COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: RANKIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/29/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN HUEY EMFINGER. TRIAL COURT APPELLEE AWARDED $350,000 DEFAULT JUDGMENT AGAINST APPELLANT.
FOR APPELLANT: MICHAEL ANDREW RUEFF, TOBY JUSTIN GAMMILL.
FOR APPELLEE: JOHN T. KITCHENS, JOE N. TATUM, TAUREAN BUCHANAN.
BARNES, J. LEE, C.J., IRVING, P.J., ISHEE, CARLTON, MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ., CONCUR. JAMES, J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN THE RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. GRIFFIS, P.J., DISSENTS WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. ROBERTS, J., NOT PARTICIPATING.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - PERSONAL INJURY
¶1. Tavaris Grace was granted a $350,000 default judgment against Ice Plant Inc., and its employee, Allan Walker, for injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. Ice Plant and Walker moved to set aside the default judgment. Finding that Walker did not receive proper service of process, the trial court granted Walker's motion. However, the default judgment was upheld against Ice Plant, which now appeals. Finding no abuse of discretion in the trial court's decision to deny Ice Plant's motion, we affirm the judgment.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
¶2. On November 9, 2010, Grace and Walker were involved in a motor-vehicle accident on Highway 49 in Rankin County, Mississippi. Walker was driving an eighteen-wheeler truck owned by Ice Plant. Grace filed suit in the Rankin County Circuit Court against Walker and Ice Plant, alleging negligence. A summons and complaint were served on Phillip Maples, Ice Plant's owner and registered agent for service of process. Maples was also served with process for Walker.
¶3. After neither defendant answered the complaint, Grace was granted a default judgment. A bench trial on damages was held, and the trial court entered its final judgment, on November 22, 2011, awarding Grace $350,000. Ice Plant and Walker subsequently filed a " Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment" on December 22, 2011, " pursuant to Rule 55(c) and Rule 60(b) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure." After a hearing, the trial court entered an order on May 29, 2012, finding that service of process on Walker was insufficient since Maples was not an agent authorized by Walker to accept service of process. Therefore, the trial judge concluded that " the default judgment and final judgment as they relate to Allan Walker must be set aside." See Turner v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l. Trust Co., 65 So.3d 336, 338 (¶ 8) (Miss. Ct. App. 2011) ( " If service of process [is] deficient, the default judgment entered against ...