What is a default judgment

A default judgment is issued when a defendant fails to respond to a lawsuit, allowing the plaintiff to win by default. Understanding this process is crucial for both parties involved in litigation.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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What does the term “default judgment” mean?

A default judgment, sometimes referred to as a judgment by default, is an order issued by a judge or court. It is issued in support of the plaintiff in a case where the defendant does not show up in court or does not reply to a summons. In the event that the defendant can provide good grounds for skipping court or responding to a summons, the default ruling could be overturned. A person may be found in default if they do not show up for court as scheduled. If damages were mentioned in the complaint, the default judgment will consider them until proof of damages is required.

California timeline for request for entry of default

Both defendants and plaintiffs should be aware of the various important processes and dates involved in California’s timeline for an entry of default request. Below is a broad synopsis of the California timeline and procedure:

Response Deadline: By the California timeline, a defendant normally has 30 calendar days from the date of service of a summons and complaint to submit a response to the court. This reply could be a move to dismiss, a rebuttal to the complaint, or any other suitable legal reply.

Request for Entry of Default: The plaintiff may ask for the entry of default if the defendant does not reply during those thirty days of the California timeline.

After the 30-day California timeline has passed, a plaintiff is not required by statute to request an entry of default by a certain date. However, in order to prevent any potential issues or delays in their case, plaintiffs should usually file the request as soon as possible.

Filing the Request: The plaintiff must submit a Request for Entry of Default (Judicial Council Form CIV-100) to the court clerk in order to request a default. This form asks for the defendant’s identification, case details, and an admission that the defendant did not reply within the legally mandated California timeline.

Court Processing Time: The court may take a while to process a request after it is filed. A request for entry of default may be processed swiftly by certain courts—within a few days to a few weeks—while it may take longer in other courts because of backlogs or administrative hold-ups.

Following Default Entry: Following the court clerk’s entry of the default, the plaintiff may proceed to request a default judgment. The plaintiff may file a request for a default judgment by providing a declaration and accompanying documentation of the amount owed. This is if the case concerns a sum certain or a fixed amount of damages. In other situations, deciding on the right verdict might necessitate a court hearing.

Notice to Defendant: It’s crucial to remember that, even though there isn’t a deadline in and of itself, the plaintiff must usually inform the defendant of the default judgment as soon as it is entered. With this notification, the defendant has the opportunity to request relief from the judgment in the event that there are good reasons to do so, such as incorrect service.

Due to the subtleties of the legal process and the possibility of differences in the California timeline, parties to a lawsuit should keep a careful eye on their cases and meet all deadlines. To ensure compliance with all procedural requirements and California timeline, it is advisable to seek advice from a legal practitioner.

Next steps to take: receiving a request for default entry

How do you reply to an entry of default request? In order to safeguard their rights and interests, it is imperative that someone respond soon away if they claim to have received a request for entry of default. Here’s a detailed guide on what to do after that:

Recognize the Implication: If you receive a request for entry of default, it indicates that the plaintiff is pursuing legal action against you, the defendant. They are doing so on the grounds that you failed to reply to the legal complaint within the stipulated time limit. This action comes before the court issues a default judgment against you, which can have detrimental financial and legal repercussions.

Check the Deadline: Verify the submission date of the request for entry of default and ascertain whether the response deadline has truly elapsed. Errors do happen occasionally, and there can be a tiny window of opportunity to act.

Speak with an Attorney: It’s advisable to get legal advice right away. An attorney can help you review your legal options, offer advice unique to your case, and, if needed, represent you in court. In the event that the court has not yet entered the default, a lawyer may be able to timely file a response on your behalf.

Think About Filing a Response or Motion: In the event that the court has not yet officially declared the default, you may still be able to file a motion explaining the cause for the delay or a response to the complaint. The best course of action may involve filing a move to annul the service if you were not correctly served, a move to dismiss, or, if still allowed, an answer to the complaint. To decide the best path, one should listen to their attorney.

Mover to Set Aside Default: Your attorney may submit a move to set aside the default if it has already been recorded by the court. By requesting the court to reverse the default entry, this move gives you the opportunity to fight the lawsuit. In order to win out, you will usually have to provide evidence of a good reason (such as improper service) for your initial failure to reply, a strong rebuttal to the lawsuit’s allegations, and quick action after realizing the default.

Get Ready for a Potential Hearing: The court will probably set a hearing if you submit a move to set aside the default. Prepare to provide proof of your defense against the lawsuit’s allegations as well as your justification for not replying.

Engage in negotiations with the Plaintiff: In some circumstances, it may be feasible to work out a settlement or other agreement with the plaintiff. This may be a good way to stay out of the possible trouble that comes with a default judgment. A lawyer can represent you in negotiations and work toward a solution that serves your interests.

Observe and Comply with Court Orders: Should the court allow your request to set aside the default, be sure to fulfill all further legal obligations, such as submitting any required replies and showing up for all scheduled court appearances.

