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Carrel v. Serco Inc.

Supreme Court of Nebraska

June 12, 2015

BENJAMIN CARREL, APPELLEE,
v.
SERCO INC., A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, APPELLANT, AND DEVIN WITT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN EMPLOYEE OF SERCO INC., A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, APPELLEE

Appeal from the District Court for Gage County: Paul W. Korslund, Judge.

Thomas J. Culhane and Matthew B. Reilly, of Erickson & Sederstrom, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.

Lyle J. Koenig, of Koenig Law Firm, for appellee Benjamin Carrel.

HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, STEPHAN, MILLER-LERMAN, and CASSEL, JJ.

OPINION

Page 237

[291 Neb. 62] Stephan, J.

Benjamin Carrel filed a personal injury action against Serco Inc., a New Jersey corporation, and Devin Witt. When Serco did not respond to service of summons, a show cause order, or notice of Carrel's motion for a default judgment, the district court for Gage County sustained the motion

Page 238

and entered a default judgment against the company. Within the 6 months following its entry, Serco moved to vacate the default judgment. The district court denied the motion, and Serco appeals from that order. We conclude that the district court erred in denying Serco's motion to vacate the default judgment, and we therefore reverse, and remand with directions.

BACKGROUND

The underlying incident occurred in August 2008. Witt allegedly drove a Chevrolet pickup truck over Carrel's foot in a parking lot outside a bar in Beatrice, Nebraska. The truck was registered to " Serco Inc at 1430 North Main in Borger, TX 79007."

[291 Neb. 63] The attorney who was then representing Carrel sent a letter to Serco at a Reston, Virginia, address on February 18, 2010, advising the company of the incident and asserting a claim for damages. Serco's corporate claims manager responded to the letter the next day, informing Carrel that it had never employed Witt and had " no knowledge of any Serco owned vehicles" located in Nebraska.

Represented by the same attorney, Carrel commenced this action against Serco and Witt on May 21, 2012, alleging that Serco, as Witt's employer, was vicariously liable for his actions. Serco's agent in Nebraska received service of summons on August 7. Because Serco had not filed a responsive pleading, an order to show cause was entered on June 27, 2013. Serco did not respond. On July 23, Carrel filed a motion for default judgment. A hearing on the motion was set for August 12. The court ordered Carrel to file an affidavit in support of his motion for default judgment and scheduled the matter for further hearing on September 30. Notice was sent to Serco's registered agent.

Serco did not appear at the hearing. The district court entered default judgment on October 7, 2013, in the amount of $210,216.36, reflecting the lost wages and medical expenses claimed by Carrel. The court also awarded ...


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