Supreme Court of North Carolina granted the insurance companies’ motions to dismiss. Subsequently, Hodges brought suit against Topping and Carter, alleging negligence in the failed suits against the insurance companies due to the attorneys’ insufficient service of process. The trial court entered a nonsuit in favor of Topping and Carter. Hodges appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Barnhill, C.J.)

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