HARRIS BUILDING GROUP, INC.
TENNESSEE ELECTRICAL, INC.
February 19, 2019 Session
from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 17-471-I
Claudia Bonnyman, Chancellor
the defendant failed to answer a petition for declaratory
judgment, the plaintiff sought and obtained a default
judgment. The defendant moved to set aside the default
judgment, arguing that it never received the motion for
default judgment nor notice of the hearing date on the
motion. The trial court denied the defendant the requested
relief, finding that the defendant's failure to answer
the petition until months after entry of the default judgment
was willful. Discerning no abuse of discretion, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
A. Long, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tennessee
William B. Hawkins III and Eric G. Evans, Nashville,
Tennessee, for the appellee, Harris Building Group, Inc.
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Thomas R.
Frierson II, J., joined.
NEAL MCBRAYER, JUDGE.
12, 2017, in the Chancery Court for Davidson County,
Tennessee, Harris Building Group, Inc. ("HBG")
filed a petition for declaratory judgment against Tennessee
Electrical, Inc. The petition alleged that HBG subcontracted
with Tennessee Electrical to complete electrical work on a
construction project for a total price of $98, 600. According
to HBG, Tennessee Electrical fell behind the agreed upon work
schedule, prompting HBG to tell Tennessee Electrical to
"do what [it] need[ed] to do" in order to catch up.
Tennessee Electrical responded by having its employees work
overtime. Tennessee Electrical then invoiced HBG for the
overtime costs. Among other things, HBG sought a declaratory
judgment that $98, 600 was the extent of its liability and
that Tennessee Electrical bore the responsibility for any
additional costs it incurred to complete the work on
5, 2017, HBG served the summons and petition for declaratory
judgment via electronic mail on Donald Gandee, the registered
agent for Tennessee Electrical. Counsel directed the email to
Mr. Gandee's counsel, who had agreed to accept service on
Mr. Gandee's behalf. Later, HBG filed a "Proof of
Service" attaching an email exchange in which Mr.
Gandee's counsel confirmed that she was authorized by Mr.
Gandee to accept service. The email from Mr. Gandee's
counsel also disclosed that she would "not be
representing [Mr. Gandee] in Davidson County."
August 11, 2017, HBG moved for a default judgment. The motion
certified that a copy "ha[d] been served on this 11th
day of August, 2017, upon [Tennessee Electrical at its
address listed with the Secretary of State and a secondary
address known to HBG as one belonging to Mr. Gandee] via USPS
first class mail, postage prepaid, and via USPS certified
mail, return receipt requested." The motion also
included a notice of hearing, which provided as follows:
This motion is set for hearing at 9:00 a.m. on August 25,
2017 in the Davidson County Chancery Court, Part I, at 200
James Robertson Pkwy, Nashville, Tennessee 37201. IF NO
RESPONSE IS TIMELY FILED AND PERSONALLY SERVED, THE MOTION
SHALL BE GRANTED AND COUNSEL OR PRO SE LITIGANT NEED ...