Did you receive a default judgment for failing to respond to a complaint in Florida? Although you might think this would mean there is no legal recourse, you may be wrong. A defendant that received a default judgment for his/her failure to respond to the complaint may file a Motion to Vacate a Default Judgment if he or she meets the following three-pronged test: (1) whether the defendant has demonstrated excusable neglect in failing to respond; (2) whether the defendant has demonstrated a meritorious defense; and (3) whether the defendant, subsequent to learning of the default, had demonstrated due diligence in seeking relief.
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540 states in detail how to obtain relief from a Judgment. In Florida, excusable neglect is defined as a reason that would validly explain why you did not respond to the initial complaint.
A meritorious defense is whether the Defendant would have a winning argument in his or her Affirmative Defenses to the Complaint. In Florida, the court must typically hear a case on its merits and would normally reverse a default if a case can be heard on its merits after demonstrating the above three-pronged test.
Lastly, due diligence is the process of changing your situation as soon as you learn about the default. In essence, doing all that you can to reverse the default. An example of due diligence is when the Defendant immediately contacted an attorney and seeks representation in the legal matter. Due diligence can also means taking it upon himself or herself to call opposing counsel to work out the matter.
If the Plaintiff fails to agree to vacate the default, a hearing is usually held for all sides to argue their position. Although it is not a guaranteed victory, a Motion to Vacate can help in dire situations and worth a shot! It is important to know your rights and to consult an attorney as soon as possible if you receive a default judgment in your Florida lawsuit. Call the Law Office of Ryan S. Shipp, PLLC today @ (561) 699-0399 or stop by our office @ 814 W. Lantana Rd. Suite 1, Lantana, Florida 33462 for a free consultation.