NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued February 25, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Union County, Docket No. DC-1075-11.
Marie R. Pierre, appellant, argued the cause pro se.
Lawrence J. McDermott, Jr., argued the cause for respondent (Pressler and Pressler, L.L.P., attorneys; Mr. McDermott, on the brief).
Before Judges Graves and Ashrafi.
Defendant Marie Pierre (Pierre) appeals from a Special Civil Part order dated July 6, 2011, denying her motion to vacate a default judgment pursuant to Rule 4:50-1. The judgment was entered in favor of plaintiff New Century Financial Services, Inc. (New Century), in the amount of $3514.02. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand. New Century is the owner of Pierre's Bank of America Visa account (the Account). On January 18, 2011, New Century filed a complaint alleging the Account was in default and the sum of $3372.52 was owed together with court costs and accruing interest. Pursuant to Rule 6:2-3, the clerk of the Special Civil Part mailed the complaint and summons to Pierre at 1212 Schley Street, Hillside, New Jersey, by regular and certified mail. Although the postal service attempted to deliver the certified mail on January 22, 28, and February 7, 2011, the letter was returned to the Special Civil Part marked "unclaimed" on February 10, 2011.
After plaintiff submitted a certification of proof and non-military service, default judgment was entered against Pierre on March 2, 2011. Plaintiff then sought a wage execution order, which was issued on April 6, 2011, and served on Pierre's employer on April 14, 2011. According to Pierre, she did not learn of the order until May 29, 2011. On June 7, 2011, Pierre filed an objection to the wage garnishment order, claiming she "was totally unaware of [the] pending action." Pierre also filed a motion to vacate the default judgment together with an answer to the complaint on June 9, 2011. In a supporting certification, Pierre stated she never resided at 1212 Schley Street in Hillside, and she "was completely unaware" of plaintiff's lawsuit until she received a copy of the wage execution order from her employer on May 29, 2011. Pierre additionally certified there was no record that plaintiff provided her "with notice of the entry of judgment as required by Rule 6:6-3(e)."
During oral argument on July 6, 2011, the following colloquy occurred between the court and Mr. Pierre:
[THE COURT:] All right, I'll hear you on your motion to vacate.
[MR. PIERRE:] Your Honor . . . the basis for the motion to vacate is that we were unaware of the pending action against us because we were improperly served. We weren't served.
[THE COURT:] What was improper?
[MR. PIERRE:] The notice. We didn't receive a notice or ...