Remain Proactive and Informed: Throughout this process, keep your attorney informed about your case and keep lines of contact open. Taking the initiative can have a big impact on how your case turns out.

Considering the intricacies of the legal system and the possible ramifications of a default judgment, it is imperative to act promptly and with knowledge. Speak with an attorney for guidance on overcoming these obstacles and achieving a successful outcome.

What factors might influence a defendant’s decision to settle a lawsuit by defaulting?

Defaulting, or failing to answer to the case within the allotted time after being served with a summons and complaint, may seem like a strange decision to make because it usually results in a default judgment against the defendant. Nevertheless, a defendant may choose this course of action for a number of reasons:

Cost-benefit Analysis: Defending a lawsuit can be costly, involving legal bills, court costs, and possibly a significant amount of time away from personal or professional obligations. A defendant may determine it is more cost-effective to default and maybe settle the case later if the amount in dispute is very small or if the expense of defense is expected to outweigh the potential penalty.

Absence of Defenses: The defendant may decide to default if they feel they have no reasonable way to refute the allegations made against them. This can be the case because the law does not support any defenses they may have, or the facts are overwhelmingly against them. It may seem pointless to invest resources in a defense in such circumstances.

Strategies for Asset Protection: Defendants may choose to knowingly default if they know they are judgment-proof, i.e., if they have no assets that may be taken in order to fulfill a judgment. Given that the plaintiff will not be able to capitalize on a judgment even if one is entered against them, they may be acting in this manner as part of a larger asset protection scheme.

Strategic Delays: A defendant may default in some circumstances as a component of a larger legal plan. To buy time to negotiate a settlement or better prepare their defense for when the case is eventually heard, they may, for instance, intend to later seek to have the default judgment set aside or vacated.

Confusion or Overwhelm: Some defendants may just default due to feeling overpowered by the legal system, unclear on what to do next, or unable to get legal counsel in a timely manner. People who are not familiar with the legal system or who are unable to pay for legal assistance are more likely to experience this.

Lack of Investment in the Outcome: In certain situations, the defendant may decide to default if they could not care less how the litigation turns out. This is particularly the case if they have no strong ties to the area or if the issue at hand does not greatly affect them. This could occur in situations where there are modest debts, minor disagreements about contracts, or when the defendant intends to file for bankruptcy.

Making the decision to default is a big one that might have major repercussions. For example, a judgment could be recorded against the defendant and have an impact on credit ratings, cause pay garnishment, or result in asset seizure. Therefore, before choosing to disregard a summons and complaint, it is always prudent for defendants to obtain legal counsel.

What occurs if a defendant who receives service of a lawsuit ignores the complaint and summons?

A defendant being sued may face a number of legal repercussions. This includes default judgment against them if they fail to reply to the summons and complaint within the allotted time.

The plaintiff may ask the court to enter a default judgment if the defendant does not reply to the action (by submitting a response or relevant motion) within the allotted time, which typically varies from twenty to thirty depending on the jurisdiction. Since the defendant hasn’t filed a defense against the claims, the judgment is in favor of the plaintiff by default.

Effects of the Default Judgment

Enforcement of Judgment: Following the entry of a default judgment, the plaintiff is entitled to pursue enforcement of the ruling. This may entail taking possession of and selling some of the defendant’s assets, as well as bank account levies and wage garnishments.

Credit Impact: Obtaining loans, credit cards, or advantageous interest rates may be challenging for a defendant facing a default judgment. This is because it can have a substantial negative effect on their credit score and stay on their credit report for years.

Legal Finality: Without giving the defendant a chance to refute the allegations or offer an opportunity to show their case in court, a default judgment is final and legally binding. It holds them accountable for the allegations in the complaint.

Reduced Options for Relief: The defendant’s ability to challenge a default judgment is restricted once it has been entered. They may submit a move to set aside the default judgment. In order to be successful, they must have a good justification as determined by the court. This includes not having received appropriate notice of the action, having a strong defense, or having some other acceptable explanation. These motions are not usually granted, and each jurisdiction has entirely different requirements for success.

No Chance for Dispute: The defendant loses the chance to refute the plaintiff’s claims if they choose not to answer. This implies that the court lacks the authority to assess the case’s merits beyond what the plaintiff has claimed. Therefore, even if the defendant had a compelling defense, it cannot be considered.

Quick Relief in Some Cases: Under some conditions, such as active military service, laws may offer defendants under certain jurisdictions or circumstances immediate relief against default judgments.

Ignoring a lawsuit is a grave offense that carries heavy legal penalties. In essence, it provides the plaintiff with an easy way to win the case by default and carry out the defendant’s verdict. Due to these factors, it is imperative that anybody served with a lawsuit have legal counsel as soon as possible in order to fully comprehend their legal rights and the possible repercussions of their acts or inaction.

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