WOODRUFF BROKERAGE COMPANY, INC.
from Chambers Circuit Court (CV-18-900043)
Stephen E. Whitehead, Graham R. Pulvere, and Jessica A.
Hornbuckle of Lloyd, Gray, Whitehead & Monroe, P.C.,
Birmingham, for appellant.
Timothy L. Dillard and T. Geoffrey Dillard of Dillard &
Associates, L.L.C., Birmingham, for appellee.
Brokerage Company, Inc., the remaining defendant below,
appeals from the trial court's denial of its motion to
set aside the default judgment entered in favor of Patricia
Beatty, the plaintiff below. We reverse and remand.
April 23, 2018, Beatty sued "Woodruff Brokerage Company
d/b/a The River and formerly d/b/a Crest Club
Apartments," Ricky Dabbs, "Century 21," and
fictitiously named defendants. In her complaint, Beatty
alleged that she had lived in Crest Club Apartments; that
Woodruff Brokerage owned and operated Crest Club Apartments;
that, on or about May 1, 2016, she had symptoms of fatigue,
nausea, and weakness from prolonged exposure to carbon
monoxide from a leaking natural-gas line beneath her bedroom;
and that she had been permanently injured as a result of that
exposure. Beatty asserted that Woodruff Brokerage had
negligently and/or wantonly failed to maintain the premises
at Crest Club Apartments in a safe condition. She also
asserted that, in December 2016, she began to experience
additional symptoms of fatigue, nausea, and weakness; that
she "was permanently injured by continuous carbon
monoxide exposure when the hot water heater in her apartment
burst, causing her grave injuries"; and that Woodruff
Brokerage had negligently and/or wantonly maintained and/or
failed to maintain the premises at Crest Club Apartments.
Beatty further alleged in the complaint that Woodruff
Brokerage had failed to adequately warn her of the defective
condition. She also asserted a claim of negligence per se.
Beatty requested that the circuit clerk serve the defendants
by certified mail. The complaint included the following
address for Woodruff Brokerage:
"Woodruff Brokerage Company c/o Genevieve Green 1800
Lakewood Drive Phenix City, AL 36867"
the return receipt for the certified mail was addressed to:
"Woodruff Brokerage Co. 1800 Lakewood Drive Phenix
City, AL 36867"
Miles signed the certified-mail return receipt on April 27,
2018. The agent box was not checked.
30, 2018, Beatty filed a motion for a default judgment
against Woodruff Brokerage. Beatty asserted that Woodruff
Brokerage had been served with a copy of the complaint and
summons on April 27, 2018, and that it had failed to plead,
answer, appear, or otherwise defend against her action.
Beatty asked the trial court to enter a default judgment
against Woodruff Brokerage with leave to prove damages. On
May 31, 2018, the trial court granted Beatty's motion and
entered a default against Woodruff Brokerage. It also
scheduled a hearing for Beatty to prove damages against
9, 2018, after a hearing, the trial court entered a default
judgment against Woodruff Brokerage and awarded Beatty
$500,000 in damages. On November 13, 2018, Beatty filed writs
of execution and writs of garnishment against Woodruff
November 28, 2018, Woodruff Brokerage filed a motion to set
aside the default judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b), ...