The Second Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Warhit, reversing Supreme Court, after reviewing the caselaw in the state, determined the defendant was not estopped from contesting service of process based solely on his failure to update his address with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as required by Vehicle and Traffic Law 505 (5). Although the failure to update the address is a factor in determining whether estoppel applies, it cannot be the sole basis for estoppel. Here the defendant presented detailed evidence demonstrating that he no longer lived at the address on file with the DMV and there was no evidence he was deliberately evading service. Therefore a hearing on whether defendant was properly served was required:
The principal question presented on this appeal is whether an individual defendant’s failure to fulfill the statutory obligation to timely notify the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (hereinafter DMV) of a change of address, standing alone, estops that defendant from contesting service of the summons and complaint made at his or her former address. We answer that question in the negative. … [W]e hold that, while there are circumstances where a defendant may be estopped from contesting service of process based in part on the failure to update his or her address with the DMV, such as where the defendant engages in a deliberate attempt to avoid service, the mere failure to update one’s address with the DMV, standing alone, does not automatically warrant application of the estoppel doctrine. Castillo-Florez v Charlecius, 2023 NY Slip Op 04570, Second Dept 9-13-23
Practice Point: Although the failure to update one’s address on file with the DMV can be a factor in determining whether a defendant should be estopped from contesting service of process, it cannot be the sole reason for applying the estoppel doctrine. There must be other evidence of a deliberate effort to evade service.