ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Court of Appeals recently granted Legends Hospitality an appeal to set aside a default judgment in a labor dispute case against a former employee.
“The trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion to set aside the default judgment, and its order denying that motion is, therefore, reversed,” Judge Robert G. Dowd Jr. wrote in the Feb. 26 opinion. “The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
"With respect to (Katherine) Hanlon’s request that any reversal by this court be conditioned on a requirement that appellant pay the reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses incurred as a result of the default, nothing in our opinion here bars the trial court from exercising its discretion under Rule 74.05(d) to so condition its order setting aside the default judgment on remand.”
Hanlon was employed by the appellant, Legends Hospitality, as an accounting manager in 2017.
“On March 15, 2018, she filed a petition against appellant alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Missouri wage and hour laws, quantum meruit, unjust enrichment and gender pay discrimination under the Equal Pay Act,” according to the ruling.
Hanlon’s counsel served the appellant’s registered agent on April 9, 2018, but the ruling stated the appellant failed to respond by the May 9, 2018, deadline.
On April 30, 2018, Brian Pasquarelli, appellant’s national director of labor and employee relations, contacted Hanlon’s counsel, indicating that he would review the documents and respond to Hanlon’s counsel the following week.
Hanlon’s counsel claims that during this conversation the two parties discussed allegations and discovery requests. Pasquarelli, however, claims they discussed Hanlon’s allegations and “whether the parties could resolve the lawsuit without engaging in protracted and costly litigation,” the opinion states.
Pasquarelli emailed Hanlon’s counsel on May 7, 2018, to confirm their agreement, stating that he would provide the requested information by May 16, 2018.
On May 22, 2018, Hanlon moved for a default judgment and it was entered on May 23, 2018, the same day that Pasquarelli emailed Hanlon’s counsel to inform him he had the requested information.
On June 18, 2018, counsel appeared on behalf of appellant filing a motion to set aside the default judgment.
Pasquarelli claimed that he contacted Hanlon’s counsel to discuss Hanlon’s employment and "whether the parties could resolve the lawsuit without engaging in protracted and costly litigation," the order states.
“I did not intentionally ignore this matter nor was I intentionally attempting to impede the judicial process,” Pasquarelli claimed in court, the order states.
The St. Louis County Circuit Court denied the motion to set aside the default judgment, leading to the recent appeal.