Changes to Service of Process Ark Rule Effective Jan. 1

Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 4 governs service of the summons and complaint necessary to begin any law suit. The Arkansas Supreme Court approved significant amendments to Rule 4 that go into effect on January 1, 2019. 

Employers should be aware of these changes and how they may affect your business. Some of the major changes include:

  • Under the current rule, service on a corporation can only be achieved by serving an officer (or someone equivalent such as a partner) or someone who he or she specifically authorizes to accept service of process. Thus, the number of people who can currently accept service on your company’s behalf is very limited. The new rule, however, allows an officer’s assistant or secretary to accept service on his or her behalf. This is a significant departure from the current rule.
  • The amended rule also interprets “managing or general agent” broadly. The Arkansas Supreme Court explained that “the person [accepting service]. . . must have some measure of discretion in operating some phase of the defendant’s business or in the management of a given office [and] such status that common sense would trust him to see that the summons gets promptly into the hands of the right corporate people.”
  • Under the amended rule, if a defendant rejects service, the person attempting to complete service is now directed to leave the summons and complaint “in close proximity” to the defendant. Thus, an employee cannot merely refuse service to defeat a party’s attempt to serve your company. 

The amendments to Rule 4 greatly expand the number of employees in a corporation who can validly and legally accept service in a lawsuit. Employees who could possibly be served under the new version of the rule should be trained on what they should do and to whom they should report if they are served with a summons and complaint on your company’s behalf. When a lawsuit is filed, time is of the essence in responding and consulting with your attorney. Training your employees about the new rule helps ensure the best possible defense and avoid costly errors. If you have questions about how the changes to Rule 4 may affect your business, our attorneys are here to help.

The information provided was written by the attorneys in the Labor and Employment Practice Group at Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP. This is not a substitute for legal advice and should be considered for general guidance only. For more information or if you have further questions, please contact one of our Labor and Employment Attorneys.