Keeping your address for service of process updated just got a bit more important. The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District recently upheld a trial court’s finding of default judgment and denied a defendant’s motion to set aside the default judgment. In the case Missouri Bottom/Taussig Road Community Improvement District v. Ice Zone, the Court addressed the limits of “good cause” for setting aside a default judgment. This matter started when Missouri Bottom/Taussig Road Community Improvement District (“MB-CID”) started collection proceedings for taxes, penalties and interests against Ice Zone. After properly serving the registered agent for Ice Zone in June 2020, the parties communicated by email about a possible resolution for several months. During this time, Ice Zone did not file an answer and its registered agent left Missouri for six months.
In March 2021, MB-CID filed its first amended petition, adding unpaid taxes for 2020, and sent copy to Ice Zone by regular mail. MB-CID then moved for default judgment and the trial court found Ice Zone in default for failing to timely answer and entered a judgment. Ice Zone then moved to set aside the judgment, which the trial court denied. The Court of Appeals, in reviewing the denial of the motion to set aside and Rule 74.05(d), as for whether “good cause” existed, found that Ice Zone was reckless in leaving the state for six months and in failing to make arrangements to forward his mail. Ice Zone also argued that it was improperly served with the first amended petition arguing it should have been served the first amended petition like a summons, rather than by regular mail. The Court rejected this argument, finding that Ice Zone failed to preserve this argument for appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the default judgment entered by the trial court.
Having up to date mailing information on file with the USPS is particularly important for insurer because they are often served through the Department of Insurance, which then mails the service documents to the address on file with the DOI. When an insurance company moves the National Association of Insurance Companies serves as a clearinghouse for changes of address, but state differ in how quickly that information is processed by the DOI, so it is crucial that a change of address also be on file with the USPS.