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Timekeeping Systems, Inc. v. Safety Protection Universal Ltd.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District

September 12, 2013

TIMEKEEPING SYSTEMS, INC. PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
SAFETY PROTECTION UNIVERSAL LIMITED, ET AL. DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES

Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-754018.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Louis J. Licata Jody Perkins Ryan Licata & Toerek

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES David M. Cuppage Margaret M. Metzinger Climaco, Wilcox, Peca, Tarantino & Garofoli

BEFORE: E.T. Gallagher, J., Boyle, P.J., and S. Gallagher, J.

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

EILEEN T. GALLAGHER, J.

(¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Timekeeping Systems, Inc. ("TKS"), appeals from a judgment dismissing defendant-appellee, Vera Oberlander (a.k.a. Vera Yat Kiu "Vera"), for lack of personal jurisdiction. We find some merit to the appeal and affirm in part and reverse in part and remand.

(¶ 2} In February 1996, TKS filed a complaint against defendants Telcom Services, Inc.; Stephen Oberlander, individually; R.W. Oberlander, individually; Helen Oblerlander, individually; and Security Products Unlimited ("SPU") for breach of contract and fraud. Prior to trial, TKS reached a settlement agreement with Telcom, SPU, Stephen Oberlander, and R.W. Oberlander. The agreement excluded defendant Helen Oberlander.

(¶ 3} In October 1998, TKS filed a new action against Telcom, SPU, Stephen Oberlander, and R.W. Oberlander for breach of the settlement agreement. TKS obtained a default judgment against the defendants and transferred the judgment to several jurisdictions throughout the United States. When collection efforts were unsuccessful, TKS filed a motion to revive and show cause, which the court granted. In October 2006, the trial court entered a revived judgment in the amount of $230, 641.29, which represented the principal amount of the debt, interest, and attorney fees incurred in attempting to collect the debt.

(¶ 4} TKS transferred the revived judgment to foreign jurisdictions, located witnesses in Hong Kong, and took depositions. While searching for assets to satisfy its debt, TKS discovered that the defendants had allegedly concealed and transferred assets to avoid paying TKS's judgment. As a result, in April 2011, TKS filed the instant action against SPU, Safety Protection Universal ("SPU2"), and various individual defendants including, for the first time, Vera. The complaint, which was later amended, alleged various counts of fraud, tortious interference with TKS's business, conspiracy, conversion, and violations of Ohio's Uniform Fraudulent Conveyance Act.

(¶ 5} Vera is a citizen of the United Kingdom and a permanent resident of the United States residing in California. TKS failed to obtain service on Vera until April 2012, when it served her with notice by publication. TKS subsequently filed a motion for default judgment against her. Before the court ruled on the motion, Vera filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court denied Vera's motion because she failed to request leave to plead in violation of Civ.R. 6(B), and granted TKS's motion for default judgment.

(¶ 6} Vera later filed a motion to vacate the default judgment, which included a request for dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction. She argued that the court lacked personal jurisdiction to enter judgment against her. The court vacated the default judgment but denied Vera's request for dismissal. At a subsequent pretrial, the court gave Vera leave "to answer or otherwise respond" to the complaint by October 31, 2012.

(¶ 7} Vera filed a timely second motion to dismiss or for a more definite statement. This time, the court granted the motion to dismiss, explaining that TKS failed to demonstrate a prima facie showing that the court had personal jurisdiction over Vera. TKS now appeals and raises three assignments of error.

Default Judgment

(ΒΆ 8} In its first assignment of error, TKS argues the trial court erred by vacating its default judgment against Vera. It contends the court lacked authority to vacate the default judgment, because Vera failed to file a request ...


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