BARNES, P. J., MCMILLIAN and MERCIER, JJ.
Barnwell filed suit against Douglasville Auto Detail, LLC
("DAD") and its owner, LaGrand Thornton, alleging
that DAD caused over $5, 000 in damage to his recreational
vehicle. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered an
order holding that Barnwell had not properly served DAD and,
therefore, it was without jurisdiction to adjudicate any
claims against DAD. Barnwell now appeals, asserting that the
trial court erred in its findings because (1) service was
perfected against DAD; (2) DAD waived any defense of
insufficiency of service; and (3) DAD is in default. For the
reasons that follow, we reverse and remand.
"A defendant who challenges the sufficiency of service
bears the burden of showing improper service[.]"
(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Molette v. City of
Forest Park, 335 Ga.App. 222, 224 (2) (780 S.E.2d 780)
(2015). "On appeal, absent a showing of an abuse of
discretion, a trial court's finding of insufficient
service of process must be affirmed." (Citation
omitted.) Oduok v. Wedean Props., 319 Ga.App. 785,
787 (1) (b) (738 S.E.2d 626) (2013). The record shows that in
October 2015, Barnwell brought his recreational vehicle to
DAD to have it detailed. When Barnwell returned the following
day, he allegedly discovered body damage and a crack in the
vehicle's windshield. When Thornton, the principal owner
of DAD, later refused to reimburse him for the damage,
Barnwell filed suit against both DAD and Thornton in December
January 19, 2016, a sheriff's entry of service was filed,
indicating that Thornton had been served at DAD's
business address on January 14, 2016. On January 28, 2016, a
second entry of service was filed, this time showing that
Thornton had been personally served at his home address on
January 17, 2016. Thornton filed a pro se answer on February
1, 2016, denying liability. On February 23, 2016, counsel
filed an entry of appearance on behalf of both Thornton and
DAD. Thereafter, the record indicates that all parties
engaged in discovery.
trial was conducted on October 5, 2016, and with the
assistance of counsel, all parties presented evidence.
Following the defendants' closing argument, the trial
court inquired into whether an amended answer had ever been
filed. It was then discovered that, although defense counsel
had emailed to plaintiff's counsel a courtesy copy of an
amended answer on behalf of both Thornton and DAD in March
2016, it had mistakenly never been filed with the court. In
his closing argument, Barnwell conceded that he was unable to
recover against Thornton individually but argued that DAD had
never filed an answer and was therefore in default. On
October 7, 2016, the trial court entered an order finding
that Barnwell had failed to perfect service on DAD and that
it was therefore without jurisdiction to adjudicate any
claims against DAD. This appeal followed.
is well settled that "[a] defendant who has not been
served with process waives any defect in service when he
fails to raise the defenses of lack of personal jurisdiction
or lack of sufficiency of process by either motion or an
answer as required by OCGA § 9-11-12 (h) (1) (B)."
(Citations omitted.) Ahmad v. Excell Petroleum,
Inc., 276 Ga.App. 167, 168 (1) (623 S.E.2d 6) (2005).
Thus, pretermitting whether Barnwell properly served DAD with
process, if DAD failed to raise this defense, it is waived.
clear that the pro se answer filed by Thornton on February 1,
2016 cannot suffice as an answer for DAD. See Eckles v.
Atlanta Tech. Group, Inc., 267 Ga. 801, 805 (2) (485
S.E.2d 22) (1997) (corporations are not allowed to appear pro
se in a court of record). And, as confirmed at the bench
trial, DAD did not later file an answer on its behalf. Nor
does the record contain a motion in which DAD raised the
defense of insufficient service of process. Therefore, DAD
has waived this defense and consented to the jurisdiction of
the trial court. See Brown v. Foke Props. 2002,
Inc., 283 Ga. 231, 232 (1) (657 S.E.2d 820) (2008)
(where court otherwise has subject matter jurisdiction,
defendant's waiver "confers jurisdiction of his
person regardless of the fact that process was not served on
him or that the service may have been defective")
(citation omitted); McNeil v. McCollum, 276 Ga.App.
882, 889 (3) (625 S.E.2d 10) (2005) (defense of insufficiency
of service of process is waived if it is neither made by
motion nor included in a responsive pleading as originally
filed). Accordingly, the trial court erred in finding it did
not have jurisdiction over DAD, and that portion of its order
must be reversed.
Barnwell also asserts that the trial court erred in failing
to find that DAD was in default However, because the trial
court found that it did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate
any claims against DAD, it did not reach this issue
"Where the trial court has not ruled on an issue, we
will not address it" Barnes v Smith, 339
Ga.App. 607, 608, n1 (794 S.E.2d 262) (2016)
reversed and case remanded for further proceedings.
Barnes, P. J., and Mercier, J., concur.