Under Louisiana law, there are very specific rules about how to properly serve someone, and one of the important aspects of service that an attorney has to get right is the timing of it. Furthermore, not only does the service have to be carried out in a timely manner, but it also has to be perfected properly.
This particular Supreme Court of Louisiana case dealt with service on a state entity, and it is important for your attorney to be aware of any differences that exist with regard to service requirements depending on who the other party is. According to the applicable state law, La. R.S. 13:850, “perfecting” a service request requires that the appropriate filing fees and transmission fees have been received by the clerk of the court and that the original signed document has been received by the clerk. All of this must be received within the proper timeframe. As stated in La. R.S. 13:850, the proper timeframe for perfection in this case is seven days.
In this case, the service request was received within the required ninety-day timeframe (ninety days since the filing of the petition), and the service request was perfected five days later once the requisite documents and fee payments were received by the clerk of the court. The question then is whether or not this counts as proper request for service: Was the request for service properly received within ninety days even though perfection of the request was outside of that ninety-day timeframe?
Surprisingly, the Supreme Court went against what both the district court and the court of appeals had decided. According to the Supreme Court, because the actual request for service was received within the proper ninety-day timeframe, and because it was perfected within the proper seven-day timeframe set out in La. R.S. 13:850 (it was perfected in five days), the request for service was proper and timely.
In coming to this decision, the Supreme Court analyzed the finding in Tranchant v. State of Louisiana, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, 08-0978, p. 7 (La. 1/21/09), 5 So. 3d 832, 836. In that case, the court found that “[a] valid request for service under La. R.S. 13:6107(D)(1) is made when the clerk receives the request for service and can then act on it.” While the Court of Appeals used this finding to argue that the request for service was not proper (because the clerk could not act on it until five days after the ninety-day requirement), the Supreme Court argues that this is not the case. According to the Supreme Court, because the request for service was received within ninety-days and was perfected according to the statutory requirements, the requirements of La. R.S. 13:6107(D)(1) were met. The appellate court erred because it was comparing the current case with the case in Tranchant, while the request for service in Tranchant was not even received by the clerk until after the ninety-day time period.
Based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case, it appears that as long as your request for service is received within the proper statutory timeframe and that it then perfected properly and timely that the service request should be deemed proper.
If you are in need of a competent attorney, contact Berniard Law Firm at (504) 521-6000, where an experienced attorney will gladly help you with your claim.