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Edney v. Williams

Supreme Court of Mississippi

December 13, 2018

OFFICER JOE EDNEY IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES
v.
CARLOS WILLIAMS

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/20/2017

          WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MARGARET CAREY-McCRAY JUDGE.

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: CARLOS EUGENE MOORE ANDREW N. ALEXANDER, III

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ANDREW N. ALEXANDER, III

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: CARLOS EUGENE MOORE

          BEFORE RANDOLPH, P.J., KING AND ISHEE, JJ.

          KING, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. 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.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. 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.

         ¶3. 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.

         ¶4. 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.

         ¶5. 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.

         ¶6. 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 ...


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