( Note: This guest blog is by Ilira Ndreu, a summer team office at our Tampa office)
In recent years, the US Virgin Islands has experienced several catastrophic hurricanes. These storms have given rise to various issues concerning the Virgin Islands, including time constraints that should be considered by policyholders.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4 (m) describes the time requirements for serving the process. Rule 4 (m) states:
If a defendant is not served within 90 days after the complaint has been filed, the court must – on motion or on its own after notifications to the plaintiff ̵1; dismiss the action without affecting the defendant or order that the service is done within a certain time. However, if the appellant shows good reasons for failure, the court must extend the period of service for an appropriate period.
The Superior Court of the Virgin Islands has its own set of rules. U.S.V.I. Rule 27 of the Supreme Court states "litigation and litigation shall be served in the same manner as required to be served by Rule 4 of the Federal Code of Civil Procedure." 1 This means that in the US Virgin Islands, Plaintiff has ninety days after they have filed their complaint to serve the defendants. 2
In general, before a court can dismiss a complaint against a party due to lack of service, it must consider whether there are good reasons to extend the 90-day limit for service. 3 In determining goodness, there are four factors that courts will generally consider:
- The reasonableness of the appellant's efforts to perform services;
- prejudice against the defendant due to premature service;
- whether the appellant has moved during an extension of time; and
- on the Restriction Regulation will prevent the appellant's claims of inadmissibility. 4
In any case, however, it is "it is the complainant's burden to show good cause." 5  Even if good deeds are lacking, the court may extend the time to provide proper service. 6 How courts approach situations where the service is not performed within ninety days was changed in 1993. 7 After 1993, the court was given the power to either reject the case or extend the time limit for service when no good cause is shown. . 8 In this respect, the court may allow an extension even if there is no "good cause" to explain why the service was not performed in a timely manner. 9 Strict compliance with the deadline is unjustified if a batch is served, but only served late. 10
If the defendant could not show that they were harmed by the early service of the trial, t Probably all that would be obtained from dismissal would be that the appellant would file an identical complaint. If the court finds that the rejection of the complaint would not be productive and would cause unnecessary costs, there is a possibility that the court will deny the defendant's proposal to reject under Rule 4 (m). 11
This is good news for policyholders in the Virgin Islands. After being hit by a hurricane, policyholders are still in a state of survival as they deal with the remaining psychological and physical damage. When policyholders continue to rebuild, it is easy for legal deadlines to pass and forces them to deal with another issue with their insurance company.
1 Hurtault v. Hess Oil VI Corp. SX-05-CV-791, 69 VI, 2018 VI LEXIS 114, vid * 9, 2018 WL 5304550 (VI Super. Ct. 24 October 2018).
2 See Fed. R. Civ. S. 4 (m) (2006 ed.); cf. V.I R. Civ. P. 4 (m).
3 McKenzie v. Hess Oil V.I. Corp 70 V.I. 210 (Super. Ct. 2019).
4 Sanchez v. USA 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20316, at * 4-5 (D.V.I. 19 February 2016).
5 Beachside Assocs., LLC v. Fishman 53 V.I. 700, 713 (V.I. 2010).
6 McKenzie 70 V.I. 210. Frazier-Alexis v. Superior Court of the V.I. 2019 U.S. Pat. Dist. LEXIS 58664, at * 7 (D.V.I. 3 Apr. 2019).
7 Charles v. Woodley 47 V.I. 202 (Super. Ct. 2005).
10 McKenzie 70 V.I. at 210.
11 Wax v. Comm’r of Int. Reef. Serv. 156 F.R.D. 272, 274 (N.D. Ga. 1994).