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Posted by: Landry Butler on Nov 16, 2016

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Larry L. Crain, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellant, Chas Alan Sandford.

Attorneys 2:

Christopher W. Conner and John M. Jackson, III, Maryville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Regions Bank.

Judge(s): GOLDIN

This appeal arises from the trial court's entry of a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The plaintiff bank filed a complaint seeking a judgment against the defendant on a sworn account. After several attempts, the plaintiff was unable to obtain personal service of process on the defendant and attempted to obtain service of process by mail. The plaintiff's process server sent the summons by certified mail to the defendant's residential address, and the mailing was returned marked "unclaimed." The plaintiff filed proof of service, indicating that service had been properly completed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 4.04(11), and filed a motion for default judgment. A copy of the motion for default judgment was sent by mail to the defendant at the same residential address. The defendant filed a response "by special appearance" opposing the bank's motion for default judgment based on insufficiency of service of process. Following a hearing, the trial court entered a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant appealed. On appeal, we conclude that the trial court entered a default judgment in violation of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 4.04(10), which expressly provides, "Service by mail shall not be the basis for the entry of a judgment by default unless the record contains a return receipt showing personal acceptance by the defendant[.]" We therefore vacate the trial court's order entering a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff and remand this matter for further proceedings.