This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Healthspan Services Co., et al.,
By Assgnmt to Jack B. Price,
Michael D. Vestal,
Washington County District Court
File No. C6972307
Jack B. Price, 6012 Medicine Lake Road, Crystal, MN 55422 (respondent pro se)
Eric L. Crandall, 275 South 3rd Street, Suite 101, Stillwater, MN 55082 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Hanson, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
Appellant Mary Vestal challenges the district court’s denial of her motion to vacate a conciliation court judgment in favor of respondent. Because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s motion to vacate, we affirm.
This matter concerns respondent’s attempt to collect for unpaid medical bills incurred by appellant’s husband, who died on November 11, 1995. On December 11, 1995, the assignor of respondent Jack B. Price served appellant Mary Vestal with a conciliation court statement of claims and summons. An affidavit of service by certified mail was filed with the court on December 15, 1995, with a post office receipt for payment attached. No notice of return receipt was provided.
Default judgment was entered in favor of respondent on January 17, 1996, in the amount of $3,797.28. Notice of the judgment was mailed to appellant on January 18, 1996.
The judgment obligation was assigned to respondent Price on October 14, 1997, and postjudgment proceedings were commenced. The court served appellant with orders for disclosure on October 27, 1997. When appellant failed to respond, she was ordered to appear on December 9, 1997 to show cause why she should not be held in contempt of court. Appellant again failed to appear.
The district court issued a writ of attachment for appellant and set bail at $3,837. The writ was executed, appellant posted bond, and a new court date was set for April 14, 1998. On April 14, appellant agreed to complete the disclosure form. But the court found appellant’s answers to be incomplete and issued a new writ of attachment on May 6, 1998. Appellant appeared on May 11, 1998, provided the requested information, and was then released.
On September 12, 2000, appellant filed a motion to vacate the January 17, 1996 default judgment, asserting that the service of the original conciliation court summons by mail without a return receipt was insufficient. Following a hearing, the district court denied appellant’s motion on the grounds that the motion was not brought within a reasonable time and the original service of process by certified mail was sufficient and had been adequately proven. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
Appellate courts will not disturb a district court’s decision on a motion to vacate a default judgment absent an abuse of discretion. Imperial Premium Fin., Inc. v. GK Cab Co., 603 N.W.2d 853, 856-57 (Minn. App. 2000). The determination of whether service of process is proper is a question of law subject to de novo review. See Stoebe v. Merastar Ins. Co., 554 N.W.2d 733, 735 (Minn. 1996) (rules of civil procedure examined under de novo standard); McBride v. Bitner, 310 N.W.2d 558, 561-63 (Minn. 1981) (examining whether service of process was proper under de novo standard).
Appellant argues that the district court erred in declining to vacate the default judgment. Generally, default judgments are to be “liberally” reopened to promote resolution of cases on the merits. Galatovich v. Watson, 412 N.W.2d 758, 760 (Minn. App. 1987). Under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02(d), a court may relieve a party from a judgment if “[t]he judgment is void,” and as long as the motion to vacate is “made within a reasonable time * * * .” Id.
What constitutes a reasonable time is determined in each case by considering the facts and circumstances before the court. Bode v. Minnesota Dep’t of Natural Res., 612 N.W.2d 862, 870 (Minn. 2000). Appellant filed her motion to vacate in September 2000, challenging the original service of process. The district court found that appellant first knew of the existence of the default judgment in April 1998, but took no steps to move for relief prior to September 2000. The record supports these conclusions.
As in Bode, appellant has not offered any reasons why this motion was not brought earlier. See id. (lack of reasonable explanation for delay contributed to denial of relief). We find no abuse of discretion in the district court’s determination that appellant’s delay of approximately two and one-half years before seeking relief was not a reasonable amount of time.
Appellant also maintains that the original service of process in this matter was ineffective. Here, the statement of claim and summons was sent by certified mail to appellant. An affidavit of service by certified mail with the post office receipt attached was filed with the court administrator on December 15, 1995.
Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 508(d)(1) provides that a conciliation court summons in excess of $2,500 is to be served on the defendant “by certified mail, and proof of service must be filed with the [court] administrator.” Appellant argues that, without a filed return receipt, the affidavit of service was insufficient.
The district court noted that rule 508(d)(1) includes no such “return receipt” filing requirement. The court concluded that proof of service was satisfied because “proof of service” is understood to mean an “affidavit of certificate of service.” We agree. Proof of service by affidavit ordinarily should “be upheld, unless opposed by clear and satisfactory evidence.” Allen v. McIntyre, 56 Minn. 351, 351, 57 N.W. 1060, 1060 (1894) (citation omitted).
Appellant refers this court to Minn. Stat. § 491A.01, subd. 3(b) (1998), which, similar to rule 508(d)(1), requires service by certified mail for conciliation claims exceeding $2,500. Appellant again argues that a filing requirement for a “return receipt” form should be read into Minn. Stat. § 491A.01 (1998). But again, there is no such requirement in section 491A.01.
By contrast, under the rules of civil procedure, service by mail is ineffectual if the sender does not receive a signed acknowledgment. Minn. R. Civ. P. 4.05. Appellant implies that the rules of civil procedure should apply to this case or provide guidance here. We disagree. Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 501 explicitly states that “Rules 501 through 525 [of the Rules of General Practice] apply to all Conciliation Court proceedings.” Thus, even if the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure were otherwise applicable to conciliation court, they are superceded by the Minnesota Rules of General Practice, which control in case of any conflict. We conclude that the affidavit of service filed with the district court complied with conciliation court rules, thereby making service of process proper.