CR 3, an action is commenced by serving a copy of the summons
and a copy of the complaint as provided in CR 4. CR 4(a)(1)
states, "The summons must be signed and dated by the
plaintiff or the plaintiff's attorney." There is no
dispute that Nicholas Walker served Orkin LLC with a copy of
a summons that was not signed. Orkin filed an answer,
asserting insufficient service of process. We granted
discretionary review of the superior court order denying the
motion to dismiss the lawsuit for insufficient service of
process. Because Walker did not correct the defect by serving
a signed copy of the summons on Orkin before the expiration
of the statute of limitations or timely file a motion to
amend the summons to correct the defect, we reverse and
remand for entry of an order dismissing the lawsuit.
procedural facts are not in dispute. On July 28, 2017,
Nicholas Walker filed a summons and a complaint for personal
injury damages against Orkin LLC. The summons is signed by
his attorney and dated July 27, 2017. The complaint is signed
by the attorney and dated July 28, 2017.
personal injury complaint alleged that on August 8, 2014,
Walker was injured in a vehicle collision. Walker alleged the
Orkin driver was negligent and his negligence was the
proximate cause of Walker's damages. The statute of
limitations for a personal injury action is three years. RCW
4.16.080(2). If a plaintiff files a complaint within the
three-year period, the statute of limitations is tolled for
90 days to allow the plaintiff to serve the defendant. RCW
For the purpose of tolling any statute of limitations an
action shall be deemed commenced when the complaint is filed
or summons is served whichever occurs first. If service has
not been had on the defendant prior to the filing of the
complaint, the plaintiff shall cause one or more of the
defendants to be served personally, or commence service by
publication within ninety days from the date of filing the
complaint. If the action is commenced by service on one or
more of the defendants or by publication, the plaintiff shall
file the summons and complaint within ninety days from the
date of service. If following service, the complaint is not
so filed, or following filing, service is not so made, the
action shall be deemed to not have been commenced for
purposes of tolling the statute of limitations.
complaint Walker filed on July 28, 2017 tolled the three-year
statute of limitations for 90 days or until October 26, 2017
to serve Orkin. On August 1, Walker served the Orkin
registered agent with a copy of a summons and a copy of the
complaint. The copy of the summons is dated July 27, 2017 but
is not signed. The copy of the complaint is not dated or
signed. The next day, Walker's attorney sent a fax to
Orkin attaching the "copy of the Summons and Complaint
which were served on Orkin."
September 7, Orkin filed an answer to the complaint. Orkin
denied the allegations. Orkin asserted as an affirmative
defense that "Plaintiff has failed to serve Defendant
with process under Washington law." Walker did not
correct the defect and serve Orkin with a copy of the signed
summons before the expiration of the statute of limitations
on October 26, 2017.
November 6, Orkin filed a CR 12(b) motion to dismiss the
lawsuit for insufficient service of process within the
statute of limitations. Orkin argued Walker did not comply
with the court rules for service of process before the
expiration of the statute of limitations on October 26, 2017.
Orkin asserted that contrary to CR 4(a)(1), Walker did not
serve it with a copy of a signed summons.
argued he complied with CR 4 by signing the summons and
complaint filed on July 28, 2017. Walker also argued serving
Orkin with an unsigned copy of the summons did not result in
prejudice to Orkin.
court denied the motion to dismiss. We granted the motion for
discretionary review under RAP 2.3(b)(1).
contends the superior court erred in denying the motion to
dismiss the lawsuit for failure to comply with the
requirements of CR 4.
service of the summons and complaint is an essential
prerequisite to obtaining personal jurisdiction. Scanlan
v. Townsend, 181 Wn.2d 838, 847, 336 P.3d 1155 (2014).
Service of process must comply with constitutional,
statutory, and court rule requirements. Scanlan, 181
Wn.2d at 847. The plaintiff bears the initial burden to prove
sufficient service. Scanlan, 181 Wn.2d at 847. The
party challenging service of process must demonstrate by
clear and convincing evidence that service was improper.
Scanlan, 181 Wn.2d at 847. We review whether service
was proper de novo. Scanlan, 181 Wn.2d at 847.
review the interpretation of court rules de novo. Jafar
v. Webb, 177 Wn.2d 520, 526, 303 P.3d 1042 (2013). Court
rules are interpreted in the same manner as statutes.
Jafar, 177 Wn.2d at 526. If the rule's meaning
is plain on its face, we must give effect to that meaning as
an expression of the drafter's intent. Jafar,
177 Wn.2d at 526. We discern plain meaning from the plain
language of the court rules. Columbia Riverkeeper v. Port
of Vancouver, 188 Wn.2d 421, 432, 395 P.3d 1031 (2017).
We read the rule" 'as a whole, harmonizing its
provisions, and using related rules to help identify the
legislative intent embodied in the rule.'"
Jafar, 177 Wn.2d at 526-27 (quoting State v.
Chhom, 162 Wn.2d 451, 458, 173 P.3d 234 (2007)). If the
plain language of the rule is subject to only one
interpretation, the court's inquiry is at an end.
Lake v. Woodcreek Homeowners Ass'n., 169 Wn.2d
516, 526, 243 P.3d 1283 (2010).
governs commencement of an action. CR 3(a) states, in
pertinent part, "[A] civil action is commenced by
service of a copy of a summons together with a copy of a
complaint, as provided in rule 4 or by filing a
complaint" as provided in
concedes that under RCW 4.16.170, Walker tentatively
commenced the action by filing the complaint on July 28, 2017
and the statute of limitations was tolled for 90 days to
serve Orkin. Walker served the registered agent for Orkin on
August 1. Orkin does not challenge the manner of service or
claim prejudice. Orkin asserts Walker did not commence the
lawsuit within the statute of limitations because ...