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National Equipment Rental, Ltd. v. Szukhent

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National Equipment Rental, Ltd. v. Szukhent, 375 U.S. 311, 84 S.Ct. 411, 11 L.Ed.2d 354 (1964) is a civil procedure case which held that a party to a private contract may appoint an agent to receive service of process, and that service will be valid if that party promptly accepts and transmits notice of service.

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Contents

Summary of Case Facts

Defendant, Szukhent, a Michigan resident, leased farm equipment from plaintiff, National Equipment Rental, a New York corporation. The lease designated Weinberg, a New York resident, as agent for the service of process in New York. Szukhent did not know Weinberg and the lease did not indicate that Weinberg had to tell Szukhent of notice. National Equipment Rental sued Szukhent for a failure to make payments under the lease. Notice was served on Weinberg, who forwarded it to Szukhent with a letter stating the documents had been served on her as Szukhent’s agent. National Equipment Rental also notified Szukhent of the service of process on Weinberg by certified mail.

Issue

Whether an unknown agent who has not expressly undertaken to transmit notice to a party and who was merely designated by contract to receive notice, authorized to accept service of process.

Holding and Law

Yes. The defendant received timely and complete notice. The clause under dispute is a forum selection clause. It is settled law that the parties may freely negotiate such matters and that contracts to agree to submit to the jurisdiction of a court are valid. Weinberg’s prompt acceptance and transmittal of the summons to defendant was sufficient to validate the agency. Weinberg’s sole role was to receive process and that interest does not conflict with the interests of defendant. The fact that defendant did not know Weinberg is irrelevant.

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