Wisconsin Supreme Court
Civil Procedure — service
A summons and complaint that names the wrong defendant is fundamentally defective, even if it was served on the correct defendant.
“While Johnson’s argument may seem appealing on the surface, it lacks support in the law. To begin with, as articulated by the court of appeals in Bulik, a summons that does not name the party intended to be sued fails, as a matter of law, to give notice to that party that an action has been commenced against it. See 148 Wis. 2d at 445, 446. That the named party happens to have a name that closely resembles the name of the party intended to be sued is simply not enough. See id. at 445 (‘[V]ague designation does not give fair notice to the specific individual’ intended to be sued). In any event, Johnson’s argument rests on the false premise that a summons’ only purpose is to provide notice to the defendant that an action has been commenced against it. As set forth above, a summons serves a second and equally significant purpose of conferring personal jurisdiction on a court over the defendant served. This court has made clear that ‘“actual notice alone is not enough to confer jurisdiction upon the court. Service must be made in accordance with the manner prescribed by statute.”’ Am. Family, 167 Wis. 2d at 530 (quoting Danielson, 71 Wis. 2d at 430).”
Attorneys: For Appellant: Johnson, Terry E., Milwaukee; Van Den Elzen, Ahndrea Renae, Milwaukee; For Respondent: DuMez, Robert I., Kenosha; O’Connor, John V., Kenosha