THE WOLF ORGANIZATION, INC.
TNG CONTRACTORS, LLC
Session July 10, 2018
from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 16C819 Kelvin
D. Jones, Judge
creditor petitioned to enforce Pennsylvania default judgment
under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act.
See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 26-6-101 to -108
(2017). Judgment debtor moved for summary judgment, claiming
that the Pennsylvania judgment was void because the court
lacked personal jurisdiction. The trial court denied the
judgment debtor's motion for summary judgment and later
granted summary judgment to the judgment creditor. The trial
court also denied the judgment creditor's subsequent
motion to supplement the balance of the judgment to include
post-judgment attorney's fees and expenses. Both parties
raise issues on appeal. We conclude that the judgment debtor
waived its personal jurisdiction defense in the Pennsylvania
court. We further conclude that the judgment creditor could
not seek an award of post-judgment attorney's fees and
expenses in this enforcement action. So we affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Benjamin E. Goldammer and Michael A. Johnson, Nashville,
Tennessee, for the appellant, TNG Contractors, LLC.
P. Rusnak, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, The Wolf
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Andy D. Bennett,
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
Wolf Organization, Inc. is a distributor of kitchen cabinets
and other products, headquartered in York, Pennsylvania. Wolf
received a credit application from TNG Contractors, LLC, a
Tennessee limited liability company. After completing a
credit check, Wolf opened a customer account for TNG. TNG
purchased goods from Wolf, which Wolf shipped to Tennessee.
But TNG did not pay all amounts Wolf invoiced for the goods.
Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania, Wolf
filed a complaint against TNG for breach of contract. When
TNG did not respond to the complaint, Wolf sought entry of a
explanation of Pennsylvania civil procedure is necessary
here. One unique aspect to civil procedure in Pennsylvania is
the role of the prothonotary. The office of prothonotary is
"a creation of Pennsylvania law or statewide
procedure." Edward C. Sweeney, Essential Practice
Rules and Concepts in Offices of the Prothonotary-Part
I, 75 Pa. B. Ass'n Q. 104, 105 (2004). Each county
has a prothonotary who functions as the clerk of the court of
common pleas. See 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann.
§ 2731 (West, Westlaw through 2019 Regular Sess. Act 9);
Brown v. Levy, 73 A.3d 514, 519 (Pa. 2013). The
prothonotary's role is ministerial, not judicial.
Gotwalt v. Dellinger, 577 A.2d 623, 625 (Pa. Super.
Ct. 1990). The prothonotary's authority to act is derived
from Pennsylvania's statutes and procedural rules.
Id.; see 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann.
§ 2737 (West, Westlaw through 2019 Regular Sess. Act 9)
(prescribing the powers and duties of the office of the
judgments in Pennsylvania are entered by the prothonotary
without judicial participation upon praecipe of a party.
See Pa. R. Civ. P. 237.1(a)(2), 1037(b). After
receipt of the necessary documentation, the prothonotary will
review the court record to see if it supports entry of a
default judgment. See id. 237.1, 1037(b);
Gotwalt, 577 A.2d at 625; Bank One Del. N.A. v.
Mitchell, 70 Pa. D. & C.4th 353, 365-66 (Ct. Com.
Pl. 2005), aff'd sub nom. Bank One v. Mitchell,
897 A.2d 512 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2006). Entry of a default
judgment by the prothonotary "precludes the opponent
from challenging his or her liability." Mother's
Rest. Inc. v. Krystkiewicz, 861 A.2d 327, 335 (Pa.
Super. Ct. 2004).
amount of the plaintiff's legal damages can be calculated
from the verified complaint, the prothonotary will also
assess damages. Pa. R. Civ. P. 1037(b)(1) (directing the
prothonotary to assess damages if the amount "is a sum
certain or which can be made certain by computation").
But the prothonotary is not authorized to order equitable
relief. See id. 1037(d). So if the amount of damages
is uncertain or the complaint requests equitable relief,
"the trial court has the independent obligation to
fashion the appropriate relief at a future date."
Mother's Rest. Inc., 861 A.2d at 335;
see Pa. R. Civ. P. 1037(b)(1), (d).
aggrieved party may petition the court for relief from a
default judgment by filing a petition to strike and/or to
open a default judgment. Cintas Corp. v. Lee's
Cleaning Servs., Inc., 700 A.2d 915, 918-19 (Pa. 1997).
These are two distinct remedies under Pennsylvania law.
Id. at 918. A petition to strike a default judgment
"operates as a demurrer to the record."
Id. The petition will be granted "if a fatal
defect appears on the face of the record." Id.
at 919; see Pa. R. Civ. P. 206.5(e). A petition to
open a judgment is an equitable remedy. Cintas
Corp., 700 A.2d at 919. The petitioner must prove that
the petition was timely, the failure to respond to the
complaint was excusable, and the existence of a meritorious
defense. See Schultz v. Erie Ins. Exch., 477 A.2d
471, 472 (Pa. 1984). But see Pa. R. Civ. P.
237.3(b)(2) (providing that if the petition is filed within
ten days of entry of the default judgment, the petitioner
must only show a meritorious defense).
sent TNG a ten-day notice of intent to take a default.
See Pa. R. Civ. P. 237.1(a)(2)(ii). TNG did not
respond. On July 13, 2015, Wolf filed a praecipe to enter
default judgment "in the amount of $22, 493.59 together
with interest compounded monthly at the rate of 1.5%, from
March 30, 2015, and legal fees plus costs to be
determined." The prothonotary entered a default judgment
against TNG that same day. The prothonotary then sent written
notice to TNG of the entry of the default judgment.
See Pa. R. Civ. P. 236.
August 14, 2015, TNG filed a petition to open default
judgment accompanied by a proposed answer. In its petition,
TNG explained that, although it received a copy of the
complaint and the notice of default, it did not file an
answer because it was in "active negotiations with
Plaintiff [about] defects and other issues with the products
sent to Defendant by Plaintiff." TNG asked the court to
set aside the default and allow it to file an answer
disputing the amount owed. The court denied the petition on
November 16, 2016. ...