The bill of complaint was originally filed in this case on October 22, 1957. It averred that respondent had filed an ejectment action against complainant on October 5, 1956; that the sheriff made a return showing execution of the summons and complaint on complainant on October 15, 1956; that on January 9, 1957, complainant (there defendant) failing to appear, judgment was rendered against him by default in the following language: "Judgment by default with leave to prove damages". The bill next averred that on May 22, 1957, the court in which the ejectment action was pending made the following entry: "Dismissed for want of prosecution"; and that on June 4, 1957, without notice to defendant (complainant, appellee) the same court made the following entries: "Judgment of May 22, 1957, set aside" and "Judgment by default for Plaintiff vs. Defendant for the possession of the property sued for in the complaint and court costs. Plaintiff waives claim for damages for detention." The bill then averred that complainant had received no summons and complaint and no other notice of the ejectment action against him on or after October 15, 1956. It was further alleged that the appellee had a "meritorious defense" to the action in ejectment and was prevented from presenting the same because of the alleged false return by the sheriff and further because no notice was given him of the alleged
Demurrer to this original bill was sustained and complainant amended adding an averment that "he had a good and meritorious defense to the said action in case No. 37732-X, said good and meritorious defense being that complainant had had actual possession of the property involved in case No. 37732-X, which possession has been actual, exclusive, open, notorious, hostile, and continuous for a period of more than 31 years next preceding the filing of the complaint in case No. 37732-X, complainant claiming ownership for this period of time, and that no one has disturbed complainant's possession of said property during said period of time in any way whatsoever". It was further averred that complainant had been "prevented from making a good and meritorious defense to the action in case No. 37732-X because of accident, fraud or mistake, unmixed with fault or negligence on his part and that he did not know that the said action was pending or judgment rendered thereon nor was he served with any notice of the pendency of said action". Respondent, appellant, refiled demurrers which were overruled. An appeal was taken from such ruling under the provisions of Title 7, § 755, Code of Alabama of 1940, and this court reversed the trial court and remanded the cause with leave of complainant to amend his complaint within thirty days. Vestavia Country Club v. Armstrong, 268 Ala. 334, 106 So.2d 178. The court, on the first appeal, pointed out that the bill as amended was defective in that it failed to allege that the complainant did not become aware of the judgment in the ejectment suit until after the expiration of thirty days from the day on which that judgment was rendered. The bill was thereafter amended to contain such an allegation. Demurrer was again interposed and upon submission was overruled. Respondent filed answer, evidence was taken, and a final decree entered setting aside the judgment entered in the ejectment action and enjoining respondent from proceeding with its writ of restitution. From this final decree this appeal is taken.
Appellant assigns as error the overruling of the demurrer last interposed to the amended bill and the entering of the final decree, as aforesaid.
Appellant argues that the trial court erred in overruling its demurrer to the bill as last amended in that it is not clear from the allegations which judgment is referred to in the averment that "complainant further avers that no notice of the filing or pendency of the ejectment suit, being case No. 37732-X, was given him, nor was he aware of the judgment in case No. 37732-X until after the expiration of more than thirty days from the day on which that judgment was rendered". It was noted in the opinion on the first appeal of this case, "As we understand the bill, it is the default judgment rendered on June 4, 1957, which this bill, filed on October 27, 1957, seeks to have vacated". This, we believe, is clearly shown by the bill. Indeed, the judgment entered January 9, 1957, was dismissed by entry of May 22, 1957. Appellant argues that this cannot be the case in that the trial judge had no power by virtue of Title 7, § 570, Code of 1940, to dismiss such judgment after the expiration of thirty days. (We presume appellant refers to § 119, Title 13, Code of 1940.) That statute, however, has reference to final judgments, not interlocutory judgments, of the kind entered here on January 9, 1957, which was in form as follows: "Judgment by default with leave to prove damages". We have formerly
Concurring with the opinion of the court, which, on the prior appeal, viewed the bill as one to vacate the judgment rendered on June 4, 1957, we turn now to the second point relied upon by appellant in brief, to the effect that the decree of the court is contrary to the evidence.
It is not disputed that the following is a correct statement of the law in cases of this sort:
The trial judge heard the evidence in this case. The issues were properly framed by the pleadings. He was convinced that the essential elements of the bill
LIVINGSTON, C. J., and LAWSON and STAKELY, JJ., concur.
The rehearing brief of appellant questions the soundness of the statement in the original opinion that the "judgment by default with leave to prove damages" was interlocutory.
As we read the cases, this is a correct statement of the law. It is inconceivable that there could be two final judgments in a single action at law. "It is not the practice of courts of law to dispose of causes piecemeal by rendering separate final judgments, at different times." Ex parte Mason, 213 Ala. 279, 104 So. 523, 524.
As we said in Ex parte Overton, 174 Ala. 256, 258, 57 So. 434:
The following cases either directly or by analogy support the conclusion that a judgment by default with writ of inquiry to ascertain the amount of plaintiff's damages is interlocutory until the writ of inquiry is executed and the damages assessed: Ex parte Richerzhagen, 216 Ala. 262, 113 So. 85, citing Ex parte Overton, 174 Ala. 256, 57 So. 434; Ex parte Bozeman, 213 Ala. 223, 104 So. 402; Blankenship v. Hail, 214 Ala. 95, 106 So. 594.
Opinion extended and application for rehearing overruled.
LIVINGSTON, C. J., and LAWSON and STAKELY, JJ., concur.