OF JUDGMENT: 02/15/2018
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES McCLURE III
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JOE MORGAN WILSON JERRY WESLEY HISAW
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: ROBERT A. BIGGS III CHARLES STEPHEN
On June 20, 2017, Steve Otto ("Otto") and FedEx
Ground Package System Inc. ("FedEx") filed a Motion
to Dismiss against William Kevin Hadley ("Hadley")
in the DeSoto County Circuit Court, arguing that Hadley had
failed to properly serve Otto and FedEx before the statute of
limitations expired. The circuit court granted the motion and
dismissed Hadley's claims for insufficient service of
process. In his response to the defendants' motions,
Hadley moved to amend his complaint to add J. Delivery
Services, Otto's actual employer, as a defendant. The
circuit court denied this motion as moot. Hadley now appeals
this judgment, arguing that the circuit court erred by not
granting Hadley a 120-day extension of time to perfect
service of process and by not granting Hadley leave to amend
his complaint. Finding no error, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This case stems from a car accident that occurred on January
31, 2014, when Otto rear-ended Hadley while driving a truck
owned by FedEx. On January 31, 2017, Hadley filed a complaint
against FedEx and Otto in the circuit court exactly one day
before the statute of limitations expired.
Hadley attempted to serve FedEx on its Mississippi registered
agent, CT Corporation System, via certified mail. After much
difficulty locating Otto, Hadley's attorney filed a
motion for additional time to serve process one week before
the deadline to serve Otto would expire. The motion was never
set for a hearing, and no order was entered granting the
motion. Hadley nonetheless attempted to serve Otto by
publishing notice in the DeSoto Times Tribune for
three consecutive weeks beginning on June 20, 2017.
On July 20, 2017, FedEx and Otto filed motions to dismiss
Hadley's complaint, arguing that Hadley had failed to
properly serve them with process within the 120-day deadline
prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Hadley
responded, again requesting an extension of time to serve the
parties along with a motion for leave to amend the complaint
to add J. Delivery Services, Otto's actual employer at
the time of the accident, as a party to the action.
The circuit court granted the defendants' motions to
dismiss, finding that Hadley failed to properly serve FedEx
and Otto within the 120-day deadlines and failed to show good
cause for invalid service. The circuit court also denied
Hadley's motion for leave to amend his complaint.
Aggrieved, Hadley now appeals.
This Court reviews the grant or denial of a motion to dismiss
de novo. Blakeney v.Warren County, 973
So.2d 1037, 1039 (¶11) (Miss. Ct. App. 2008). A finding
of good cause or excusable neglect is usually left to the
discretion of the circuit court, unless such discretion is
abused and requires reversal. Long v. Mem'l Hosp. at
Gulfport, 969 So.2d 35, 38 (¶5) (Miss. 2007). Where
a circuit court applies interpretations of law in its
analysis, the court reviews its determination de novo.
Id. But, where the court applies fact-based findings
in its determination of good cause or excusable neglect, the
Court defers to the discretionary ruling of the circuit court
and "whether there was substantial evidence supporting
the determination." Rains v. Gardner, 731 So.2d
1192, 1197 (¶18) (Miss. 1999). "Motions for leave
to amend complaint are left to the ...