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Davis v. Knox County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

March 31, 2017

RICKY DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
KNOX COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; and J.J. JONES, TERRY BRANSON, L.B. STEELE, KELVIN MOXLEY, and JESSE RUDD in their official and individual capacities, Defendants.

          GUYTON JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          REEVES JUDGE

         Ricky Davis, Sr., filed this suit on July 15, 2015. He named as defendants the Knox County Sheriff's Office and several officers. Davis served process on these parties by leaving the complaints and summonses with a Sheriff's Office receptionist.

         On November 9, 2015, Defendants moved to dismiss. They argued that Davis did not properly serve them and that, even if he had, he has not stated a valid claim. In their motion to dismiss, Defendants invited Davis to speak with them about waiving service of process. Davis never took Defendants up on their offer, so they withdrew it on February 23, 2017-over 550 days after this suit began.

         Now before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss. Because Davis has not properly served Defendants, the motion is granted. The Court does not consider whether Davis has stated a valid claim against Defendants.

         I

         A

         Defendants first move to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5). They argue that Davis has failed to service process on them according to Rule 4. There are two categories of defendants here: the Knox County Sheriff s Office (“KCSO”) and the individual officers. KCSO is an arm of the Knox County Government, not a separate legal entity. See Knox County Charter § 4.02. As a result, there are two ways that Davis could have served it:

• Delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to the County's chief executive officer; or
• Following Tennessee law for serving a local government.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(j)(2). Defendants contend that Davis did not serve KCSO in either way.

         The Court agrees. Davis did not deliver a copy of the summons and complaint to the Knox County Mayor, its CEO. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 5-6-101(d)(1). Instead, he served Elizabeth Beeler, a KCSO receptionist. Beeler is not an agent of the Knox County Mayor. As a result, she cannot accept service on his behalf.

         Neither did Davis follow Tennessee law in serving KCSO. Counties may be served by delivering the summons and complaint to the county's mayor. Tenn. R. Civ. P. 4.04(7). Again, Davis served only a ...


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