Issues: Entry of a default; Henry v. Prusak; VandenBerg v. VandenBerg; Vicencio v. Ramirez; Compliance with MCR 2.401(G)(2); The court's jurisdiction; Whether the defendant-club's appeal of the default judgment was timely; MCR 7.104(A); MCR 7.202(6)(a)(i); Dean v. Tucker
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: Wells v. Club 007
e-Journal Number: 57420
Judge(s): Per Curiam – O’Connell, Fitzgerald, and Markey
Concluding that the record was insufficient to indicate whether the trial court evaluated all available options for sanctions before entering the default judgment against defendant-Club 007, the court vacated the default judgment and the judgment award for the plaintiff-officer, and remanded. Plaintiff sued for injuries he allegedly sustained when he was dispatched to investigate a reported break-in at the club. The trial court entered a default and a default judgment in 2/12. A year later, after various motions by the parties, it entered an opinion that set aside the judgment award but not the default, and an order establishing the amount of the judgment for plaintiff. Plaintiff argued that Club 007's appeal of the default judgment was untimely because it did not appeal the 2/12 default judgment within the time required by MCR 7.104(A). He contended that Club 007's appeal could only address the amount of the award entered by the trial court in 2/13, not the judgment entered in 2012. The court disagreed. The club timely filed a motion to set aside the 2012 default judgment. The subsequent proceedings in the trial court resulted in the 2/13 order, which was an appealable order in this case. Club 007's appeal of the 2/13 order was timely, and the appeal vested the court with jurisdiction to review the prior default judgment. "Before dismissing a claim or entering a default, 'the trial court is required to carefully evaluate all available options on the record and conclude that the sanction is just and proper.'" The record did "not indicate that the trial court complied with MCR 2.401(G)(2), which requires a court to excuse a party's failure to attend a settlement conference if the court finds that '(a) entry of an order of default or dismissal would cause manifest injustice; or (b) the failure was not due to the culpable negligence of the party or the party's attorney.'" The trial court's 2/12 order stated only "that Club 007 failed to appear for a settlement conference and that the default judgment was entered. Neither the order nor the transcript of the settlement conference" indicated its rationale for finding that a default judgment was "just and proper under the circumstances." Without a record indicating the trial court's rationale, the court concluded that its entry of a default judgment was an abuse of discretion.
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