Aspenbrook Homeowners Ass'n v. Dahl

Decision Date01 May 2014
Docket NumberNo. 20130133–CA.,20130133–CA.
Citation329 P.3d 822,759 Utah Adv. Rep. 30
CourtUtah Court of Appeals
PartiesASPENBROOK HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Jack D. DAHL and Lori E. Dahl, Defendants and Appellants.

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Franklin Richard Brussow, for Appellants.

Ford G. Scalley and Bradley W. Madsen, for Appellee.

Senior Judge PAMELA T. GREENWOOD authored this Memorandum Decision, in which Judges GREGORY K. ORME and JAMES Z. DAVIS concurred.1

Memorandum Decision

GREENWOOD, Senior Judge:

¶ 1 Jack D. Dahl and Lori E. Dahl (the Dahls) appeal from the district court's denial of their motion to set aside a default judgment. We affirm.

¶ 2 In early 2010, Aspenbrook Homeowners Association (Aspenbrook) filed suit against the Dahls for breach of contract, requesting foreclosure and an award of attorney fees. Aspenbrook alleged that the Dahls owned a property within Aspenbrook and failed to pay assessments and fees required under Aspenbrook's covenants, conditions, and restrictions. The Dahls answered and asserted a counterclaim based on their allegations that Aspenbrook's failure to repair the Dahls' roof resulted in damages to them.

¶ 3 During the course of discovery, Aspenbrook served the Dahls with a second set of interrogatories and requests for production of documents in November 2011. The parties briefly stayed discovery while they attempted to settle the case, but when settlement negotiations failed, discovery resumed. At this point, Aspenbrook's counsel sent a letter to the Dahls' counsel requesting discovery responses within eight days and warned that Aspenbrook would file a motion to compel if the Dahls did not comply with the request. When the Dahls had not yet responded to the November discovery requests sent nearly five months earlier, Aspenbrook filed a motion to compel, pursuant to rule 37(a) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure.2 Aspenbrook also moved for sanctions under rule 37(a)(4). The Dahls did not oppose the motions.

¶ 4 On May 3, 2012, the district court granted Aspenbrook's motions. The court also ordered the Dahls to respond to Aspenbrook's discovery requests within ten business days. The Dahls did not respond to or comply with this order. Consequently, Aspenbrook filed a second motion for sanctions under rule 37(b)(2), requesting that the district court strike the Dahls' answer and counterclaim and enter default judgment in favor of Aspenbrook.3 On June 18, 2012, the Dahls responded by moving for an enlargement of time to answer Aspenbrook's second motion for sanctions. In their motion, the Dahls asked for permission to file an opposition by June 13, 2012. The motion had been mailed to Aspenbrook on June 3, but it was not filed with the district court until June 18, 2012. The Dahls never filed any opposition to Aspenbrook's motion for sanctions. The district court granted Aspenbrook's second motion for sanctions. The court struck the Dahls' answer and counterclaim and ruled that Aspenbrook would be awarded a default judgment against the Dahls.

¶ 5 On August 3, 2012, the district court entered an amended default judgment, which awarded Aspenbrook $43,775.85, post-judgment interest, and attorney fees. The amended default judgment also ordered the sale of the Dahls' property to satisfy the judgment. Three days later, Aspenbrook served notice of the amended default judgment on the Dahls.

¶ 6 On August 16, 2012, the Dahls filed a motion requesting that the district court “strike the amended default judgment ... and ... Order of Sale.” In their supporting memorandum, the Dahls indicated that the motion was filed pursuant to rule 12(f) 4 and stated their intention to later file a motion to set aside the amended default judgment. Following briefing, the district court heard oral argument on the Dahls' motion on October 9, 2012. In ruling on the Dahls' motion, the district court construed it as a rule 60(b) motion, reasoning that the court “can't strike a default judgment without setting it aside.” SeeUtah R. Civ. P. 60(b) (authorizing the court to relieve a party from a final judgment or order and setting forth grounds for relief from judgment). Thus, the district court treated the Dahls' motion to strike as a motion to set aside the August 3, 2012 amended default judgment under rule 60(b). The district court then denied the Dahls' motion because it found no grounds for relief based on the Dahls' failure to oppose, or otherwise respond to, the motion to compel and the motions for sanctions. The district court entered its written order on the motion to strike on October 30, 2012.

