Holloway v. Wright & Morrissey, Inc., 84-1083

Decision Date01 August 1984
Docket NumberNo. 84-1083,84-1083
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
PartiesRaymond HOLLOWAY, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. WRIGHT & MORRISSEY, INC., Defendant, Appellee.

Paul A. Rinden, Concord, N.H., with whom Rinden Professional Association, Concord, N.H., was on brief, for appellant.

Margaret Nelson, Concord, N.H., with whom Sulloway Hollis & Soden, Concord, N.H., was on brief, for appellee.

Before CAMPBELL, Chief Judge, STEWART, * Associate Justice (Retired), and BOWNES, Circuit Judge.

STEWART, Justice (Retired).

Raymond Holloway, a New Hampshire resident, brought this diversity action in the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire against Wright and Morrissey, Inc. (Wright), a Vermont corporation with its principal place of business in that state. Despite Holloway's allegations that Wright has received a certificate authorizing it to do business in New Hampshire, that it has done business in New Hampshire, and that it has appointed a resident agent in New Hampshire to receive service of process, the district court dismissed Holloway's suit, finding that it lacked in personam jurisdiction over Wright.


This litigation arises out of an accident that occurred on a construction site in Burlington, Vermont. In his complaint, Holloway alleged that during the winter and spring of 1983, Wright was the general contractor on a construction project in Burlington. Holloway's employer, Hephaestus Corporation, a New Hampshire corporation with its principal place of business in that state, and Wright allegedly entered into a subcontract in New Hampshire. The subcontract provided that Hephaestus was to do the iron work on the Vermont construction project, and Holloway was subsequently assigned to work at the construction site. While at the Vermont worksite, Holloway allegedly stepped into a hole and injured his left leg. Holloway contended that this injury was the result of Wright's negligence, and sought damages of $250,000.

Holloway began this action by serving the summons and complaint in New Hampshire upon Wright's resident agent for service of process in accordance with the dictates of Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Contending that the district court lacked in personam jurisdiction, Wright moved to dismiss, and the District Court granted the motion. This appeal followed.

The appellant, Holloway, argues that the District Court had jurisdiction under the New Hampshire long-arm statute, N.H.Rev.Stat.Ann. Sec. 293-A:121 (Cum.Supp.1983), and that the exercise of jurisdiction under that statute would not offend the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. 1 Alternatively, Holloway maintains that Wright consented to the exercise of in personam jurisdiction when it appointed an agent for service of process. Because we believe that Wright consented to the exercise of jurisdiction over it in New Hampshire, we need not reach Holloway's contentions about the scope of the New Hampshire long-arm statute or the requirements of the United States Constitution.


It is well-settled that a corporation that authorizes an agent to receive service of process in compliance with the requirements of a state statute, consents to the exercise of personal jurisdiction in any action that is within the scope of the agent's authority. See Neirbo Co. v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Ltd., 308 U.S. 165, 170-71, 174-75, 60 S.Ct. 153, 155-156, 157-158, 84 L.Ed. 167 (1939); Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Co. v. Gold Issue Mining & Milling Co., 243 U.S. 93, 95, 37 S.Ct. 344, 345, 61 L.Ed. 610 (1917); Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws Sec. 44 (1971). Holloway's complaint alleged that Wright had appointed an agent for service of process pursuant to the requirements of New Hampshire law. Therefore, if this action is within the scope of the statutory agent's authority, Wright has consented to the exercise of jurisdiction. Because there is no evidence in this record that the authority of Wright's agent differed from that required by New Hampshire law, our analysis of the scope of the agent's authority rests solely on the interpretation of the relevant New Hampshire statute. We have been unable to discover any New Hampshire case that construes the scope of this provision, and thus we must confine our analysis to the language of the statute itself.

Under subsection I of Sec. 293-A:119 of the New Hampshire Revised Statutes, "[t]he registered agent appointed by a foreign corporation authorized to transact business in this state shall be an agent of the corporation upon whom any process, notice or demand required or permitted by law to be served on the corporation may be served." 2 Wright contends that service of process is "required or permitted by law to be served on the corporation" only if service would also be permissible under the long-arm statute. Because, in Wright's view, service in this case was not authorized by the long-arm statute, Wright argues that service on its registered agent was not authorized by Sec. 293-A:119. We disagree with this interpretation of the scope of Sec. 293-A:119.

In our view, there is a more natural reading of the phrase "process, notice or demand ... permitted by law" than that suggested by Wright. We believe that the phrase merely refers to lawful process, notice or demand. Thus, because a summons and a complaint in a tort action are documents that may be served on a corporation in accordance with the law, the service in this case falls within the terms of the statute. Had the New Hampshire legislature wished to restrict the applicability of this provision to situations in which another statute created jurisdiction, it would hardly have expressed itself in so cryptic a fashion. There are many phrases that would communicate such a restriction far more clearly than the phrase "process ... permitted by law." We would be hesitant to attribute to the legislature so obscure a means of expressing itself as Wright attributes to it, when a far more natural reading of the words is possible.

