United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
William W. Caldwell United States District Judge.
this court is Plaintiff Zeina Black's “Renewed
Motion for Alternative Service by Publication.” (Doc.
13). For the reasons that follow, we will deny
Plaintiff's motion, but grant a forty-five day extension
of time to attempt service by sheriff as required by
Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 400(a).
30, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a
complaint against Defendants Jason Coe and Dublin EMS, LLC
(Dublin EMS) alleging claims of retaliation, employment
discrimination, and hostile work environment pursuant to
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. (Doc. 1 at 5, 8). According
to the complaint, Coe was the owner of Dublin EMS and was
Plaintiff's supervisor during her employment as an
Emergency Medical Technician. (Id. at 1-2).
September 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a letter with this court
indicating that she was experiencing difficulties serving
Defendants and requesting a thirty-day extension of time to
explore alternative means of service. (Doc. 4). The following
day, this court granted Plaintiff an additional forty-five
days to serve Defendants. (Doc. 5). On November 11, 2016,
Plaintiff filed a second letter informing this court of her
continued difficulties and again requesting an additional
forty-five days to serve Defendants. (Doc. 6). This court
granted Plaintiff a second extension of time to achieve
service. (Doc. 7). However, Plaintiff was again unsuccessful
in serving Defendants, and, on December 29, 2016, she filed a
“Motion for Alternative Service by Publication.”
January 19, 2017, this court denied the motion and explained
that Plaintiff did not demonstrate sufficient practical
efforts to serve Defendants pursuant to the Pennsylvania
Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 12 at 3). In that order, we
explained that “[a]lternative service is only
permissible when service ‘cannot be made' under the
applicable rule of civil procedure, ” and we concluded
that, although it appeared that Plaintiff located Defendants
and attempted service via mail, it did not appear that she
had “attempted to serve Defendants in person.”
(Id. at 2-3). We then granted Plaintiff an
additional forty-five days to serve Defendants.
our order, Plaintiff again attempted to serve Defendants
without success. (Doc. 13 at 3). On March 6, 2017, she filed
the instant renewed motion for alternative service by
publication. (Doc. 13). In her motion, Plaintiff details her
previous and continued efforts to serve Defendants over the
last nine months, and supports her claims with sixty-four
pages of exhibits. (Id.) Those exhibits establish
11, 2016, Plaintiff attempted to serve Defendants via
certified, first-class mail at a P.O. Box in Jonestown,
Pennsylvania, but the mailings were returned to sender marked
“not deliverable as addressed - unable to
forward.” (Doc. 14-1 at 6-7). On July 28, 2016,
Plaintiff then contacted an attorney known to have
represented Defendants. (Id. at 9-10). The attorney
stated that he received service packets for Defendants, but
advised that he “no longer represent[s] Mr. Coe or his
defunct company, ” and that he was not authorized to
accept service on behalf of Defendants and did not know where
they could be located. (Id.)
August 3, 2016, Plaintiff contacted the United States Postal
Service to determine if Defendants had a forwarding address.
(Doc. 14-1 at 12-13). The Postal Service informed Plaintiff
that Defendants had “moved, [and] left no forwarding
address.” (Id.) Also on that day, Plaintiff
conducted property records searches for Berks, Lancaster,
Dauphin, and Lebanon counties, which did not turn up any
property owned by Defendant Coe. (Id. at 15-18).
Plaintiff also searched public records for Defendant Coe
using Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System's web
docket search function, which did not reveal any civil,
criminal, or landlord/tenant litigation for Coe.
(Id. at 19-21).
proceeded to hire a private investigator to assist in
attempting to serve Defendants. (Docs.14-1 at 23-27; 14-6 at
1). On November 7, 2016, the investigator researched
Defendants, yielding an alleged address for Coe at Dogwood
Lane in Jonestown, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 14-1 at 23-27).
Plaintiff also conducted an online white pages query, which
revealed the same address. (Doc. 13 at 2-3). On November 11,
2016, Plaintiff sent the complaint and summons to Defendants
via certified, first-class mail at the Dogwood Lane address.
(Doc. 14-1 at 28-31). The Postal Service attempted to deliver
the mail multiple times and left notices for Defendants on
several occasions: December 1, 2017; December 8, 2017; and
December 9, 2017. (Id.) Later that month, the mail
was returned to Plaintiff as “unclaimed” and
“unable to forward.” (Id.) During that
same period, from November through December of 2016,
Plaintiff's private investigator also conducted
surveillance at the address. (Doc. 14-6 at 1-2). The
investigator took photographs of a Chevy Tahoe near the home
bearing a Pennsylvania emergency vehicle (EV) license plate;
Defendant Coe in this action is alleged to have operated an
Emergency Medical Services company, Dublin EMS. (Doc. 14-1 at
33); (Doc. 1 at 1-2). Plaintiff's investigator also took
photographs of the mailbox at the address, which appears to
bear Defendant Coe's name, as it is marked “J.
Coe.” (Doc. 14-1 at 34).
conjunction with attempting to mail service, Plaintiff's
investigator attempted in-person service at the Dogwood Lane
address. (Doc. 14-6 at 1-3). Plaintiff's investigator
avers that he attempted service on five occasions over the
course of four months, each on separate days of the week and
at different times of day. (Id.) Plaintiff's
investigator avers that he surveilled the address on five
days for one-hour blocks of time: Monday, November 7, 2016,
from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Wednesday, November 9, 2016,
from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.; Friday, January 20, 2017, from
8:10 p.m. to 9:10 p.m.; Saturday, February 18, 2017, from
10:40 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.; and Sunday, February 19, 2017, from
7:51 p.m. to 8:51 p.m. (Doc. 14-6 at 1-2). On each occasion,
there was no answer when the investigator knocked on the
front and back doors of the dwelling, and there was no
indication that Defendants were on the premises.
(Id.) Due to these unsuccessful attempts at service,
Plaintiff again moves to serve Defendants pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e)(1) and Pennsylvania Rule of
Civil Procedure 430(a) by publishing a notice in two local
newspapers: the Lebanon Daily News and the Patriot News.
(Docs. 13 at 4, 14 at 2-3).
is no specific Federal Rule of Civil Procedure that provides
for alternative service by publication. See United States
v. Linares, No. 16-4463, 2016 WL 7014192, at *1 (E.D.
Pa. Nov. 30, 2016); Shuster v. Conley, 107 F.R.D.
755, 757 (W.D. Pa. 1985). However, pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 4(e)(1), an individual within a judicial
district of the United States may be served by
“following state law for serving a summons in an action
brought in courts of general jurisdiction in the state where
the district court is located or where service is
made[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e)(1). Likewise, pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h)(1)(A), an unincorporated
association may be served “in the manner prescribed by
Rule 4(e)(1) for serving an individual.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
4(h)(1)(A). Thus, pursuant to Federal Rules 4(e)(1) and
4(h)(1)(A), because Plaintiff ...