Unifund CCR Partners v. Schaeppi
While the entering of an installment payment order without a basis in a valid judgment may have implications with respect to the validity of the subsequent installment payment order, it did not, conversely, validate an invalid judgment. Unifund CCR Partners filed a complaint seeking to collect a credit card debt owed by Ellen and Earnest Schaeppi. In a revised report following remand, an attorney fact finder recommended that judgment enter for the plaintiff. The court rendered judgment in 2006 stating, "[j]udgment shall enter in favor of the plaintiff on the fact finder's report as revised after remand." The plaintiff placed a judgment lien on the defendants' real property. The court, Miller, J., granted the plaintiff's motion for order of weekly payments. The plaintiff then sought to foreclosure on the judgment lien. The court, Satter, J.T.R., denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and noted that no money judgment entered in the underlying case because the attorney fact finder had made no finding as to the amount of debt. The court concluded that the judgment lien underlying the foreclosure action was of questionable validity. The court, Miller, J., denied the plaintiff's motion seeking a clarification of its judgment finding no basis to clarify the judgment as there was never a money judgment entered. The defendants' motion for summary judgment in the foreclosure action was granted. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff then filed a motion to open and modify the 2006 judgment. The trial court denied the motion explaining it could not "open a judgment that was never really a judgment." The plaintiff appealed contending that the court improperly found that the judgment rendered in its favor was invalidly entered and could not be opened and that an order for installment payments was not a judgment and could not be opened. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Because no valid judgment existed to open, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that it could not open that which was never properly entered as a judgment. No legal authority supported the plaintiff's contention that the entering of the installment payment order corrected the underlying defective judgment and the proposition was logically untenable. The Appellate Court declined to invoke its supervisory powers to modify the judgment.