Indeed, when the legislature wished to refer to other statutes authorizing jurisdiction over foreign corporations, it did so in clear and unambiguous language. Subsection IV of Sec. 293-A:119 states that "[n]othing contained in this section shall limit or affect the right to serve any process, notice, or demand, required or permitted by law to be served upon a foreign corporation in any other manner now or hereafter permitted by law." (Emphasis added). The legislature's failure to utilize this clear language when referring to the process that may be served on the registered agent indicates that it did not intend to restrict service on the registered agent to situations in which other methods of service were authorized.

Further support for this view of the scope of subsection I of Sec. 293-A:119 is found in the long-arm statute itself, Sec. 293-A:121. That statute only authorizes the service of "lawful process." 3 Obviously, the term "lawful" in the long-arm statute cannot refer to an alternative method of service. Because of the similarity between the term "lawful" in the long-arm statute and the phrase "permitted by law" in Sec. 293-A:121, it is likely that the New Hampshire legislature intended the two phrases to have the same meaning. The presence of a restriction in the long-arm statute that is similar to the restriction contained in Sec. 293-A:119, therefore, provides further evidence that Wright's construction of Sec. 293-A:119 is incorrect.

Finally, although we have not found any New Hampshire cases interpreting Sec. 293-A:119, the New Hampshire Supreme Court's interpretation of one of the forerunners of that section further undercuts Wright's position. In Nottingham v. Newmarket Manufacturing Co., 84 N.H. 419, 151 A. 709 (1930), that Court interpreted chapter 187, Sec. 1 of the 1913 New Hampshire Public Laws. That statute required that a foreign corporation seeking to do business in New Hampshire "appoint the secretary of state ... to be its true and lawful attorney upon whom lawful process ... may be served." (Emphasis added). 4 Despite the requirement...

To continue reading

Request your trial
22 cases
  • Merriman v. Crompton Corp., No. 91,702.
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • November 9, 2006
    ...Cir.1991) (Pennsylvania); Knowlton v. Allied Van Lines, Inc., 900 F.2d 1196, 1200 (8th Cir.1990) (Minnesota); Holloway v. Wright & Morrissey, Inc., 739 F.2d 695, 698 (1st Cir.1984) (New Hampshire); Sternberg v. O'Neil, 550 A.2d 1105, 1109 (Del.1988); Werner v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 116 N.M......
  • Sternberg v. O'Neil
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Delaware
    • July 25, 1988
    ...69 Va.L.Rev. 85, 89 (1983).8 Some courts have approved the rationale of the earlier Supreme Court cases, e.g., Holloway v. Wright & Morrissey, Inc., 739 F.2d 695 (1st Cir.1984); Vogel v. Tenneco Oil Co., 276 F.Supp. 1008, 1012 (D.D.C.1967); Goldman v. Pre-Fab Transit Co., 520 S.W.2d 597 (Te......
  • Freedom Transp., Inc. v. Navistar Int'l Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Kansas
    • September 26, 2019
    ...Pharms. Inc., Civ. Action No.: 15-3384 (FLW)(DEA), 2016 WL 146443 at *3 (D. N.J. Jan. 12, 2016) (comparing Holloway v. Wright & Morrissey, Inc., 739 F.2d 695, 697 (1st Cir. 1984), Bane v. Netlink, Inc., 925 F.2d 637, 640 (3d Cir. 1991), Knowlton v. Allied Van Lines, Inc., 900 F.2d 1196, 120......
  • Acorda Therapeutics Inc. v. Mylan Pharm. Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Federal Circuit
    • March 18, 2016
    ...of requiring designation of an agent for service is to make a nonresident suable in the local courts"); Holloway v. Wright & Morrissey, Inc., 739 F.2d 695, 697 (1st Cir.1984) ("It is well-settled that a corporation that authorizes an agent to receive service of process in compliance with th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Registration, Fairness, and General Jurisdiction
    • United States
    • University of Nebraska - Lincoln Nebraska Law Review No. 95, 2021
    • Invalid date
    ...v. Allied Van Lines Inc., 900 F.2d 1196, 1199-1200 (8th Cir. 1990). 280. Id. at 1199. 281. Holloway v. Wright and Morrissey, Inc., 739 F.2d 695, 697 (1st Cir. 282. Forest Labs., Inc. v Amneal Pharms., LLC, No. 14-508-LPS, 2015 WL 880599, at *9 (D. Del. Feb. 26, 2015) ("Two other Circuits ap......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT