CENTRAL INSURERS OF GRENADA, INC.
WILLIAM GREENWOOD d/b/a ANTIQUE WOOD COMPANY OF MISSISSIPPI
OF JUDGMENT: 09/16/2016
FROM WHICH APPEALED WARREN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ISADORE
W. PATRICK, JR. TRIAL JUDGE
COURT ATTORNEYS: GALE N. WALKER THOMAS L. CARPENTER, JR.
KATHRYN B. PLATT CHUCK McRAE SETH C. LITTLE RICHARD E. KING
GROVER C. MONROE, II KATRINA L. MILLER.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: THOMAS L. CARPENTER, JR. CARR
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: DREW M. MARTIN CHUCK McRAE.
WALLER, C.J., COLEMAN AND MAXWELL, JJ.
WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE.
By interlocutory appeal, Central Insurers of Grenada, Inc.,
challenges the Warren County Circuit Court's denial of
its motion to dismiss William Greenwood's complaint
against it for insufficient service of process. Finding error
in the trial court's determination that the Mississippi
Commissioner of Insurance was authorized to accept service of
process on Central's behalf, we reverse the trial
court's judgment and remand this case for further
Central is a Mississippi corporation licensed by the
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner to operate as an
"insurance producer." On July 10, 2013, William
Greenwood, the owner of Antique Wood Company of Mississippi,
filed a complaint in Hinds County Circuit Court against
Central and three other defendants, alleging breach of
contract, conspiracy, and bad faith due to the
defendants' refusal to provide coverage under a
commercial liability insurance policy Greenwood had purchased
from them. Greenwood's complaint acknowledges
that Central is a Mississippi corporation, identifies Lynn
Simmons Grim as Central's registered agent for service of
process, and lists an address in Grenada County, Mississippi,
where Grim may be served. However, Greenwood did not
personally serve process on an officer or registered agent of
Central, nor did he mail a copy of the complaint and summons
directly to Central or its registered agent. Instead, on
August 9, 2013, Greenwood's process server served a copy
of the complaint and summons on an employee of the
Mississippi Commissioner of Insurance. The Commissioner's
legal process clerk then forwarded a copy of the complaint
and summons, along with a notification letter, to Central via
Central filed its answer to the complaint on October 14,
2013, raising the affirmative defense of "failure and/or
insufficiency of service of process." Central also filed
a separate motion to dismiss for insufficient service of
process on November 11, 2013. In its motion, Central argued
that it could not be served through the Commissioner and that
Greenwood never served its registered agent for service of
process. Central asked the trial court to dismiss
Greenwood's claims against it with prejudice due to
Greenwood's failure to correct the improper service of
process after receiving notice of such in Central's
answer, and due to the expiration of the statute of
limitations. This motion was scheduled for a hearing in
Prior to the hearing on Central's motion to dismiss,
another defendant in the case filed a motion to transfer
venue. The trial court granted this motion on January 23,
2014, and ordered Greenwood to choose between Rankin and
Grenada Counties as the new venue for the case. The trial
court also rejected Greenwood's assertion that Warren
County was a proper choice of venue. This Court granted
Greenwood's petition for interlocutory appeal and
reversed the trial court's judgment, finding that Warren
County was an appropriate venue for the case and that
Greenwood's choice of permissible venue options
controlled. Greenwood v. Mesa Underwriters Specialty Ins.
Co., 179 So.3d 1082, 1087 (Miss. 2015). On remand, the
case was transferred to Warren County Circuit Court.
After the transfer of venue was complete, Central noticed for
a hearing its motion to dismiss. The parties submitted briefs
in support of and in opposition to the motion, and a hearing
was held on August 24, 2016. During the hearing, Greenwood
argued that Central was an "insurance company"
subject to the supervision of the Commissioner under Section
83-5-1 of the Mississippi Code. See Miss. Code Ann.
§ 83-5-1 (Rev. 2011). As such, Greenwood contended the
Commissioner was authorized by law - specifically, Section
83-5-11 - to receive service of process on Central's
behalf. Miss. Code Ann. § 83-5-11 (Rev. 2011). In
response, Central asserted that Section 83-5-11 did not apply
to it because it did not operate as an "insurance
principal." Central also argued that no provision of
Title 83 of the Mississippi Code required it to appoint the
Commissioner as its agent for service of process.
Following the hearing, the trial court entered an order
denying Central's motion to dismiss. The basis of the
trial court's ruling was that Central was a
"solicitor and deliverer of application for
insurance" under Section 83-21-37 of the Mississippi
Code. See Miss. Code Ann. § 83-21-37 (Rev.
2011). Thus, the trial court concluded that "MRCP Rule
4(h) would have been satisfied by service of the summons and
complaint upon the registered agent with the Secretary of
State . . . or service of the summons and complaint upon the
Commissioner of Insurance pursuant to Section 83-21-37, as
was done in the case sub judice." The trial court also
found that Central had admitted receiving the notice of
service required by Section 83-5-11.
Aggrieved by the trial court's decision, Central filed a
petition for interlocutory appeal, which this Court granted.
On appeal, Central argues that the trial court erred as a
matter of law in finding that Greenwood's service of
process on the Commissioner was authorized by Section
83-21-37. In addition, Central argues that Section 83-5-11
does not apply to it because it is not an "insurance
company." And finally, Central contends that
Greenwood's claims against it should be dismissed with
prejudice due to Greenwood's failure to serve its
registered agent prior to the expiration of the statute of
This Court applies a de novo standard of review to the trial
court's decision to grant or deny a motion to dismiss.
McClain v. Clark, 992 So.2d 636, 637 (Miss. 2008).
This Court also reviews matters of statutory interpretation
de novo. Chandler v. McKee, 202 So.3d 1269, 1271
I.Whether Greenwood's service of process on Central
through the Insurance ...