Session May 14, 2015.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C1487 Nathan B. Pride, Judge.
Donald D. Glenn, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Gary Jack.
A. Russell Larson, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Christie Crews.
J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Arnold B. Goldin, J., and Kenny Armstrong, J., joined.
J. STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE.
On January 16, 2014, Christie Crews ("Appellee") filed a complaint against Gary Jack ("Appellant") in the General Sessions Court of Madison County alleging that Mr. Jack wrongfully demolished her vehicle. In the civil warrant, Ms. Crews listed two addresses for service of process on Mr. Jack: 58 Mifflin Road, Jackson, Tennessee, and 3019 Beech Bluff Road, Jackson, Tennessee. The Madison County Sheriff's Department subsequently served the civil warrant on January 21, 2014 upon Mr. Jack at his home address, 3019 Beech Bluff Road, Jackson, Tennessee.
On February 24, 2014, Mr. Jack appeared in general sessions court at the docket call to answer Ms. Crews's allegations. Mr. Jack disputed liability in this case at the docket call, and a trial date was then set before Judge Christy R. Little to occur in April 2014. The civil warrant's "Judgment" section indicates that Mr. Jack prevailed at trial, and Ms. Crews's case was dismissed on April 7, 2014.
On April 17, 2014, Ms. Crews appealed the judgment of the general sessions court to the Circuit Court of Madison County. Mr. Jack alleges that he did not receive any notice of the appeal or notice of the subsequent hearing dates. The record includes several letters and notices sent by the circuit court to Mr. Jack at the various addresses. First, the record includes a letter from the office of the Madison County Circuit Court Clerk. An envelope bearing the court clerk's return address shows that this letter was mailed to Mr. Jack at 58 Mifflin Road, Beech Bluff, Tennessee. The mailing was returned with the United States Postal Service designation "Return to Sender No Such Number Unable to Forward."
Next, the record includes a letter dated April 24, 2014 from Circuit Judge Nathan B. Pride sent to Mr. Jack at 58 Mifflin Road, Jackson, Tennessee. The letter states that the circuit court set the case for trial on June 3, 2014. The record does not include a returned envelope for this mailing, presumably because it had been delivered to the address.
Last, an Order and Notice of Hearing was filed on June 3, 2014 by Judge Pride that rescheduled the case for July 7, 2014. The Order and Notice of Hearing indicates that it was mailed to Mr. Jack at two addresses: 58 Mifflin Road, Jackson, Tennessee, and 58 Mifflin Road, Beech Bluff, Tennessee. The mailing to 58 Mifflin Road, Beech Bluff, Tennessee, was returned with the United States Postal Service designation "Return to Sender No Such Number Unable to Forward." The record does not include a returned envelope for the notice sent to 58 Mifflin Road, Jackson, Tennessee, presumably because it had been delivered to the address. In sum, all of the notices sent from the circuit court's office to 58 Mifflin Road, Beech Bluff, Tennessee, were returned to the sender as undeliverable. The notices sent to Mr. Jack at 58 Mifflin Road, Jackson, Tennessee, were presumably delivered. No notices were ever mailed to Mr. Jack at 3019 Beech Bluff Road, Jackson, Tennessee, Mr. Jack's home address and the place of service of the original general sessions civil warrant.
On July 7, 2014, the circuit court was prepared to hold a trial de novo on Ms. Crews's appeal. Ms. Crews and her witnesses were present; however, Mr. Jack was not. The court waited an additional fifteen minutes for him to appear. Counsel for Ms. Crews moved for an entry of default judgment against Mr. Jack, which the circuit court granted after hearing Ms. Crews's proof. The circuit court entered judgment by written order on July 15, 2014. The Certificate of Service on the judgment indicates that it was mailed to Mr. Jack at 58 Mifflin Road, Jackson, Tennessee.
According to later testimony, Mr. Jack received a copy of the judgment after his neighbor (to whom the judgment was mailed) brought it to him. Mr. Jack then went to the clerk's office and reviewed the court file and noticed that some of the court notices and letters had been returned as undeliverable. ...