¶ 7 On the same day as the hearing on the motion to strike,” the Dahls filed a motion to set aside the default judgment pursuant to rules 55 and 60(b).5 In the motion to set aside,6 the Dahls argued that procedural violations rendered the amended default judgment void and that good cause entitled them to relief from judgment. On December 11, 2012, the district court denied the Dahls' motion to set aside the amended default judgment. The district court's order indicated that the Dahls' motion to set aside raised “substantively identical” arguments to those raised in their motion to strike,” which the court had earlier construed as a motion to set aside. Because “all of the arguments raised by [the Dahls] in the Motion [had] already been considered and rejected by the Court,” the district court denied the Dahls' motion and “implicit invitation to reconsider decisions previously made.” The Dahls filed a notice of appeal on January 9, 2013.

¶ 8 Aspenbrook subsequently filed a motion for summary disposition with this court, asserting a lack of jurisdiction. We determined that we lacked jurisdiction “to review any issues concerning the August 3, 2012 judgment or the October 30, 2012 order[ 7] because the Dahls failed to file timely notices of appeal after entry of these orders.” However, we concluded that we did have jurisdiction to review the December 11, 2012 order denying the Dahls' motion to set aside the amended default judgment “because that order is a final, appealable order and the Dahls timely filed a notice of appeal after entry of it.” Accordingly, the Dahls' appeal from the December 11, 2012 order is properly before us.

¶ 9 The Dahls' appeal is limited to challenging the district court's December 11, 2012 order denying their motion to set aside the amended default judgment. “A trial court has discretion in determining whether a movant has shown [Rule 60(b) grounds], and this Court will reverse the trial court's ruling only when there has been an abuse of discretion.” Franklin Covey Client Sales, Inc. v. Melvin, 2000 UT App 110, ¶ 9, 2 P.3d 451 (alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “An appeal from a rule 60(b) motion is narrow in scope and addresses only the propriety of the denialor grant of relief from judgment, lest rule 60(b) motions become substitutes for untimely appeals.” AFCC Ltd. v. Kahler, 2012 UT App 124, ¶ 2, 278 P.3d 1070 (per curiam) (citing Franklin Covey, 2000 UT App 110, ¶ 19, 2 P.3d 451). “Therefore, a rule 60(b) motion does not generally reach the merits of the underlying judgment from which relief was sought or provide a basis for this court to review the legal issues previously adjudicated by the district court.” Id.

¶ 10 Generally, “a movant is entitled to have a default judgment set aside under [rule] 60(b) [of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure] if (1) the motion is timely; (2) there is a basis for granting relief under one of the subsections of 60(b); and (3) the movant has alleged a meritorious defense.” Cadlerock Joint Venture II, LP v. Envelope Packaging of Utah, Inc., 2011 UT App 98, ¶ 7, 251 P.3d 837 (alterations in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). However, [i]t is unnecessary, and moreover inappropriate, to even consider the issue of meritorious defense unless the court is satisfied that a sufficient excuse [under rule 60(b) ] has been shown.” Express Recovery Servs. v. Davis, 2012 UT App 296, ¶ 4, 289 P.3d 606 (per curiam) (second alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

¶ 11 As to the first factor, the Dahls' motion was timely. Rule 60(b) instructs that a motion to set aside a judgment “shall be made within a reasonable time and for reasons [enumerated in subsections] (1), (2), or (3), not more than 3 months after the judgment, order, or proceeding was entered or taken.” Utah R. Civ. P. 60(b). Here, the district court entered the amended default judgment on August 3, 2012, and the Dahls filed their motion to set aside the default judgment approximately two months later on October 9, 2012. Accordingly, the Dahls filed their rule 60(b) motion within the time period prescribed by rule 60(b).

¶ 12 As to the second factor, the Dahls contend that the district court abused its discretion in determining that they failed to establish grounds for relief from judgment. The Dahls cite only two grounds under rule 60(b). Specifically, they cite rule 60(b)'s provisions that [o]n motion and upon such terms as are just, the court may in the furtherance of justice relieve a party ... from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; ... or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.” Id.

¶ 13 The Dahls argue that the district court should have granted their rule 60(b) motion because their tardiness in responding to Aspenbrook's discovery requests and to the motions for sanctions was due to their reasonable reliance on a local court rule. They contend that this reliance should have mitigated their culpability and the level of sanctions imposed by the district court. The Dahls further argue that the district court did not consider their argument concerning the proportionality of default judgment as a discovery sanction.

¶ 14 Under circumstances [w]here a default judgment is entered as a...

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  • C504750P LLC v. Baker
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • February 24, 2017
    ...are] satisfied that a sufficient excuse [under rule 60(b) ] has been shown." Aspenbrook Homeowners Ass'n v. Dahl , 2014 UT App 99, ¶ 10, 329 P.3d 822 (second alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Because Baker has made no such showing, we decline to consid......

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