State ex rel. Sivnksty v. Duffield – Case Brief
State ex rel. Sivnksty v. Duffield, 137 W.Va. 112, 71 S.E.2d 113 (1952).
Facts: Sivnksty’s (D) car struck and injured two children in West Virginia. Sivnksty was a nonresident. Sivnksty was arrested for reckless driving and incarcerated in the county jail for three days until his trial. While in jail, D was served with process for a tort action brought by one of the children. D appeared to file a plea in abatement and asserted that the court lacked the power to exercise personal jurisdiction over him because process was served on him while he was in jail, and because he was a nonresident. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the plea and D petitioned for a writ of prohibition. D was eventually convicted of the criminal charge.
Issue: May a nonresident defendant be served with process for a civil action while confined to jail for a criminal prosecution arising from the same acts?
Holding and Rule: Yes. A nonresident defendant may be served with process for a civil action while confined to jail for a criminal prosecution arising from the same acts if the defendant was voluntarily in the jurisdiction at the time of arrest and confinement.
The general rule of immunity is: a nonresident who voluntarily submits to the jurisdiction of a state court in answer to an indictment, and who is not at the time a fugitive from justice, is privileged from service of process in a civil suit while attending court. This rule was created in the interest of public policy; a person charged with a crime where he is a nonresident will not be deterred from appearing before the courts to answer those charges.
The court held that the rule did not apply to D because he did not enter the county in response to a criminal proceeding. D entered voluntarily and was not entitled to the writ.
Dissent (Lovins): Voluntary entry is not relevant to these matters.