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Judithhusk v. Thompson

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 10, 2017

JUDITHHUSK
v.
BRANDON THOMPSON

          Session June 6, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Rutherford County No. 70757 Howard W. Wilson, Judge

         The trial court granted a default judgment against the appellant for claims of conversion, unjust enrichment, and malicious prosecution. Immediately after granting the default judgment, the trial court awarded the appellee damages without hearing proof. The appellant filed a motion to set aside the default judgment. The trial court denied the appellant's motion. We affirm the trial court's decision in all regards except for its award of damages. The case is remanded for a hearing on damages.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed in Part and Vacated and Remanded in Part

          Mitchell Edward Shannon, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant

          Brandon Thompson. David Brent Whelan, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellee, Judith Husk.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Richard H. Dinkins, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Judith Husk ("Ms. Husk") and Brandon Thompson ("Mr. Thompson") were involved in a romantic relationship that culminated in the parties' decision to cohabitate. In February 2015, the parties entered into a lease to share an apartment in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The parties' relationship ended abruptly on September 9, 2015, when police arrested Ms. Husk and charged her with domestic assault against Mr. Thompson. Ms. Husk's bond contained a condition that prohibited contact between the parties. As a result of this bond condition, Ms. Husk could not return to the parties' apartment. Mr. Thompson requested that the criminal court modify the bond condition to allow contact with Ms. Husk; however, Ms. Husk objected, so the no-contact condition remained in place.

         On October 29, 2015, Ms. Husk entered an agreed order in the criminal court that also contained a no-contact condition. Nevertheless, the court granted Ms. Husk permission to have her father, Michael Husk ("Mr. Husk"), make arrangements with Mr. Thompson for Ms. Husk to retrieve her personal property from the parties' apartment. Mr. Husk retrieved some of Ms. Husk's belongings on November 9, 2015. When Mr. Husk returned the following week with Ms. Husk to retrieve her remaining personal property, Mr. Thompson was present at the apartment. Shortly thereafter, the police arrived at the apartment and arrested Mr. Husk for criminal trespass.[1] A few days later, the police arrested Ms. Husk on a warrant sworn against her by Mr. Thompson for criminal contempt based upon her violation of the no-contact condition.

         Although the no-contact condition prohibited the parties from sharing the apartment, Mr. Thompson refused either to pay the full rental amount or to vacate the apartment so Ms. Husk could take occupancy and pay the full rental amount. Ms. Husk continued to pay her portion of the rent in September, October, and November 2015 despite the fact she could no longer reside at the apartment. When Mr. Thompson failed to pay his portion of the rent for December 2015 and January 2016, Ms. Husk paid the full rental amount. Both parties chose not to renew the lease, and Mr. Thompson placed all of Ms. Husk's remaining personal property in a storage unit.

         On January 8, 2016, Ms. Husk filed a complaint against Mr. Thompson alleging conversion, unjust enrichment, and malicious prosecution. After the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office notified Mr. Thompson of the lawsuit, he went to the sheriff's office on January 13, 2016, where he was served with the summons and complaint. Mr. Thompson failed to file an answer to the complaint within thirty days of service. Consequently, Ms. Husk filed a motion for default judgment on February 23, 2016 (forty days after service of the summons and complaint).

         The trial court heard Ms. Husk's motion on March 15, 2016. Because Mr. Thompson failed to appear at the hearing on the motion and to answer the complaint within thirty days of service, the trial court entered an order granting Ms. Husk a default judgment and awarding her damages in the amount of $15, 577.16. After receiving the trial court's order via mail, Mr. Thompson filed a motion to set aside the default judgment as well as an answer to the ...


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