So far in this series, we’ve seen quite a laundry list of different circumstances and conditions under which process can be served, and the manner in which it must be served depending upon the intended recipient. The further down in the list of statutes we go the more specialized the service of process has become; this entry is still under the heading of service on nonresidents, but specifically, those who operate aircraft or watercraft in the state. To avoid repetition, let’s make the following clarifications upfront:
- While no details are provided for the word ‘aircraft’ in the statute, the term ‘watercraft’ includes boarts, ships, barges, and other watercraft.
- Nonresidents, residents who have become nonresidents, and residents who choose to conceal their whereabouts all fall under the heading ‘nonresident’.
If you are a nonresident in this state who is operating, navigating or performing maintenance on any aircraft or watercraft, and process is to be served on you, then the Secretary of State is, by default, your statutory agent and process will be served in such a way if that aircraft or watercraft was involved in an accident or collision. Part of the agreement made by the nonresident owner of the craft is that any process served on the Secretary of State in this manner will be as legally binding as though it had been served on them personally.
48.19 Service on nonresidents operating aircraft or watercraft in the state.—The operation, navigation, or maintenance by a nonresident of an aircraft or a boat, ship, barge, or other watercraft in the state, either in person or through others, and the acceptance thereby by the nonresident of the protection of the laws of this state for the aircraft or watercraft, or the operation, navigation, or maintenance by a nonresident of an aircraft or a boat, ship, barge, or other watercraft in the state, either in person or through others, other than under the laws of the state, or any person who is a resident of the state and who subsequently becomes a nonresident or conceals his or her whereabouts, constitutes an appointment by the nonresident of the Secretary of State as the agent of the nonresident or concealed person on whom all process may be served in any action or proceeding against the nonresident or concealed person growing out of any accident or collision in which the nonresident or concealed person may be involved while, either in person or through others, operating, navigating, or maintaining an aircraft or a boat, ship, barge, or other watercraft in the state. The acceptance by operation, navigation, or maintenance in the state of the aircraft or watercraft is signification of the nonresident’s or concealed person’s agreement that process against him or her so served shall be of the same effect as if served on him or her personally.