Default Judgments

Default_Judgments Judgments CdCollectingDefaultJudgments

Default judgments are those taken where a defendant failed to timely respond to a Complaint or Petition, and so the Court then entered a judgment against the defendant anyway, often after a "Prove-Up Hearing" where the Plaintiff puts on evidence of damages.

Default judgments are worth no more than ordinary judgments, and often much less. The reason is that default judgments are notoriously easy for defendants to set aside, usually because the defendant will claim that he was never served with a copy of the Complaint in the first place. In the first year, many judges will set aside default judgments for just about any old reason, thinking that it is "no harm, no foul", and the case can proceed normally. After the first year, default judgments can be set aside for some period of years (three seems to be common) if the defendant can show that service was defective based upon the court records prior to the default being entered (a/k/a the "Judgment Roll").

This places the creditor in a quandry: Does the creditor wait a year until enforcing a default judgment, but risk the debtor dissipating assets? Or does the creditor begin collections, and risk that the defendant will get the default set aside?

The better practice for creditors is usually to begin collections and draw the debtor out early to either get the default set aside or not. But this depends on a lot of factors, such as the quality of the service of process, how close the case is to being one year from the judgment, and what the cost would be to litigate the case ab initio.

Judgments On Appeal Topics And Opinions