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Court Allows Defendant to Set Aside Default Judgment in Truck Accident Case

Posted in Firm News

Earlier this month in Alabama, an appellate court discussed when it is appropriate for a lower court to set aside a default judgment that has been entered in favor of a plaintiff when the defendant failed to respond to the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The recent case discussed the three-factor test applied in Alabama, which is similar to the two-factor test applied in New Mexico courts.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was a truck driver who was planning to unload cargo off his truck after backing the truck into his driveway. As he was lining the truck up to back it into his driveway, it necessarily was blocking all lanes of travel. The plaintiff, a minor, was driving a van and struck the defendant’s truck. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver.

After three months, the truck driver had not officially responded to the lawsuit and the plaintiff asked the court to enter a default judgment against the defendant. A default judgment is the court’s mechanism for ruling in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant fails to respond to the lawsuit. Because the defendant had not yet filed any response, a default judgment was entered in the amount of $550,000.

Approximately two months later, the defendant asked the court to set aside the default judgement. The defendant attached an affidavit from a witness to the accident. That affidavit provided the basis for a defense against the plaintiff’s claim. The defendant also claimed that he had informed his own insurance company about the accident on the day it occurred, and that he believed no further action was necessary on his part. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion and upheld the default judgment. The defendant appealed.

On appeal, the court held that the trial court should have set aside the default judgment. The court explained that the defendant presented the court with a viable defense to the lawsuit, and also a reason why he had not originally answered the plaintiff’s complaint. The court concluded that taking those two factors into account, as well as the fact that the plaintiff would not be unfairly prejudiced by the reversal of the motion, the court held that default judgment should have been set aside.

Motions to Set Aside Default Judgments in New Mexico

In New Mexico, the standard for setting aside a default judgment is similar to that in the case discussed above. Specifically, the defendant must show that they have a viable defense to the plaintiff’s claims and that there was “good cause” for the defendant’s initial failure to respond. Indeed, New Mexico courts routinely state in opinions that default judgments are not preferred, and courts will liberally set them aside. However, a court may be receptive to a plaintiff’s argument that they would suffer unfair prejudice by setting aside the judgment.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of New Mexico truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, even if you are originally granted a default judgment, that does not mean that it cannot be reversed. In fact, even damages awards that are delivered after a full trial can be subject to reversal on appeal. It is very important for anyone who has been injured in a New Mexico truck accident to seek out a dedicated personal injury attorney to discuss their case. The skilled injury attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have the experience and dedication necessary to handle any personal injury case competently and efficiently. Call 505-889-FINE to speak with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Semi-Truck Plows Through Slowed Traffic and Kills Three in Chain-Reaction Accident, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 11, 2017.

Court Upholds $40 Million Verdict Against Chrysler after Gas Tank Explodes, Killing Young Child, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 25, 2017.