Rodriguez appeals a superior court order denying his motion
to (1) vacate a CR 56 judgment for money damages entered in
favor of his former landlords, Luz and Juan Castellon, (2)
quash a writ of garnishment, and (3) dismiss his
landlords' unlawful detainer complaint. Because the
judgment and writ were issued in the context of an unlawful
detainer proceeding that had never been converted into a
general civil action, we agree with Mr. Rodriguez that the
trial court's actions are void for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. In addition, because Mr. Rodriguez was never
served with the unlawful detainer summons and complaint, the
trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over Mr. Rodriguez
as an individual. However, given that service of process was
completed as to Mr. Rodriguez's wife, the court properly
held jurisdiction over the Rodriguez marital community.
the CR 56 order and judgment, and writ of garnishment, are
void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the trial court
should have granted Mr. Rodriguez's motion to vacate the
judgment and quash the writ of garnishment. This matter is
therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
and Angela Rodriguez rented property on 8th Avenue in Walla
Walla, Washington, from Luz and Juan Castellon pursuant to a
verbal month-to-month agreement. For the bulk of the tenancy,
Mr. Rodriguez lived at the property with Angela Rodriguez and
the couple's children. Mr. Rodriguez paid Mr. Castellon
rent at the beginning of each month.
April 2016, Sergio and Angela Rodriguez informally separated
and Mr. Rodriguez moved out of the 8th Avenue property. Mr.
Rodriguez claims he advised Mr. Castellon of this development
and provided a new mailing address. After he moved out, Mr.
Rodriguez continued to pay rent to Mr. Castellon as part of
an informal separation agreement with Angela Rodriguez.
However, Mr. Rodriguez claims he informed Mr. Castellon that
after August he would no longer pay rent, and that Mr.
Castellon and Angela Rodriguez would then need to work
something out between themselves.
August 8, 2016, Mr. Castellon posted a 20-day notice to
vacate, terminating the month-to-month tenancy as of August
31. This notice was served by affixing it to the front door
of the rental property and mailing it to the property's
address. Because Mr. Rodriguez was no longer living at the
property, he claims he never received the notice. Ultimately,
Angela Rodriguez did not timely vacate.
September 1, 2016, the Castellons filed a complaint for
unlawful detainer against Sergio Rodriguez and Angela
Rodriguez. A show cause hearing was scheduled for September
Castellons' process server went to the 8th Avenue
property on September 1 to attempt service. The
Rodriguez's daughter answered the door and advised the
process server that her mother was at a neighbor's house.
The daughter took the process server to the neighbor's
residence, a couple of doors down the street. While at the
neighbor's house, the process server personally served
Angela Rodriguez with the summons and complaint. When Angela
Rodriguez advised the process server that she was married to
Sergio Rodriguez, he indicated on the certificate of service
that Mr. Rodriguez was served via substitute service on
Angela Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez claims he never received a
copy of the summons and complaint. Instead, he found out
about the show cause hearing from Angela Rodriguez after she
called and told him there was a court action against him that
he should go to.
Rodriguez was present for the September 12 show cause
hearing. Although Mr. Rodriguez did not respond when the case
was originally called, he stepped forward when the court
commissioner specifically asked whether Mr. Rodriguez was
present. The commissioner asked Mr. Rodriguez if he intended
to file a response to the summons and complaint. Mr.
Rodriguez instead asked for a Spanish-language interpreter
and the case was set over for the following day.
following morning, a court-certified Spanish interpreter was
present in the courtroom to assist Mr. Rodriguez. As the
hearing began, the court commissioner had to call Mr.
Rodriguez up again because he was unaware his case had been
announced. Counsel for the Castellons acknowledged that
Sergio Rodriguez and Angela Rodriguez were in the process of
separating and divorcing and that Angela and their children
had finally vacated the property before the weekend prior to
the hearing. The commissioner asked if Mr. Rodriguez had
moved out, and he responded that he moved out "like
three months ago." Report of Proceedings (Sept. 13,
2016) at 5. Mr. Rodriguez went on to answer the
commissioner's questions and stated he had cleaned up the
outside of the 8th Avenue property as the owner requested,
that he was working at the Taqueria Mi Pueblito, and provided
the address for his workplace. The commissioner stated to
counsel for the Castellons that the workplace address was Mr.
Rodriguez's forwarding address and that since the family
had moved out there was nothing to do, to which counsel for
the Castellons agreed no writ of restitution was necessary.
point after the September 13, 2016 hearing, the Castellons
discovered damage to the 8th Avenue property. On October 31,
the Castellons filed a CR 56 motion for entry of judgment
against Sergio Rodriguez and Angela Rodriguez, a supporting
declaration with documentation, a cost bill, and notice of
hearing. In this motion, the Castellons specifically alleged
that back rent was due and owing under the verbal lease
agreement and that there was damage to the property. On
October 31, Mr. Rodriguez was served with the motion and
supporting documents, and notice of the hearing set for
of the Rodriguezes made an appearance at the December 12
hearing. Counsel for the Castellons indicated she had not
received a response from either defendant and she did not
know if they were present in the courtroom. No inquiry was
made to determine whether Sergio Rodriguez or Angela
Rodriquez were in the courtroom. Instead, the trial court
asked if counsel for the Castellons had an order prepared.
The court then signed the order and judgment as presented.
The judgment included $5, 335.04 in damages, $277.00 in
costs, $800.00 in attorney fees, and $1, 000.00 in rent for
an unspecified month.
of garnishment was obtained on December 21, 2016, for Mr.
Rodriguez's earnings. After receiving the garnishment
documents, Mr. Rodriguez secured counsel who filed a motion
to vacate the judgment, quash the writ of garnishment, and
dismiss the complaint for unlawful ...