Case Caption: Timothy Ernest a/k/a Timothy Earnest v. Kenneth Morris and Corlette MorrisCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2013-0065Date: 05/18/2016Author: Hinds Roach, Denise Citation: Summary:

In an appeal from an order of the Superior Court denying a motion to set aside, or vacate, default judgments entered in 1990 and 1998 resulting in a loss of property the appellant owned in St. Thomas, the Superior Court erred in holding that a motion to set aside a default judgment as void must be brought within a reasonable amount of time. A default judgment entered when a complaint has not been properly served is void and must be set aside, and courts applying Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4), made applicable to the proceedings through Superior Court Rule 50, have held that no amount of time renders a void judgment valid, and that such judgments must be set aside if good cause is shown and notice has been given to all adverse parties. In this case, the appellant claimed that he was never served with process and that, as a result, the default judgments are void because the court never acquired personal jurisdiction over him. The Superior Court rejected this claim without holding a hearing, concluding that too much time had passed to allow him to challenge the judgments. However, whether a basis exists for vacating a default judgment due to improper service implicates factual questions that can only be resolved by an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, the Superior Court's July 24, 2013 order is vacated and the matter is remanded for further proceedings on the challenges to the default judgments. On remand, the Superior Court should conduct an evidentiary hearing on these challenges, giving notice to all adverse parties and allowing them the opportunity to prove their factual contentions.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion