Texas Court of Appeals Confirms That, in Order to “Bring Suit” Within the Statute of Limitations Period, a Plaintiff Must Exercise Due Diligence to Serve the Complaint

by White and Williams LLP

White and Williams LLP

In Molina v. Gears, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 1978 (March 20, 2018), the Texas Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether a plaintiff who timely-filed a complaint exercised due diligence with respect to serving the complaint. The court held that, to “bring suit” within a statute of limitations period, a plaintiff must file the complaint within the statutory timeframe and use due diligence to serve the defendant with process.

In Molina, Christina Molina (Molina) was involved in a car accident with defendant John Gears (Gears) on November 8, 2011, and she had two years from that date to file suit. Molina sued Gears for negligence on September 5, 2013, and requested service “by attorney pickup.” The record has several discrepancies after this point. Although the process papers were listed as being picked up by her attorney on January 27, 2014, the attorney’s process server, Jon Manning (Manning), reportedly attempted service several times beginning on November 25, 2013, at 14223 Eagle Pass, Houston, TX 77015. Manning subsequently attempted service at the same residence and at another address several dozen times. Another process server, Reginald Branch, attempted service on Gears as well. Branch reported he ultimately served Gears on September 22, 2014, at the Eagle Pass address.

Gears filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting a statute of limitations defense and alleging that he was not served with Molina’s complaint. Gears argued that Molina (1) failed to serve him, or (2) failed to exercise diligence in serving him on or before the expiration of the statute of limitations. The lower court granted Gear’s motion and Molina appealed the decision.

The Appellate Court stated that, in order to commence a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations period, a plaintiff must file suit within the statute of limitations period and then exercise due diligence to serve the complaint. In addition, the court stated that, once the defendant pleads the statute of limitations as a defense and shows evidence that service was not accomplished within the statutory period, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to present evidence that reasonable efforts were made to serve the complaint during each period of delay.

In this case, the court held that the plaintiff could not sufficiently account for several long periods of delay in service after the statute of limitations had run. It also deemed plaintiff’s repeated attempts to serve the defendant at the same addresses while taking no steps to use alternative means of service as a lack of due diligence.

The court’s ruling in Molina clarifies the service rule in Texas with respect to the tolling of statutes of limitations. While plaintiffs are not beholden to a clear rule that service must be accomplished within the statute’s time frame, they must meet the high burden of accounting for all periods of delay thereafter. Although every state has different laws addressing service of a complaint after the statute of limitations runs, subrogation professionals should be aware that diligence in service is often an important factor in ensuring that a complaint is timely filed.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© White and Williams LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

White and Williams LLP

White and Williams LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.