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Christiana Mall, LLC v. Emory Hill & Co.

Supreme Court of Delaware

April 15, 2014

CHRISTIANA MALL, LLC, Defendant Below, Appellant,
v.
EMORY HILL AND COMPANY, Plaintiff Below, Appellee

Submitted April 9, 2014

Motion for Rehearing filed 4/28/14;

Denied 5/1/14.

Case Closed May 1, 2014.

Thomas C. Marconi, Esquire, Losco & Marconi, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware, for appellant.

Scott T. Earle, Esquire, Cohen, Seglias, Pallas, Greenhall & Furman, P.C., Wilmington, Delaware, for appellee.

Before HOLLAND, JACOBS and RIDGELY, Justices.

OPINION

Page 1088

HOLLAND, Justice:

This is an appeal and cross-appeal from a final judgment entered by the Superior Court in Emory Hill and Company v. MrFruz LLC ,[1] denying a motion to vacate the default judgment entered in the proceedings below. The defendant-appellant and cross-appellee, Christiana Mall, LLC (" Christiana" ), appeals the Superior Court's finding of substantial prejudice. The plaintiff-appellee, cross-appellant, Emory Hill and Company (" Emory Hill" ), appeals the Superior Court's finding of excusable neglect and a meritorious defense with respect to the claim of quantum meruit .

We have concluded that Christiana's failure to file a timely answer to the Complaint was not due to excusable neglect. Accordingly, it is not necessary to address the issue of substantial prejudice.[2] Therefore, the judgment of the Superior Court, denying relief from the default judgment, is affirmed, albeit for a different reason.[3]

Procedural History

This case arises out of a mechanics' lien imposed on a portion of Christiana by Emory Hill, a general contractor, to recover funds for the non-payment of labor and materials furnished to the structure as part of the tenant fit-out for the co-defendant, Mrfruz, LLC (" Mrfruz" ). Mrfruz, through the entity MRF Atlantic, Inc. (" MRF Atlantic" ), as the tenant, intended to operate a frozen yogurt franchise at the location in Christiana. The construction by Emory Hill was completed with the knowledge and written permission of Christiana.

On October 17, 2012, Emory Hill filed a complaint asserting a statement of mechanics' lien in rem against the structure, and claims of quantum meruit and unjust enrichment in personam against Christiana (" Complaint" ). Christiana's registered agent was served with the suit papers on November 7, 2012. Christiana was required to respond to the complaint, but failed to have its counsel enter his or her appearance in the proceedings, and did not request an extension of time. Therefore, Emory Hill directed the New Castle County Prothonotary to enter default judgment against Christiana on January 30, 2013 (the " Default Judgment" ).

On April 26, 2013, Christiana moved to vacate the default judgment on the grounds of excusable neglect under Superior Court Civil Rule 60(b)(1) and a void judgment under Rule 60(b)(4). Christiana filed the first affidavit of Frank Francone on May 8, 2013, and Emory Hill filed a response to Christiana's Motion to Vacate

Page 1089

on May 10, 2013. After a hearing held on May 15, 2013, the Superior Court reserved decision and permitted Christiana leave to supplement its motion to vacate the default judgment.

On June 6, 2013, Christiana supplemented its motion to vacate with two affidavits: one from Steven Chambliss and a second from Frank Francone. Emory Hill filed a supplemental response on June 21, 2013. Christiana filed a reply on June 28, 2013, and a second hearing was held on August 21, 2013. On September 24, 2013, the ...


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