Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Union County, David L. Christensen, Judge.
Travis West appeals the denial of his motion to dismiss for failure to serve process.
Stanley Jay Thompson of Davis Brown Law Firm, Des Moines, for appellant.
Marc Allen Humphrey of Humphrey Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, and Tara Lynn Hofbauer of Hudson, Mallaney, Shindler & Anderson, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellees.
Courtney J. Vernon, West Des Moines, for American Family Mutual Insurance.
Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.
Travis West appeals the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss for failure to serve process. He contends good cause did not exist under Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.302(5) to grant plaintiffs' motion to extend the ninety-day period. He also argues because plaintiffs failed to serve him with their motion to extend, they should not have received additional time to serve their petition.
Because a combination of circumstances justify the district court's extension of the service deadline, we affirm. The plaintiffs were engaged in ongoing settlement negotiations, faced continuing medical treatment, and experienced difficulty obtaining medical records. They also took affirmative steps to effectuate service through the sheriff's office. We agree with the district court's finding of good cause for additional time to serve West with the petition. The good cause finding is not impacted by plaintiffs' failure to serve West with the extension request.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings
On July 5, 2012, Scott Feldhacker and Rachelle Barnes filed a petition at law and jury demand against Travis West and American Family Mutual Insurance. The petition alleges on July 8, 2010, West negligently crashed his Dodge Ram pickup truck into the Ford Escort driven by Feldhacker and in which Barnes was a passenger. The petition includes claims against American Family—the plaintiffs' underinsured motorist coverage provider.
Aware of the ninety-day deadline to serve process on defendants, plaintiffs' counsel explored potential settlement with West's insurance carrier, Buckeye State Mutual Insurance Company. On September 28, 2012, while still awaiting complete medical records and without yet reaching settlement, counsel sent process to the Adams County Sheriff to be served on defendants.
On October 3, 2012—the final day for timely service—plaintiffs faxed a motion to the court requesting additional time to serve the petition on West. The motion explained American Family had received process that day, but despite several attempts by the sheriff's office, West had not been successfully served. Included with the motion was a proposed order granting the extension. Plaintiffs' counsel did not provide West with either document.
Two days later West filed a motion to dismiss based on plaintiffs' failure to serve process within ninety days of filing their petition. Later that day the court signed the proposed order granting the plaintiffs a thirty-day extension to serve West. Service occurred two days after the court's grant.
On November 2, 2012, the court held a hearing on West's motion to dismiss. The court overruled the motion later that day, reasoning West was served process before the extended deadline.
West filed an application for interlocutory appeal with our supreme court, contesting the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss. The supreme court granted West's ...