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Hukill v. Oklahoma Native American Domestic Violence Coalition

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
542 F.3d 794 (10th Cir. 2008)


Facts

Sheree L. Hukill (plaintiff) sued Oklahoma Native American Domestic Violence Coalition (Spirits), its executive director, Pauline Musgrove, and others (defendants) in Oklahoma state court after her employment was terminated. Hukill refiled in federal court after a voluntary dismissal. The defendants did not authorize their attorney to accept process, so Hukill served the defendants under Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), which allows service by any method authorized by state law. Oklahoma allows service by certified mail if delivery is restricted to the addressee. Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 2004(C)(2)(b). Hukill mailed process to Musgrove and Spirits at the latter’s business address, but only the mailing to Musgrove was marked restricted delivery. Nevertheless, both mailings were delivered to L. Vollintine, who was not authorized to accept service. The defendants failed to respond, and the court entered a default judgment. The defendants moved to have the judgment set aside pursuant to FRCP Rules 55(c) and 60(b) on the ground that the it was void due to defective service, but did not deny having notice of the suit. The court held that state law only required substantial compliance with the statutory requirements for service and Hukill substantially complied because Musgrove’s mailing was marked restricted delivery, the defendants did not deny receiving process, and the defendants were aware of the suit. The court upheld the judgment, and the defendants appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

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Holding and Reasoning (Porfilio, J.)

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