from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Timothy W.
Oakes, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49D02-1405-MI-14372
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Mark J. Crandley Barnes &
Thornburg LLP Indianapolis, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES Linda George Kathleen A. Farinas Todd
Barnes Sarah Broderick George & Farinas, LLP
Summary and Issue
Dalton Corporation ("Dalton") appeals the trial
court's denial of its motion to set aside a default
judgment, raising two issues for our review, which we
consolidate and restate as whether the trial court abused its
discretion in denying Dalton's motion. Concluding the
trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying
Dalton's motion to set aside default judgment, we affirm.
and Procedural History
Neenah Enterprises, Inc. ("NEI") is Dalton's
parent company. NEI's general counsel monitors and
manages legal matters for NEI's subsidiaries, including
Dalton. In 2013, Robert Gitter was employed by NEI
as the corporate controller, designating him as NEI's
contact for receipt of service with Dalton's registered
agent in Indiana, Corporation Service Company
("CSC"). Up until 2013, CSC transmitted service to
NEI and its subsidiaries by certified mail. In 2013, however,
CSC began providing service to NEI and its subsidiaries via
email and Gitter did not inform NEI's general counsel of
this change. In late 2013, NEI hired John Laskey as its
corporate controller and Gitter notified CSC of this change.
During this transition, Gitter failed to inform Laskey that
CSC only sent notice of service by e-mail and Laskey would be
the only individual receiving e-mails from CSC.
On April 30, 2014, Larry Myers and his wife, Loa, filed a
complaint against numerous product manufacturers and
landowners, including Dalton, alleging negligence. The
Myerses served CSC and CSC forwarded notice of the lawsuit to
Laskey via e-mail. Laskey did not forward notice of the
lawsuit to NEI's general counsel and Dalton did not file
an appearance or any responsive pleadings. On September 24,
2014, the Myerses filed a Motion for Default Judgment and
served Dalton with the motion via CSC. On October 3, 2014,
the trial court granted the motion and entered default
judgment against Dalton. Counsel for the Myerses then sent a
letter and a copy of the trial court's order to CSC.
Over fourteen months later, NEI received a paper copy of the
service list from another defendant's pleading in this
cause and realized the Myerses named Dalton as a defendant.
After looking into the matter, Dalton filed an appearance and
a Motion for Relief from Default Judgment on December 23,
2015. Specifically, Dalton sought equitable relief from the
judgment pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(8), claiming a
meritorious defense and listing equitable considerations it
contends support setting aside the default judgment,
including the "confluence of circumstances" leading
to default. Appellant's Appendix at 137. Following a
hearing on the motion, the trial court issued an order
denying Dalton's motion, reasoning Dalton's Rule
60(B)(8) motion sounded in a Rule 60(B)(1) motion and was
thus time-barred. Notwithstanding this conclusion, the trial
court further concluded the circumstances leading to
default-coupled with each party's equitable
considerations-did not justify granting Dalton equitable
relief under Rule 60(B)(8). This appeal ensued.
Standard of Review
The decision whether to set aside a default judgment is given
substantial deference on appeal. Our standard of review is
limited to determining whether the trial court abused its
discretion. An abuse of discretion may occur if the trial
court's decision is clearly against the logic and effect
of the facts and circumstances before the court, or if the
court has misinterpreted the law. . . . A cautious approach
to the grant of motions for default judgment is warranted in
"cases involving material issues of fact, substantial
amounts of money, or weighty policy determinations." In
addition, the trial court must balance the need for an
efficient judicial system with the judicial preference for
deciding disputes on the merits. Furthermore, reviewing the
decision of the trial court, we will not reweigh the evidence
or substitute our judgment for that of the trial court. Upon
a motion for relief from a default judgment, the burden is on
the movant to show sufficient grounds for relief under
Indiana Trial Rule 60(B).
Nat. Bank v. Car-X Assoc. Corp., 39 N.E.3d 652, 655
(Ind. 2015) ...