of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Charles J. Lloyd, Brian F. Murn, Livgard & Lloyd PLLP,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.
Piras, Paul Wocken, Willenbring, Dahl, Wocken &
Zimmermann, PLLC, Cold Spring, Minnesota, for respondents.
Lillehaug, J. Dissenting, Anderson, J., Gildea, C.J.,
court of appeals had subject-matter jurisdiction over an
interlocutory appeal from the denial of a motion to dismiss
for insufficient services of process.
word "delivery, " as used in Minnesota Rule of
Civil Procedure 3.01(c), has acquired a special meaning that
requires personal delivery of the summons to the
sheriff's office before an action is commenced.
Transmission by facsimile is not personal delivery.
action that is not properly commenced under Rule 3.01(c) can
nevertheless be commenced by service under Rule 3.01(a) or
in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Nichole Cox attempted to commence a breach of contract action
against respondents Mid-Minnesota Mutual Insurance Company
and North Star Mutual Insurance Company by faxing the summons
and complaint to the sheriff's offices in the
insurers' home counties. We granted review to decide
whether a facsimile transmission satisfies Rule 3.01(c) of
the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires that a
summons be "delivered" to the sheriff before an
action is commenced. Because Rule 3.01(c) contemplates
personal delivery to the office of the sheriff, we hold that
a facsimile transmission is not a "delivery." But
because the sheriffs completed service of process on each of
the respondents, we hold that appellant's action was
nevertheless commenced under Rule 3.01(a), thus giving the
district court personal jurisdiction over the respondents. We
therefore affirm the court of appeals in part, reverse in
part, and remand to the district court for further
January 9, 2014, appellant Nichole Cox's home was
destroyed by a fire. The home was insured by respondents
Mid-Minnesota Mutual Insurance Company
("Mid-Minnesota") and North Star Mutual Insurance
Company ("North Star"), whose respective principal
places of business are in Benton and Lyon Counties. Cox
submitted a damage claim to Mid-Minnesota, but the claim was
denied. Cox's insurance policy provides that "[n]o
suit . . . to recover for any property claim may be initiated
or brought . . . unless . . . the suit is commenced . . .
within two (2) years after the loss."
December 21, 2015, Cox unsuccessfully attempted to commence a
breach of contract action against the insurers by serving a
summons and complaint on the Minnesota Commissioner of
Commerce. On January 11, 2016, Cox again attempted to
commence the action, this time by faxing the summons and
complaint to the sheriffs in Benton and Lyon Counties. Both
offices confirmed that they received the fax. On January 14,
2016, the Lyon County deputy sheriff personally served North
Star. On January 19, 2016, the Benton County deputy sheriff
personally served Mid-Minnesota.
insurers moved to dismiss the action. They argued that
facsimile transmission did not constitute
"delivery" of the summons under Rule 3.01(c),
that even if the policy's statute of limitations expired
on January 11, 2016,  the attempted commencement of the action
on that date failed. The district court denied the motion,
concluding that facsimile transmission constituted
"delivery" under Rule 3.01(c). The insurers
court of appeals reversed the district court, holding that,
by sending a facsimile transmission, Cox had failed to
personally deliver the summons and complaint to the sheriff.
As a result, the court said, the action was never commenced
under Rule 3.01(c), and the district court lacked
jurisdiction. We granted Cox's petition for review.
case poses three questions for us to answer. First, did the
court of appeals have appellate jurisdiction over the
insurers' appeal? Second, what do the words
"delivered" and "delivery" mean in Minn.
