NATIONWIDE ASSURANCE CO., A/S/O BRITTANY LAFAYETTE A/S/O MEHREEN AWAN A/S/O BRENDON LAFAYETTE AND A/S/O MESHAM AWAN Plaintiffs,
ANTHONY MASSEY AND JESSE JAMES Defendants.
Submitted: December 8, 2017
Christopher Sipe, Esquire Attorney for Plaintiff
Higgins, Esquire Attorney for Defendant
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO SET ASIDE DEFAULT JUDGMENT
CARL C. DANBERG JUDGE
a subrogation action. On November 14, 2017, the Defendant,
Anthony Massey ("Mr. Massey"), brought the instant
Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment. Both parties provided
initial briefing on the matter, and a hearing was convened on
December 8, 2017. The Court heard oral argument from the
parties and reserved judgment. This is the Court's
Opinion and Order on Mr. Massey's Motion.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
November 27, 2006, Plaintiff Nationwide Assurance Company
("Plaintiff) filed a Complaint against Defendants Mr.
Massey and Jesse James ("Mr. James"). Plaintiff alleged
that on December 22, 2015, while driving Mr. James's
uninsured vehicle, Mr. Massey crashed into the rear of an
occupied vehicle. On November 28, 2006, a summons was issued
for service by the New Castle County Sheriff. On December 7,
2006, service was made to Mr. Massey by leaving the summons
with Mr. James at 11467 Valene Drive, Bridgeville, DE.
January 2, 2007, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Entry of
Default Judgment for want of an answer. Mr. Massey did not
respond to Plaintiffs Motion. The Court entered a default
judgment against Mr. Massey in the amount of $2, 736.00 plus
$100.00 in court costs. On March 2, 2007, Plaintiff requested
that a copy of the judgment be sent to the Delaware Division
of Motor Vehicles ("DMV"), seeking an indefinite
suspension of Mr. Massey's driver's license and
driving privileges in the State of Delaware. The DMV
suspended Mr. Massey's driving privileges, effective May
15, 2007, Mr. Massey called Christopher Sipe, Plaintiffs
counsel, ("Mr. Sipe") to dispute the seriousness of
the vehicle crash. Additionally, Mr. Massey told Mr. Sipe he
did not care about the suspension of his Delaware
driver's license because he had a Maryland driver's
license, and told Mr. Sipe he was going to contact an
attorney about this matter. Neither Defendant ever raised an
issue of service until now.
October 16, 2015, Mr. Massey called Mr. Sipe, looking to take
care of the instant matter because Mr. Massey wanted to
transfer his Maryland driver's license to get a Delaware
driver's license. Mr. Massey alleged that he knew nothing
about the Complaint against him.
12, 2017, Mr. Massey emailed Plaintiffs counsel, seeking to
resolve the legal matter so the State of Delaware could lift
the suspension of his driver's license. Mr. Massey also
sought payment arrangements for the amount owed. At some
point after, Mr. Massey obtained legal representation and
brought the instant Motion.
standard for reviewing a Motion to Vacate Judgment is
governed by CCP Civil Rule 60(b). Under Delaware law, a
"party moving to vacate a final judgment or order must
show that they are entitled to relief under Rule 60(b) by a
preponderance of the evidence." Motions to vacate "are
within the sound discretion of the trial court, and they are
not to be taken lightly or easily
granted." "Delaware courts look favorably on
motions to vacate default judgments because they promote
Delaware's strong judicial policy of deciding cases on
Counsel, Mr. Massey (hereinafter "Defendant")
argues that the default judgment against him is void because
he was never served with the Summons and, therefore, the
Court lacked personal jurisdiction over him. At the time of
the incident, Defendant alleges he lived in Spring Hill,
Florida. Defendant alleges he had not given Mr.
James authority to accept service for him and alleges
Plaintiff never made an attempt to properly serve him through
the State's then-in-effect Long Arm Statute, 10 Del. C.
§ 3112. Mr. Massey declined to appear for his own
alleges Defendant was properly served when the Sherriff left
the summons with Mr. James. Plaintiff states that Mr. James
voluntarily accepted service of two copies of the Complaint
and Summons, one for him and one for Defendant. Plaintiff
further alleges Defendant learned about the claim against him
shortly after the vehicle collision occurred, was
"actively collaborating with Mr. James" during that
period, and had asked Plaintiffs counsel for a payment
arrangement multiple times. Plaintiff ...