Florida move allows Hoosier to escape Wisconsin judgment

A former Hoosier who moved to Florida will get to keep his money after the Indiana Court of Appeals found an order from a Wisconsin state court was void because the Badger State judicial system did not have personal jurisdiction.

Timothy Troxel had a complaint filed against him and his company, WK Payroll, Inc., in Wisconsin in 2014. The plaintiff, Plan Administrators, claimed WK Payroll had breached a $653,000 promissory note by failing to make agreed payments.

However, Troxel had already moved to the Sunshine State almost a year earlier. The process server left the summons and complaint at an old address for Troxel in Francesville, Indiana, but told Plan Administrators the property was vacant, and neighbors believed Troxel had moved.

Still, the Wisconsin state court found the plaintiffs had satisfied Indiana Trial Rule 4.1(A)(3) by leaving a copy of the summons and complaint at Troxel’s former address. It then entered a default judgment against WK Payroll and Troxel for $490,010.13 plus costs.

More than a year later, Plan Administrators filed in LaPorte Circuit Court a Notice of Filing of Foreign Judgment and a Complaint to Enforce Foreign Judgment against Troxel. Plan Administrators told the court Troxel was living in LaPorte County even though a summons and complaint mailed to him at a La Crosse address came back marked “return to sender” and “unable to forward.”

Nearly a year after that, Plan Administrators assigned its right, title and interest in the Wisconsin judgment to Dale Ward. The LaPorte Circuit Court granted Ward’s motion for an order authorizing the sale of 8,578 shares of Adaptasoft stock, valued at $300,000, and owned by Troxel.

On appeal, Troxel argued the LaPorte Circuit Court’s order authorizing the sale of the stock is void under Trial Rule 60(B)(6) because he was not properly served.

The Court of Appeals overturned the sale for a “more fundamental reason” than proper notification In Timothy C. Troxel v. Dale Ward, successor in interest to original Plaintiff, Plan Administrators, Inc., 18A-PL-597. The appellate panel found the LaPorte Circuit Court’s order authorizing the sale of the stock was void because a “judgment which is void in the state where it is entered is also void in Indiana.”

Although Troxel did not argue the Wisconsin judgment is void, he did challenge the Wisconsin judgment in his brief. In addition, Ward recognized Troxel was challenging the Wisconsin judgment.

However, Ward claims that personal jurisdiction should be presumed in this case because there is nothing to suggest that jurisdiction was not proper in the Wisconsin lawsuit. The Court of Appeals was not convinced, pointing to the problems serving Troxel.

“Because Troxel was not properly served with notice of the Wisconsin lawsuit, the Wisconsin court did not have personal jurisdiction over Troxel when it entered default judgment against him and therefore that judgment is void,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the court. “Accordingly, any Indiana orders based on the void Wisconsin judgment are also void.”

The Court of Appeals reversed the LaPorte Circuit Court’s denial of Troxel’s Trial Rule 60(B) motion and remanded with instructions for the court to vacate its order authorizing the sale of Troxel’s stock.

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