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Justices reverse denial of car dealership’s motion to set aside default judgment

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Because a car dealership and its registered agent did not receive notice of a hearing on default judgment, the judgment entered against it was void for want of jurisdiction, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.

Scott Jones sued Front Row Motors LLC and Jerramy Johnson, alleging Johnson rolled back the odometer and fraudulently claimed otherwise. Jones knew Johnson was in custody at the Hamilton County Community Corrections facility when he filed his lawsuit. But Jones did not make an effort to serve Johnson at the facility regarding his motion for default judgment and damages after Johnson did not appear at his deposition.

Default judgment was entered against the defendants in the amount of $34,616.73, but Jones later did not object to setting aside the judgment personally against Johnson due to potentially not providing valid service of notice to him.

Front Row Motors and Johnson appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in failing to set aside the judgment as to the dealership.

After finding that the appellate courts had jurisdiction to entertain this appeal based on it being deemed final by operation of Trial Rule 60(C), the justices reversed the denial of Front Row Motor’s motion to set aside default judgment.

Indiana Code 23-1-24-4 provides: “A corporation’s registered agent is the corporation’s agent for service of process, notice, or demand required or permitted by law to be served on the corporation.”

“The record shows that at all relevant times during the pendency of this action Jerramy Johnson was the registered agent for Front Row Motors, LLC. Indeed Jones served Johnson in that capacity at the address listed with the Secretary (of) State, namely Johnson’s home address. But Jones knew that Johnson was not present at that address and instead was a resident of a Community Corrections facility. Despite this knowledge Jones made no effort to serve Johnson – the registered agent of Front Row Motors – at the facility,” Justice Robert Rucker wrote in Front Row Motors, LLC and Jerramy Johnson v. Scott Jones, 49S02-1311-PL-758.

“On the record before us Front Row Motors has made a prima facie showing that Jones’ service of process was a mere gesture not calculated to inform it of the default damages hearing. Because Front Row Motors did not receive notice of the hearing, the default judgment entered against it was void for want of jurisdiction. The trial court thus abused its discretion in denying Front Row Motor’s motion to set aside the judgment.”
http://media.ibj.com/Lawyer/websites/opinions/index.php?pdf=2014/march/03271401rdr.pdf

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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