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U.S. Supreme Court

National Equipment Rental, Ltd. v. Szukhent, 375 U.S. 311 (1964)

National Equipment Rental, Ltd. v. Szukhent

No. 81

Argued November 20, 1963

Decided January 6, 1964

375 U.S. 311


Petitioner, a corporation with its principal place of business in New York, sued respondents, residents of Michigan, in a federal court in New York, claiming that respondents had defaulted in payments due under a farm equipment lease. The lease was on a printed form, 1 1/2 pages in length, and consisted of 18 numbered paragraphs. The last paragraph, appearing just above respondents' signatures, provided that

"the Lessee hereby designates Florence Weinberg, 47-21 Forty-First Street, Long Island City, N. Y., as agent for the purpose of accepting service of any process within the State of New York."

The respondents were not acquainted with Florence Weinberg, and she had not expressly undertaken to transmit notice to them. The Marshal delivered two copies of the summons and complaint to Florence Weinberg. That same day, she mailed the summons and complaint to the respondents, together with a letter stating that the documents had been served upon her as the respondents' agent for the purpose of accepting service of process in New York, in accordance with the agreement contained in the lease. The petitioner itself also notified the respondents by certified mail of the service of process upon Florence Weinberg.

Held: prompt notice to the respondents having been given, Florence Weinberg was their "agent authorized by appointment" to receive process within the meaning of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(d)(1). Pp. 375 U. S. 316-318.

(a) No questions of subject matter jurisdiction or of venue are here presented. Federal jurisdiction existed by reason of diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. P. 375 U. S. 313, n. 2.

(b) Since the respondents did in fact receive complete and timely notice of the lawsuit pending against them, no question of due process is reached or decided. P. 375 U. S. 315.

(c) Parties to a contract may agree in advance to submit to the jurisdiction of a given court, to permit notice to be served by the opposing party, or even to waive notice altogether. P. 375 U. S. 315.

(d) Florence Weinberg's prompt acceptance and transmittal to the respondents of the summons and complaint pursuant to the

Page 375 U. S. 312

authorization was itself sufficient to validate the agency, even though there was no explicit previous promise on her part to do so. P. 375 U. S. 310.

(e) There is no relevant concept of state law which would invalidate the agency here at issue. P. 375 U. S. 316.

(f) The fact that the designated agent was not personally known to the respondents at the time of her appointment, and that she may be related to an officer of the petitioner corporation, did not invalidate the agency. P. 375 U. S. 317.

(g) The case of Rosenthal v. United Transp. Co., 196 App. Div. 540, 188 N.Y.S. 154, is inapposite. P. 375 U. S. 317, n. 8.

311 F.2d 79, reversed.

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