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Lewis v. Yeager

March 17, 1997

KENNETH M. LEWIS, A SINGLE PERSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND DERIVATIVELY ON BEHALF OF CORPORATE DEFENDANT, CENTURY 21 BARRIE HUNT VALLEY, INC., A WASHINGTON CORPORATION, APPELLANTS,
v.
WILLIAM P. YEAGER AND JANE DOE YEAGER, HUSBAND AND WIFE; PHILIP J. YEAGER AND JANE DOE YEAGER, HUSBAND AND WIFE; ARTHUR C. FOSSUM AND JANE DOE FOSSUM, HUSBAND AND WIFE; AND CENTURY 21 REAL ESTATE OF WASHINGTON, INC. (NW REGION), A WASHINGTON CORPORATION; AND CENTURY 21 BARRIE HUNT VALLEY, INC., A WASHINGTON CORPORATION, RESPONDENTS.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 91-2-14243-2. Date filed: 03/20/95. Judge signing: Hon. Peter Jarvis.

Petition for Review Denied September 3, 1997,

Baker, C.j.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baker

BAKER, C.J. - At issue is the trial court's exercise of discretion under CR 52(c) to determine that a party who fails to appear at a hearing after notice waives the right to notice and presentment of an order resulting from that hearing. We are asked to examine whether the trial court properly denied Kenneth Lewis's motion to vacate the judgment awarding Century 21 Real Estate of Washington (Region) attorney fees. Lewis argues that the judgment should be vacated because he did not receive proper notice of the hearing on attorney fees or of the entry of final judgment against him. We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion to vacate judgment, and affirm. We do not reach issues raised by Lewis pertaining to his underlying claims.

Because this opinion will not be published, we proceed without an introductory summary of the facts.

I

Lewis argues that the judgment against him is void and that the trial court erred in not vacating. *fn1 Trial courts have a nondiscretional duty to vacate void judgments. *fn2

A judgment is void when the court does not have jurisdiction over the parties--when it lacks the inherent power to enter the order involved, or when it exceeds statutory authority. *fn3 Voidable judgments, on the other hand, are distinguishable in that they rest merely upon a mistaken view of the law or an erroneous application of legal principles. *fn4 Once a court has proper jurisdiction, an error, including the improper denial of rights belonging to litigants, will not render a judgment void. *fn5

II

A trial court's Disposition of a motion to vacate is reviewed for abuse of discretion. *fn6 Unless it clearly appears that the trial court exercised its discretion on untenable grounds or in a manifestly unreasonable manner, the Disposition of the lower court will not be disturbed. *fn7

Lewis argues that the judgment awarding attorney fees to Region should be vacated for failure to comply with both CR 52(c) and CR 54(f).

A trial court must wait to sign findings of fact and Conclusions of law until the defeated party has received notice of their submission and has been served with copies. *fn8 Under CR 54(f) no order or judgment is to be entered until opposing counsel is served with a copy of the proposed judgment, unless notice of presentation has been waived. *fn9 In the exercise of its discretion, the trial court may decide that persons who fail to appear at a hearing after notice are deemed to have waived their right to notice and presentment. *fn10 Judgment may be presented at the same time as findings of fact and Conclusions of law under CR 52. *fn11 Therefore, under the rules, a trial Judge may sign findings and enter judgment without prior notice to a party if the orders are signed at a hearing of which the party had notice, whether or not the party appears at the hearing.

Lewis failed to appear at the hearing on Region's claim for attorney fees. Judgment was entered against Lewis without notice of entry of judgment. In denying Lewis's motion to vacate the judgment, the trial court exercised its discretion to decide that a party who fails to appear after notice waives his right to notice and presentment. *fn12

Lewis argues that he did not receive notice of the hearing. According to Region, copies of the notice of hearing were placed in the regular mail. Region explained an alleged error in the mailing addresses by stating that copies of the notice were sent to the correct addresses at the time of mailing even though a later affidavit contained an error. In denying the motion to vacate, the trial court necessarily found that Lewis had notice of the hearing. We hold that this determination was not manifestly unreasonable and was ...


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