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COA affirms the voiding of $500,000 default judgment against American Legion post

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A Marion Superior court correctly set aside default judgment against an American Legion post after finding the method employed to serve process on the organization was not the best way to inform it of a woman’s lawsuit, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Mary L. Anderson slipped and fell on property owned by the Wayne Post 64, American Legion Corp. in June 2010. She sued and received a default judgment of $500,000 in 2012 when the American Legion failed to appear or respond to the complaint.

American Legion moved to set aside the default judgment, arguing it was void because Anderson had not served her complaint on it, so the court did not acquire personal jurisdiction over the organization.

Anderson had a Marion County Sheriff’s deputy leave a copy of the complaint and summons at 601 S. Holt Road, the registered address of Robert Eakins, the registered agent for the organization. But the deputy left the copy at the door of an outbuilding to the post instead of at the main building. Ken Cooper, the current registered agent for the American Legion, testified that the location of the door would make it difficult for someone to notice anything left there, and that it could have easily been blown away.

The sheriff’s deputy also mailed a copy of the complaint and summons by first class mail to the address.

Marion Superior Judge Heather Welch overturned the default judgment finding it void because of insufficient service of process. The Court of Appeals agreed.

“There is no question that Anderson failed to serve the American Legion in a manner authorized by our Trial Rules,” Judge Edward Najam wrote in Mary L. Anderson v. Wayne Post 64, American Legion Corp., 49A05-1309-CT-442. He noted that the copy of the summons and complaint should have been mailed by registered or certified mail, which requires acknowledgement of receipt, as outlined in Rule 4.1(A)(1). In addition, the sheriff’s deputy did not serve Eakins personally as required under Rule 4.1(A)(2).

The judges rejected Anderson’s claim that her attempt to serve process was still adequate. The deputy did not leave the summons and complaint in a place or with a person reasonably calculated to apprise the American Legion of her lawsuit against it, let alone employ a method that was better calculated to give notice than the methods authorized by the Trial Rules, Najam wrote.

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  1. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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