Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mid-Continent Wood Products v. Harris case brief

Mid-Continent Wood Products v. Harris case brief summary
936 F.2d 297 (7th Cir. 1991)

Defendant debtor sought review of a decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, denying defendant's motion to vacate and dismiss a default judgment obtained by plaintiff creditor on the grounds of improper service under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(1).

Defendant debtor challenged the district court's denial of defendant's motion seeking to set aside a default judgment obtained by plaintiff creditor for a commercial debt. Plaintiff was unable to locate any of defendant's assets upon which to execute judgment until six years after the default judgment was rendered. Defendant then filed a motion for relief from judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), claiming that he had never been served with the complaint in the manner prescribed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(1).


  • On appeal, the court held that the district court erred in crafting its own three-part test and finding that plaintiff had substantially complied with the dictates of Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(1). 
  • Exact compliance with the rule was required. 
  • Plaintiff failed to demonstrate exact compliance. 
  • The fact that defendant had actual knowledge of plaintiff's suit was immaterial. 
  • The court reversed, ordering the district court to grant defendant's motion to vacate plaintiff's default judgment.
The court reversed the district court's decision denying defendant debtor's motion to set aside a default judgment procured by plaintiff creditor six years before. Plaintiff failed to serve defendant with its complaint as required by mandatory procedural rules. Defendant's having actual knowledge of the existence of the complaint did not rectify the faulty service.

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