R. Civ. P. 3.01(c)? Third, notwithstanding our interpretation
of the word "delivery, " was the action
first address whether the court of appeals had appellate
jurisdiction over the insurers' interlocutory appeal from
the district court order denying their motion to dismiss for
insufficient service of process. We review questions of
subject-matter jurisdiction de novo. Zweber v. Credit
River Twp., 882 N.W.2d 605, 608 (Minn. 2016).
argues that the court of appeals lacked subject-matter
jurisdiction to hear the immediate appeal. She contends that
the appealed issue relates to the statute of limitations
governing the action, not whether the action was, in fact,
commenced. Denials of motions to dismiss or for summary
judgment on statute of limitations grounds are not
immediately appealable, she notes.
conclude that the denial of the insurers' motion was
immediately appealable. The insurers brought a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12.02(b) (personal jurisdiction), (d)
(insufficiency of service of process), and (e) (failure to
state a claim). The ruling on the Rule 12.02(e) component of
the motion-whether the statute of limitations expired on
January 9 or January 11-was not appealed. The insurers have
only "challenge[d] the district court's denial of
[the] motion to dismiss for insufficiency of service of
process." Cox v. Mid-Minnesota Mutual Ins. Co.,
No. A16-0712, 2017 WL 164428, at *1 (Minn.App. Jan. 17,
case law is clear that the denial of a motion to dismiss for
lack of personal jurisdiction is immediately appealable.
See McGowan v. Our Savior's Lutheran Church, 527
N.W.2d 830, 832 (Minn. 1995) ("[I]mmediate appeal is
permitted where a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction is denied."); Hunt v. Nev. State
Bank, 172 N.W.2d 292, 300 (Minn. 1969) ("[A]n order
denying a motion to quash service of summons is
appealable." (quoting Dieseth v. Calder Mfg.
Co., 147 N.W.2d 100, 102 (Minn. 1966)). We also permit
immediate appeals from the denial of a motion to dismiss for
insufficient service of process. See, e.g.,
DeCook v. Olmsted Med. Ctr., Inc., 875 N.W.2d 263,
264 (Minn. 2016) (considering an "appeal from the denial
of a motion to dismiss for insufficiency of process");
Plano Mfg. Co. v. Kaufert, 89 N.W. 1124, 1125 (Minn.
1902) ("[A]n order which denies the motion of a
defendant . . . to set aside the service of the summons . . .
determines his positive legal rights . . . [;] such an order
is appealable."). We allow an immediate appeal from the
denial of a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction or insufficient service of process because
"[i]t is more realistic to view such . . . order[s] not
merely as a retention of an action for trial, but as a
determination of right, for a defendant is compelled thereby
to take up the burden of litigation . . . that might
otherwise be avoided." Hunt, 172 N.W.2d at 300.
same rationale applies here. Rule 3.01(c) contains two
requirements to commence an action: (1) delivery to the
sheriff, and (2) actual service upon the defendant (or first
publication) within 60 days of that delivery. If the
delivery-to-the-sheriff requirement is not satisfied, that
necessarily means the action has not been commenced under
Rule 3.01(c). If an action has not commenced, the courts lack
personal jurisdiction. It follows that the denial of the
insurers' motion served to determine a right, compelling
them "to take up the burden of litigation . . . that
might otherwise be avoided." Hunt, 172 N.W.2d
at 300. Such determinations are immediately appealable.
turn to the meaning of the words "delivered" and
"delivery" in Rule 3.01(c). The rules of civil
procedure are interpreted de novo. Walsh v. U.S. Bank,
N.A., 851 N.W.2d 598, 601 (Minn. 2014).
generally interpret words and phrases according to their
common and ordinary meaning, but we interpret technical words
and phrases according to their special, technical
meaning." State v. Schouweiler, 887 N.W.2d 22,
25 (Minn. 2016) (citing Staab v. Diocese of St.
Cloud, 813 N.W.2d 68, 72 (Minn. 2012)). A word has a
special meaning if "courts have ascribed a
well-established and long-accepted meaning to [it]."
State v. Nelson, 842 N.W.2d 433, 445 (Minn. 2014)
(Dietzen, J. dissenting) (citing In re Stisser Grantor
Trust, 818 N.W.2d 495, 504 (Minn. 2012)). "Whether
a phrase should be ascribed its technical or ...