OF JUDGMENT: 03/20/2017
WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MARGARET
COURT ATTORNEYS: CARLOS EUGENE MOORE ANDREW N. ALEXANDER, III
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ANDREW N. ALEXANDER, III
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: CARLOS EUGENE MOORE
RANDOLPH, P.J., KING AND ISHEE, JJ.
Officer Joe Edney appeals from the trial court's holding
that Carlos Williams had established good cause for his
failure to serve process within the statutory time period. We
find that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to
consider in its analysis of good cause Williams's
four-and-a-half-year delay in pursuing this action.
Therefore, we reverse the trial court's decision and
remand this case to the trial court to include the length of
delay in its analysis of good cause.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On or about February 8, 2008, while employed in the Special
Operations Unit with the Greenville Police Department,
Officer Edney was involved in the arrest of Williams.
Williams alleged that Officer Edney had attempted to stop a
vehicle in which Williams had been a passenger. The driver of
the vehicle continued driving for approximately four blocks,
then stopped the vehicle, exited, and started running.
Williams also ran until Officer Edney demanded that he stop.
Williams stated that after he surrendered, Officer Edney
began screaming at him obscenities, threats, and racial
slurs. Williams alleged that Officer Edney then sprayed
Williams with mace and kicked and stomped Williams in the
face, neck, and shoulder, causing him injuries.
On March 11, 2010, Williams filed a complaint against Officer
Edney, in his individual and official capacities, in the
Washington County Circuit Court. Corporal Vernon Jackson, now
deceased, was to serve process on Officer Edney. Corporal
Jackson indicated on the return of service that personal
service had been made on Officer Edney on March 29, 2010.
On July 16, 2010, Williams filed an application for entry of
default, stating that Officer Edney had failed to respond to
the complaint. The circuit clerk docketed the entry of
default judgment that same day. Williams then filed a motion
for default judgment on the issue of liability and for a
trial setting on the issue of damages. The circuit court
entered default judgment on liability on November 18, 2010,
and ordered a separate hearing to be held to determine
damages. Although the hearing on damages originally was set
to commence June 3, 2011, counsel for Williams requested and
was granted a continuance.
For reasons unclear from the record, the case remained
stagnant until four and a half years after the entry of
default judgment. On April 30, 2015, the circuit court
entered an order stating that because Williams had failed to
notify or name the City of Greenville as a party, the claims
against Officer Edney in his official capacity must be
dismissed. The trial court then awarded damages in favor of
Williams against Officer Edney individually in the amount of
$6, 000, in addition to $3, 000 in attorneys' fees and
$300 in costs.
On July 30, 2015, Officer Edney filed a Motion and Memorandum
for Relief from Judgment Pursuant to Rule 60(d) of the
Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. In support of the
motion, Officer Edney stated that, on or about July 5, 2015,
he checked his mailbox in Boyle, Mississippi, and found a
"Final Judgment" in this action. The attorney for
Williams had sent the final judgment to the Greenville Police
Department, which had forwarded the judgment to Officer
Edney. Officer Edney averred that receipt of the judgment was
the first time he became aware that a lawsuit had been filed.
Because Officer Edney had not been personally served with
process, he contended that the trial court had not acquired
jurisdiction over him. Instead, Officer Edney alleged that
Corporal Jackson had delivered the summons and complaint to
another Greenville Police Department employee, Yolanda
Netterville. He stated that Netterville's ...