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LEE LAMBERT, D/B/A LAMBERT USED CARS v. ELLEN LAWSON

FEBRUARY 01, 1989

LEE LAMBERT, D/B/A LAMBERT USED CARS
v.
ELLEN LAWSON



BEFORE DAN LEE, C.J.; PRATHER AND PITTMAN, JJ.

PITTMAN, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

The case at bar involves an appeal from the Circuit Court of Prentiss County, Mississippi, wherein the court granted full faith and credit to a judgment rendered in Craighead County, Arkansas.

On appeal, Lee Lambert makes three assignments of error. All three assignments make essentially the same argument, that the Arkansas state court did not have in personam jurisdiction over Lambert, and that the Arkansas judgment is, therefore, not entitled to full faith and credit in this state. Ellen Lawson cross-appeals, assigning as error:

 (1) THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN OVERRULING APPELLEE'S OBJECTION TO THE LINE OF QUESTIONING PERTAINING TO APPELLANT'S BUSINESS ACTIVITIES IN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS, SINCE THE APPELLANT, BY ENTERING AN APPEARANCE IN THE ARKANSAS ACTION AND CONTESTING JURISDICTION WAS BARRED BY RES JUDICATA FROM COLLATERALLY ATTACKING THE RULING OF THE ARKANSAS COURT IN MISSISSIPPI.

 (2) THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY VOIDING THE JUDGMENTS SIGNED ON JANUARY 30, 1986, AND APRIL 29, 1986, AND ENTERING A NEW JUDGMENT ON OCTOBER 31, 1986, SINCE THE GROUNDS FOR THE MOTION FILED BY APPELLANT DID NOT MEET THE REQUIREMENTS SET FORTH IN RULE 60 (b) OF THE MISSISSIPPI RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.

 On March 10, 1984, Ellen Lawson purchased a 1980 Oldsmobile Toronado from Cavenaugh Ford of Black Rock, Arkansas, for $8,995.00. The Toronado had been purchased by Cavenaugh from Lee Lambert, d/b/a Lambert's Used Cars, at Dealer's Automobile Auction in Horn Lake, Mississippi, on January 5, 1984. On June 11, 1984, Lawson filed suit in Circuit Court of Craighead County, Arkansas, against Lambert

 and Cavenaugh Ford, alleging that the defendants had altered the odometer reading on the Toronado in violation of 15 U.S.C. 1984. Alternatively, Lawson alleged breach of warranty and fraudulent misrepresentation on behalf of the defendants.

 Lambert filed a motion to dismiss and answer, alleging as affirmative defenses to Lawson's complaint that: 1) the Arkansas court had no personal jurisdiction over Lambert; and 2) that Lawson failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. Lambert also denied the allegations of wrongdoing in the complaint. On October 23, 1984, there was a hearing on the motion to dismiss, with the court denying the motion as a result. Following the hearing, an order denying the motion was filed November 7, 1984. After the denial of this motion, Lambert filed a motion to withdraw his answer in the Arkansas proceeding. On November 8, 1984, an agreed order granting the motion to withdraw Lambert's answer was granted by the court. On November 9, 1984, this matter came to trial in Craighead County Circuit Court, with a judgment being entered in favor of Lawson and against Lambert for damages of $10,185.00, plus $131.57 costs and $4,335.00 attorneys' fees together with interest at 10% until paid. Lawson took a voluntary non-suit as to Cavenaugh Ford.

 On November 21, 1984, Ms. Lawson filed suit in the Circuit Court of Prentiss County, Mississippi, seeking to enroll the Arkansas judgment and have the court afford full faith and credit to it. The suit was heard on May 23, 1985, with a final judgment entered for Lawson on January 30, 1986. On May 28, 1986, Lambert filed a motion to set aside final judgment which was granted by the court on August 15, 1986. A final judgment was re-entered for Lawson on October 31, 1986, and Lambert filed his petition for appeal on November 20, 1986.

 II.

 Article IV, 1 of the U.S. Constitution provides:

 Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records and Judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

 A concise summary of Mississippi law relating to the effect of foreign judgments can be seen in Galbraith & Dickens Aviation Ins. Agency v. Gulf Coast Aircraft Sales, Inc., 396 So.2d 19 (Miss. 1981):

 It is well settled that a judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction in a sister state is entitled to a presumption of validity as to that court's assumption of jurisdiction, and the burden is on the party attacking the judgment to affirmatively ...


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