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Reeckmann v. Wolfe

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 13, 2017

Samandar Reeckmann a/k/a Samandar Leaitu Reeckmann, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Clarence Wolfe, Jr. and Jan Wolfe, Appellees-Plaintiffs.

         Pursuant to Ind. Appellate Rule 65(D), this Memorandum Decision shall not be regarded as precedent or cited before any court except for the purpose of establishing the defense of res judicata, collateral estoppel, or the law of the case.

         Appeal from the Vanderburgh Superior Court The Honorable Leslie C. Shively, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 82D01-1510-PL-5513

          Attorneys for Appellant Dennis F. Cantrell Paul D. Mackowski Cantrell Strenski & Mehringer, LLP Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellees Robin R. Craig Evansville, Indiana.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

          BRADFORD, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] On August 27, 2014, Appellee/Plaintiff Clarence Wolfe Jr. was attacked by a dog while attempting to serve court documents on behalf of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department at a residence located at 1501 South Grand Avenue in Evansville. During the attack, Clarence suffered a bite to the hand. At the time, the residence was owned by Appellant/Defendant Samandar L. Reeckmann and was inhabited by Jessica L. Hughes a/k/a Jessica L. Higginbottom. As a result of the attack, Clarence lost the ability to use his hand. Clarence also suffered lost wages and incurred medical expenses.

         [¶2] On October 27, 2015, Clarence and his wife, Jan Wolfe, (collectively, "the Wolfes") filed suit against Reeckmann and Higginbottom (collectively, "the Defendants"). In addition to Clarence's damages relating to Clarence's injuries, lost wages, and medical expenses, the Wolfes also alleged that Jan had suffered loss of consortium as a result of the bite and sought damages for such. Neither of the Defendants responded to the Wolfes' lawsuit.[1]

         [¶3] The Wolfes subsequently sought, and the trial court entered, default judgment against the Defendants. On March 21, 2016, the trial court entered judgment against the Defendants, jointly and severally, in the amount of $36, 064.60, plus costs. The trial court conducted a hearing on June 23, 2016, to determine Reeckmann's ability to pay the default judgment. Reeckmann appeared at this hearing. He did not contest the trial court's jurisdiction over him at this time and in fact entered into an agreed order of personal garnishment. Approximately two and one-half months later, on September 8, 2016, Reeckmann filed a motion to set aside the default judgment, arguing for the first time that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over him. The trial court subsequently denied Reeckmann's motion.

         [¶4] On appeal, Reeckmann challenges the trial court's denial of his motion to set aside the default judgment. In doing so, Reeckmann argues that the trial court erred in finding that it had personal jurisdiction over him. He also argues that the trial court should have granted his motion to set aside the default judgment because the requested relief was both necessary and just. Concluding that the trial court properly determined that it had personal jurisdiction over Reeckmann and that Reeckmann's requested relief was not necessary and would not be just, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶5] In August of 2014, Clarence was under contract with the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department to serve court documents. On August 27, 2014, Clarence was working in this capacity when he was attacked by a dog at a residence located at 1501 South Grand Avenue in Evansville. During the attack, Clarence suffered a bite to the hand. As a result of the attack, Clarence lost the ability to use his hand. Clarence also suffered lost wages and incurred medical expenses.

         [¶6] On the date in question, Reeckmann owned the residence located at 1501 South Grand Avenue. It was inhabited by Higginbottom, who is alleged to have owned the dog that attacked Clarence.

         [¶7] On October 27, 2015, the Wolfes filed suit against the Defendants. The Wolfes' alleged that Clarence suffered injuries "as a direct and proximate result of the Defendants' careless and negligent acts or omissions" when he was attacked by a dog which exhibited "vicious propensities" during the discharge of his duties. Appellant's App. Vol. II, p. 17. The Wolfes sought damages relating to Clarence's injuries, lost wages, and medical expenses. They also sought damages relating to Jan's claimed loss of consortium.

         [¶8] The Wolfes used various methods in their attempts to serve Reeckmann with notice of the lawsuit. The record indicates that service was successful on two occasions. On November 24, 2015, Reeckmann was served with "personal" service of an alias summons and a copy of the complaint by D. McKnight of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department. Appellee's App. Vol. II, p. 4. On January 28, 2016, Reeckmann was served with a "copy" of a second alias summons and copy of the ...


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