Default Judgements

August 7, 2017

Explaining Default Judgments
and How to Reverse Them

If the person being sued does not respond in the specified amount of time or does not appear in court, the court often issues a judgment in favor of the plaintiff. This is a default judgment.

Sometimes the judgment is reached in error. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers find themselves the target of default judgments every year. Some of those individuals ignored a court notice or just failed to appear. Others never knew there was a potential judgment coming. Even if that’s not the case, a lawyer may be able to get the judgment overturned, or vacated.


Reasons for Default Judgments:

There are a few reasons why someone might not realize they are facing a judgment from a lawsuit. Improper servicing of court documents may leave the debtor ignorant of a pending judgment against them. Sometimes a creditor either provides insufficient notice or deliver documents to the wrong address. Sometimes, creditors claim to have served papers, when they did not do so. The plaintiff’s attorney may tell the debtor they do not need to bother appearing in court. This is almost never true and will probably result in a judgment for the creditor.

Regardless of whether the judgment was a legitimate one or was the result of a mistake by the creditor, mounting a legal appeal often pays off. However, overturning a judgment is only possible with legal help.


Fighting Default Judgments:

Fighting a default judgment is tough, because there are only limited cases where a court would overturn a previous judgment in favor of a creditor. However, a judgment may be overturned for one of three reasons:

  • Lack of personal jurisdiction (bad service) - The creditor did not make a reasonable effort to serve legal papers on the consumer.
  • Excusable default (Inability to appear) – The debtor shows they were unable to appear because of serious illness or injury.
  • Identity theft – Presenting evidence that the debt was incurred by someone else.

An attorney would be able to determine if either condition holds in your situation. There may be a time limit on efforts to have a judgment vacated, especially if you were served legal papers and did not respond. As soon as there is a judgment against you, seek the advice of an attorney.

A default judgment ruins the person’s credit rating, blocking access to money for housing and other things as well as harming the individual’s prospects for employment. Consumers may not even know these judgments are on their accounts. A default judgment may be removed through settlement or through legal action.

If you want to fight a default judgment and restore your good credit, contact us at 212-349-6400 to discuss your case.

Attorney Katz can be reached at (800) 251-3529