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Separate notice argument not enough to vacate small claims judgment

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A business’s argument that it should have been served with a separate notice of a small claims action was rejected by the Indiana Court of Appeals Friday.

The appeals court affirmed a denial of KOA Properties LLC’s motion to set aside default judgment. In KOA Properties LLC v Laura Matheison, 48A04-1207-SC-365, the Court of Appeals ruled that KOA failed to establish the lower court abused its discretion by denying the business’s motion because the trial court did not have personal jurisdiction.

A default judgment for $4,300 plus court costs was entered against KOA in February 2012. In a dispute over a lease, Laura Matheison had filed a notice of small claim against “Todd Culp, KOA Properties LLC aka/Woodpoint.” The notice was sent by certified mail and Culp, owner and property manager of KOA, accepted it.

However Culp did not open the certified mail and neither he nor KOA appeared at the small claims hearing. The court subsequently entered a default judgment against Culp.

Culp successfully argued that he had been improperly named individually in the suit because KOA is an LLC. The trial court then vacated the judgment against Culp but refused to set aside the judgment against KOA because the business had not shown it had a “good and valid defense.”

KOA’s motion to vacate the default judgment was denied by the trial court. In its appeal, KOA asserted the small claims court did not have personal jurisdiction over KOA because the business was not listed as a separate party defendant on the notice of the claim and KOA was not separately served with the notice.  

The COA disagreed. It ruled KOA was listed as a separate defendant because the notice of the claim clearly included KOA as a party defendant, and the address listed on the notice of the claim was KOA’s address and Culp was the acknowledged owner and property manager of KOA.

Further the Court of Appeals observed that separate service would have been sent to the same address and directed to the same person, Todd Culp.

“We cannot agree with KOA that when Culp accepted the certified mailing addressed to ‘Todd Culp (KOA Properties LLC)’ at KOA’s business address there was a total failure to serve process on KOA,” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote for the court. “… KOA was provided with service reasonably calculated to inform KOA that a small claims action had been instituted against it.”

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  1. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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