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Sakaguchi v. Sakaguchi

April 27, 2009

GUILLERMINA SAKAGUCHI, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
TAKESHI TED SAKAGUCHI, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, William F. Fahey, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC322786)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Epstein, P. J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Takeshi Ted Sakaguchi*fn1 appeals from an order denying his motion to set aside an entry of default and subsequent default judgment against him. His primary argument is that service of process and the statement of damages were defective. Because of that, he contends, the judgment is void or voidable and subject to being set aside pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 473, subdivision (d), and 473.5, or under the court‟s equitable power.*fn2

We conclude service was proper, and Takeshi is not entitled to relief on statutory or equitable grounds. We shall affirm the order.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL SUMMARY

In March 2004, Takeshi entered a guilty plea to one count of corporal injury to a spouse and was sentenced to state prison. While he was incarcerated, his spouse, respondent Guillermina Sakaguchi, commenced the present civil action. Guillermina‟s complaint, filed October 8, 2004, alleged causes of action for assault, battery, domestic violence, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and defamation, and requested compensatory and punitive damages. "Takechi "Ted‟ Sakaguchi, and Does 1 through 10" were named as defendants.

In early 2005, Guillermina made her first attempt to serve process by mail on Takeshi at Avenal State Prison, where he was housed. The court clerk rejected the proofs of service and notice and acknowledgement forms procured during Guillermina‟s initial attempts at service, requiring her to repeat her efforts to serve process on Takeshi at the prison.

In April 2005, the court clerk received a letter from appellant in which his name appeared as "Takechi Sakaguchi." The letter read, "This is an inquiry as to the status of the above-entitled case. I haven‟t the slightest idea where this case stands. I am incarcerated and have no knowledge of the legal process (a fellow inmate helped me with this letter). . . . [¶] I am expected to parole in July 2005 and I intend to defend the allegations set forth by the Plaintiff, Guillermina Sakaguchi." No formal response to the complaint was filed by Takeshi.

On August 10, 2005, Guillermina requested entry of default. The court clerk rejected the request for a number of reasons, including the absence of the original summons, a statement of damages, and a completed notice and acknowledgement form as required for service by mail. Guillermina subsequently attempted to serve a notice of request for entry of default and a statement of damages on Takeshi at the prison by mail. She filed a second request for entry of default on November 16, 2005. Again, the request was rejected on several grounds, including the absence of the original summons and a completed notice and acknowledgement form. Guillermina served another notice of request for entry of default and statement of damages on Takeshi by mail at the prison at the end of November 2005.

Takeshi mailed a letter marked "Legal Mail" from his address at the prison to Guillermina‟s attorney on December 12, 2005. The letter provided Takeshi‟s version of the events underlying Guillermina‟s causes of action, but did not reference the pending lawsuit.

On January 5, 2006, Guillermina filed a third request for entry of default, which was accepted and entered by the court clerk. A default judgment in the amount of $2,507,937 was entered against Takeshi on February 2, 2007.

Takeshi filed a motion to set aside the entry of default and default judgment on November 6, 2007. The trial court denied Takeshi‟s motion in an order dated May 5, 2008. The court made findings that service of process and the statement of damages had been proper and that Takeshi had actual notice of the proceedings. This timely appeal follows.*fn3

DISCUSSION

Takeshi contends he was not properly identified as a defendant because his name was misspelled, and that service of the summons and the statement of damages was defective. He asserts that the judgment against him was therefore void and should have been set aside pursuant to sections ...


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