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. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues