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White v. Reimer

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 8, 2016

Jordache White and American Transport, LLC, and Canal Insurance Company, Appellants-Defendants,
v.
George Reimer, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the St. Joseph Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 71D06-1109-CT-191 The Honorable David C. Chapleau, Judge

          Attorneys for Appellants Andrew S. Williams Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros, LLP Fort Wayne, Indiana Deborah A. Kapitan Kopka Pinkus Dolin, PC Crown Point, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Daniel H. Pfeifer Jerome W. McKeever Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak South Bend, Indiana

          Najam, Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Jordache White, American Transport LLC ("American Transport"), and Canal Insurance Company ("Canal") (collectively, "the Appellants") appeal the trial court's decision to deny their joint motion to set aside default judgment. The Appellants raise the following issues for our review:

1. Whether the trial court lacked jurisdiction over White due to allegedly insufficient service of process.
2. Whether the trial court lacked jurisdiction over American Transport due to allegedly insufficient service of process.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History[1]

         [¶3] On January 31, 2010, George Reimer and Jordache White were involved in a motor vehicle collision in Wayne County, Indiana. At the time, White was operating a semi-tractor within the scope of his employment for American Transport. As a result of the collision, Reimer sustained six fractured ribs, a fractured sternum, and torn ligaments in his left knee. He incurred $93, 574.67 in medical bills and $20, 800 in lost wages. Accordingly, on September 8, 2011, Reimer filed a complaint against White and American Transport for $750, 000 in damages. White is not an Indiana resident and American Transport is not an Indiana company.

         [¶4] On September 16, Reimer, through his counsel, attempted to serve White at a residential address, in Thebes, Illinois, that White had provided to Indiana law enforcement following the January 31 collision. According to three entries in the trial court's chronological case summary ("CCS"): "Defendant Jordache White was served by confirmed delivery [at that address on] 09/16/11. Defendant Jordache White was not served by confirmed delivery refused. Not deliverable as addressed. Defendant Jordache White was served by confirmed delivery 09/16/11." Appellants' App. at 7. Due to that obvious confusion in the CCS, on September 23 the clerk of the court called Reimer and confirmed that the court file contained a signed return receipt for White at his Thebes, Illinois, address, although that receipt had been signed by a third party, Rhonda Powell. Following the clerk's information, on November 21 Reimer filed a praecipe for summons for White to be served through the Indiana Secretary of State by certified mail at the same residential address in Illinois.

         [¶5] On December 5, Reimer attempted service on American Transport at Route 1, Box 1877, Patton, Missouri, the address provided by White to Indiana law enforcement following the collision. Reimer's attempted service on American Transport was returned undeliverable as addressed. On January 20, 2012, he filed a praecipe for summons on American Transport to be served through the Secretary of State by certified mail at that same address. On February 22, the Secretary of State issued an affidavit that stated that the summons on American Transport was returned undeliverable as addressed. On February 24, Reimer's summons on White was also returned by the Secretary of State as undeliverable as addressed.

         [¶6] Reimer filed a motion for default judgment on September 5. Thereafter, the trial court entered judgment against White and American Transport for $750, 000. Reimer filed a verified motion in proceedings supplemental against White and American Transport on March 5, 2013, which was also returned as undeliverable. Reimer then learned that White had recently moved to an address in Cairo, Illinois.

         [¶7] Reimer served the proceedings supplemental on White at White's Cairo address, and White called Reimer soon thereafter. Reimer asked White if White knew American Transport's whereabouts. White stated that American Transport operated out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However, when Reimer attempted to serve the proceedings supplemental at an address for an American Transport business in Pittsburgh, a representative of that business responded and informed Reimer that he had the wrong American Transport business. The representative provided an address for another American Transport business located in Farmington, Missouri. But when Reimer attempted to serve the proceedings supplemental at that address, that mailing was returned as undeliverable.

         [¶8] On November 26, Reimer hired two private investigators to find American Transport. Neither located American Transport, but one did locate American Transport's apparent insurance carrier, Canal. Accordingly, on February 3, 2015, Reimer served the proceedings supplemental on Canal as a garnishee-defendant. On August 24, White and Canal filed a joint motion to set aside default judgment under Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(6), which the trial court denied. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion

         Overview

         [¶9] The Appellants contend that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter default judgment against White and American Transport due to insufficient service of process. Therefore, they argue that the judgment is void under Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(6). Trial Rule 60(B)(6) provides that a court may relieve a party from a default judgment when the judgment is void. "In Indiana, 'whether the judgment is void turns on whether the defendant was served with process effective for that purpose under the Ind[iana] Rules of Procedure.'" Anderson v. Wayne Post 64, 4 ...


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