Service of process. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Bedford.
Cohen, Cooper, Estep & Allen, Jefferson M. Allen, for appellant.
Rogers Law Offices, Beth E. Rogers, James F. F. Carroll, for appellee.
Barnes, Presiding Judge.
This case considers whether the resignation of a corporation's registered agent for service of process becomes effective 31 days after the resignation was " received" by the Secretary of State's office, or 31 days after the resignation was subsequently stamped " filed" by the Secretary's office. We hold that the former date controls, and that the document was filed on the date it was received by the Secretary. Therefore, the registered agent's resignation had become effective when he was served, and the corporate guarantor was not in default for failing to file a timely answer to the complaint. Accordingly, we reverse the grant of a default judgment to the plaintiff leasing company against the corporate guarantor in this case.
Manhattan Leasing sued John Michels and STL Management Consultants, LLC, contending that Michels had defaulted on a lease agreement for a 2010 Porsche Panamera and that STL had guaranteed the lease. The complaint stated that STL could be served with process by serving its registered agent, and on April 2, 2013, the sheriff filed a return of service indicating that STL had been served by delivering a copy of the complaint and summons to its registered agent, Jeffrey Allen. On the return under the words " registered agent" is the handwritten notation " (resigned)." STL did not file an answer to the complaint within 45 days of this service, and in June 2013, Manhattan Leasing filed a certificate of default. STL objected, arguing that its agent for service of process had resigned on February 14, 2013, and submitted a copy of the letter of resignation that was dated February 14, 2013. Per statute, he contended, his agency appointment had expired 31 days later, before he was served on April 2, 2013, and therefore STL had never been served properly and was not in default.
In response to STL's objection to the entry of a default judgment, Manhattan Leasing submitted a copy of STL's resignation letter to the Secretary of State, which had two date stamps on it. The first stamp says:
2013 FEB 20 AM10:08
Secretary of State
[333 Ga.App. 310] The second stamp says:
Control No: 0519117
Date Filed: 05/20/2013 ...