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August Opinion of the Supreme Court of Alabama (30,) (1962)

Substituted Service

By Act No. 282, approved 5 August 1953 (Acts of Alabama, Reg.Sess.19s3, page 347) amending a prior Act of 1949, it was provided that any non-resident person, firm, partnership or corporation, not qualified to do business in this State, who shall do any business or perform any character of work or service in this State shall by so doing, be deemed to have appointed the Secretary of State to be his lawful attorney or agent of such non-resident, upon whom process may be served in any action accruing from the acts in this State, or incident thereto, by any non-resident, or his or its agent, servant or employee.

The act further provides that service of process may be made by service of three copies of the process on the Secretary of State, upon the non-resident, provided that notice of such service and a copy of the process are forthwith sent by registered mail by the Secretary of State to the defendant, at his last known address, which shall be stated in the affidavit of the plaintiff, said matter so mailed shall be marked "Deliver to Addressee Only" and "Return Receipt Requested," and provided further that such return receipt shall be received by the Secretary of State purporting to have been signed by the said non-resident.

It is further provided in the Act that any party desiring to obtain service under that Act shall make and file in the cause an affidavit stating facts showing that this Act is applicable.

[2] A mere reading of the above Act demonstrates the sufficiency of the provisions for notice to the non-resident defendant, and that service under the provisions of the Act fully meet the requirements of due process.

Counsel for appellant argues however that the service attempted under Act 282, supra, is defective in two aspects. First, that the affidavit in accompanying the complaint is conclusionary and does not show facts bringing the Act into operation, and second, that the Act complained of did not accrue from acts done in Alabama.

The affidavit filed by the plaintiff avers that the defendant " * * * has actually done and is doing business or performing work or services in the State of Alabama; that this cause of action has arisen out of the doing of such business or as an incident thereof by said defendant in the State of Alabama."

[3–5] The affidavit does state facts essential to the invocation of Act 282, supra. We do not think the legislative purpose in requiring the affidavit was to require a detailed quo modo of the business done, but rather was to furnish the Secretary of State with information sufficient upon which to perform the duties imposed upon that official. The ultimate determination of whether the non-resident has done business or performed work or services in this State, and whether the cause of action accrues from such acts, is judicial, and not ministerial, as demonstrated by appellant's motion to quash.

As to appellant's second contention that the cause did not accrue from any acts of The Times in Alabama, it is our conclusion that this contention is without merit.

Equally applicable to newspaper publishing are the observations made in Consolidated Cosmetics v. D-A Pub. Co., Inc., et al., 7 Cir. 186F.2d 906 at 908, relative to the functions of a magazine publishing company:

"The functions of a magazine publishing company, obviously, include gathering material to be printed, obtaining advertisers and subscribers, printing, selling and delivering the magazines for sale. Each of these, we think, constitutes as essential factor of the magazine publication business. Consequently if a non-resident corporation sees fit to perform any one of those essential functions in a given jurisdiction, it necessarily follows that it is conducting its activities in such a manner as to be subject to jurisdiction."

[6,7] It is clear under our decisions that when a non-resident prints a libel beyond the boundaries of the State, and distributes and publishes the libel in Alabama, a cause of action arises in Alabama, as well as in the State of the printing or publishing of the libel. Johnson Publishing Co. v. Davis, 271 Ala. 474, 124 So.2d 441; Weir v. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, 221 Ala. 494, 129 So. 267; Bridwell v. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, 227 Ala. 443, 150 So. 338; Collins v. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, 226 Ala. 659, 148 So. 133

[8] The scope of substituted service is as broad as the process. Boyd v. Warren Paint & Color Co., 254 Ala. 687, 49 So.2d 559; Ex parte Emerson, 270 Ala. 697, 121 So.2d 914.

The evidence shows that The Times sent its papers into Alabama, with its carrier as its agent, freight prepaid, with title passing on delivery to the consignee. See Tit. 57, Sec.25, Code of Alabama 1940; 2 Williston on Sales, Sec. 279(b), p. 90. Thence the issue went to newsstands for sale to the public in Alabama, in accordance with a long standing business practice.

The Times or its wholly owned advertising subsidiary, on several occasions, had agents in Alabama for substantial periods of time soliciting, and procuring in substantial amounts advertising to appear in The Times.

Furthermore, upon the receipt of the letter from the plaintiff demanding a retraction of the matter appearing in the advertisement, The Times had its string correspondent in Montgomery, Mr. McKee, investigate the truthfulness of the assertions in the advertisement. The fact that McKee was not devoting his full time to the service of The Times is "without constitutional significance." Scripto Inc, v. Carson, Sheriff, et al., 362 U.S. 207, 80 S.Ct 619, 4 L.Ed.2d 660.

In WSAZ, Inc. v. Lyons, 254 F.2d 242 (6 Cir.), the defendant television corporation was located in West Virginia. Its broadcasts covered several counties in Kentucky, and the defendant contracted for advertising in the Kentucky counties, all contracts for such advertising being sent to the corporation West Virginia for acceptance.

The alleged libel sued upon occurred during a news broadcast.

Service was obtained by serving the Kentucky Secretary of State under the provisions of a Kentucky statute providing for such service upon a foreign corporation doing business in Kentucky where the action arose out of or was "connected" with the business done by such corporation in Kentucky.

In sustaining the judgment awarded the plaintiff, the court wrote in connection with the validity of the service to support the judgment:

"All that is necessary here is that the cause of action asserted shall be 'connected' with the business done. Defendant asserts that the alleged libel has no connection with its business done in Kentucky. But in view of its admission that its usual business was the business of telecasting and that this included new programs, and in view of the undisputed fact that the alleged libel was part of new programs regularly broadcast by defendant, this contention has no merit.

"The question due process would seem to be settled by the case of McGee v. International Life Insurance Co. (citation), as well as by International Shoe Co. v. State of Washington, supra. While defendant was not present in the territory of the forum, it certainly had substantial contacts with it. It sought and executed contracts with it. It sought and executed contracts for the sale of advertising service to be performed and actually performed by its own act within the territory of the forum. We conclude that the maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial notions of fair play and substantial justice.'"

In the present case the evidence shows that the publishing of advertisements was a substantial part of the business of The Times, and its newspapers were regularly sent into Alabama. Advertising was solicited in Alabama. Its correspondent McKee was called upon by The Times to investigate the truthfulness or falsity of the matters contained in the advertisement after the letter from the plaintiff. The acts therefore disclose not only certain general conditions with reference to newspaper publishing, but also specific acts directly connected with, and directly incident to the business of The Times done in Alabama.

The service acquired under the provisions of Act No. 282, supra, was valid.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962August Opinion of the Supreme Court of Alabama (30,) (1962) - New York Times Company V. Sullivan, Advertising, Circulation, Substituted Service, General Appearance By The Times