Broom v. MacMaster

In Broom v. MacMaster, 992 S.W.2d 659 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1999, no pet.), the defendant hospital was not served with process until four months after the limitations period expired. The hospital moved for summary judgment on limitations and the plaintiff responded with an affidavit from her attorney who stated that he "withheld" issuance of citation because "there was still a question in his mind" whether the hospital was an appropriate party to the suit. Id. at 665. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The Dallas Court of Appeals rejected this explanation, stating: What Broom's attorney does not acknowledge is that he made the decision to make Presbyterian Hospital a party to the suit when he filed Broom's petition naming the hospital as a defendant. Having made that decision, it was incumbent upon Broom to diligently attempt to serve the hospital to prevent her claims from being barred by the statute of limitations. Id. at 665. Broom's attorney offered another explanation for the delay. He "chose not to issue citation and have the Defendant Presbyterian served" because the case had been removed to federal court and he felt that the hospital's presence in the suit would complicate his attempts to have the case remanded to state court. Id. But the evidence showed that the case was not removed for three months after it was filed. Thus, Broom could have served the hospital at any point during the first three months the case was pending in state court irrespective of any reason for not serving the hospital while the case was pending in federal court. Id. The court observed that even if counsel's reasons for withholding service may be tactically understandable, they did not create a fact issue about whether diligence was used in effecting service. Id. And while a plaintiff may have good reasons for not wanting to seek immediate service on a defendant, those reasons do not negate the requirement that diligence be used in attempting service once the limitations period has passed. Id. If the limitations period has expired, a plaintiff must use due diligence to procure service regardless of reasons he may have not to want to do so. Id. "To hold otherwise would ignore the goal of statutes of limitations to inform defendants in a timely fashion of claims against them and would eviscerate the long established due diligence requirement." Id. In sum, the plaintiff's attorney did nothing to obtain issuance of process for the defendant Presbyterian Hospital for three months following the filing of suit. Broom, 992 S.W.2d at 664. In fact, Broom's attorney stated he withheld issuance of process on the hospital because there was still a question in his mind about whether the hospital was an appropriate party. Broom, 992 S.W.2d at 664-65. The Court concluded the three-month delay in obtaining issuance of process against the hospital showed lack of diligence as a matter of law and demonstrated that Broom did not have a bona fide intention to have process issued and served at the time filed suit. See Broom, 992 S.W.2d 665. In Broom, the Court considered the delay in obtaining issuance of process upon a defendant.