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WhenisaDefendantEntitledtoNoticeofaRequest
forDefault?
PostedbyBruceD.GreenbergonDec23,2013inAppellateDivision,Judges|1comment
MidlandFunding,LLCv.Albern,433N.J.Super.494(App.Div.2013).[I]sadefendant,who,inresponding
toacomplaint,movedfordismissalbutdidnotfileananswerafterthemotionwasdenied,entitledtonoticeof
aplaintiffsrequestfordefault?ThatishowJudgeFisherposedthequestionatissueintodayscase.His
answer:thedefendantwasentitledtonotice.
Plaintiffsueddefendantonanallegedlyoutstandingcreditcardaccount.Respondingprose,defendantmoved
todismissthecomplaint.Thatmotionwasdenied.UnderRule4:61(b),defendantthenhadtendaystoanswer
thecomplaint.Butdefendantdidnotfileananswer.Plaintiffthenappliedexpartefortheentryofdefault,
claimingthatnodefendantnamedhereinhasansweredorotherwisemoved.Thatclaimwasnotaccurate,
sincedefendanthadmovedtodismiss,albeitunsuccessfully.Regardless,theclerkentereddefault.
Apparently,whenplaintiffmovedforadefaultjudgment,noticewasgiventodefendant.Defendantopposed
theentryofdefaultjudgment,assertingthathehadnotbeenservedwithanapplicationtoenterdefault,
thatdefendanthadmovedtodismiss,andthatplaintifflackedstandingtosue.Despitethat,defaultjudgment
wasentered.Plaintiffsoughtdiscoveryofdefendantsassets,anddefendantrespondedwithamotionforrelief
fromjudgmentunderRule4:501.TheLawDivisiondeniedthatmotion,concludingthatdefendantsfailureto
fileananswerwasnotexcusableandthatdefendanthadnotpresentedameritoriousdefense.Stillactingpro
se,defendantappealed,andtheAppellateDivisionreversed.
ThoughtheLawDivisionhadvieweddefendantsmotionasarisingunderRule4:501(a)(excusableneglect),
JudgeFisherfoundthatthemotionwasmoreproperlytreatedunderRule4:501(d)(voidjudgment),since
defendantcontendedthatplaintiffhadproceededimproperlyinseekingdefault.UnderRule4:501(d),unlike
Rule4:501(a),defendantwasnotrequiredtoofferameritoriousdefense.ButJudgeFisherconcludedthat
defendantsassertionoflackofstandingwasameritoriousdefense,ifonehadbeenrequired.And,since
defendantwasprose,andgiventheparticularlanguageoftheLawDivisionsorderdenyinghismotionto
dismiss,itwasexcusablefordefendanttohavethoughthatdiscoverywouldbeginwithouttheneedforhimto
doanythingmoreoncehismotiontodismisshadbeendenied.
Morefundamentally,however,JudgeFisherheldthatdefendantwasentitledtonoticeofplaintiffsrequestfor
theentryofdefault.Rule4:431allowsexparteapplicationsfordefaultonlyifthedefendanthasfailedto
pleadorotherwisedefendasprovidedbytheserulesorcourtorder,oriftheanswerhasbeenstrickenwith
prejudice.Defendanthadnotfailedtopleadorotherwisedefendsincehehadmovedtodismiss.
And,becausehehadnotfiledananswer,noanswerhadbeenstrickenwithprejudice.Accordingly,this
absenceofexpressauthorityinRule4:431,inlightofthestrongpreferenceforadjudicationonthemerits
ratherthanfinaldispositionforproceduralreasons,Galikv.ClaraMaassMed.Ctr.,167N.J.341,356(2001)
(quotingMayfieldv.Cmty.Med.Assocs.,P.A.,335N.J.Super.198,207(App.Div.2000)),demandsthatthe
unauthorizedexpartedefaultandthesubsequentjudgmentbasedonthatdefaultbevacatedandthat
defendantbegivenanopportunitytofileanansweranddefendagainstplaintiffsclaim.

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1. Evasays:
December23,2013at10:04pm
Thismustbesomethingnotallthatuncommon.Wehadthissamethinghappeninourcasethissummer.
Welostthemotiontodismissasexpected.Judgegaveadditionaltimetoanswerbeyondthat
stipulatedin4:61(b).Plaintiffignoredtheorderandfiledfordefaultbeforethetimehadexpired.Weare
alsoprose,soperhapsitisatacticplaintiffsuseinattemptingtorollovertheinexperiencedproper.As
inthecitedcase,Plaintifffiledexparteinviolationof4:431.Thereshouldbesanctionsforsuchclear
violationofcourtrules.
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AbouttheAuthor
BruceD.Greenberg,apartnerofLiteDePalmaGreenberg,LLC,hasmorethan30yearsofappellate
experience.HehasargueddozensofcasesinNewJerseysAppellateDivision,andhehashandledoral
argumentsintheSupremeCourtofNewJerseyandtheThirdCircuitCourtofAppealsaswell.Mr.
Greenbergsappellatecaseshaverangedfrom..more

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