The Saddle Ranch Chop House in Universal City was recently sued by a customer who claims to have been injured when the chair he was sitting on collapsed. Saddle Ranch is a popular chain restaurant located on CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood.
According to court documents, Deon Craig was injured on October 10 or 11th, 2010 and filed suit on May 25, 2012. The lawsuit was served to Russ Cashdan, an attorney listed as Saddle Ranch’s agent for service of process. Saddle Ranch failed to respond to the lawsuit and a default judgment was issued against the company on August 10, 2012.
Default judgments occur when one party of a lawsuit fails to respond to a complaint. Defaults judgments are not common for large corporate entities, which is why it is important for an attorney to ensure that all procedural requirements for default judgment are met.
In this case, it appears that Craig failed to properly serve the restaurant’s official agent for service of process.
A court entered a $468,670.50 default judgment against the restaurant in May of 2013. After the default judgment was entered, Saddle Ranch moved to vacate the default.
The restaurant claimed that there was a miscommunication between it and its insurance company regarding who would handle the lawsuit. The restaurant also claimed that it was unaware of the default until it was entered and a cost memorandum was given in May 2013.
Additionally, there was evidence that shortly after the lawsuit was served on Russ Cashdan, he had been replaced as Saddle Ranch’s agency for service of process. The new agent was Cynthia Gillette, Saddle Ranch’s general counsel, who claimed to have never been properly served.
An appeals court found that the trial court properly set aside Saddle Ranch’s default judgment based on Craig’s failure to validly serve a statement of damages. The court also found that Saddle Ranch fully complied with the statutory requirements for changing its designated service agency for service and did nothing to create the belief in Cashdan’s continued relationship with the company. Therefore, Craig’s repeated service on Cashdan couldn’t prevent the vacation of his default judgment.