Defendant Allowed to Reopen Case After Filing Response Seven Months Late

In a recent case decided by a state appellate court, a husband and wife were injured in a car accident with another motorist. After the accident, they filed suit against the motorist for their physical injuries, mental suffering, lost wages, and lost employment. However, the motorist failed to defend or respond to the lawsuit. As a result, after four months had passed, the couple filed an application for an entry of default against the motorist, and the clerk of the court entered a default judgment against him. Seven months after the complaint was filed, the motorist responded by filing a motion to set aside the default judgment. The court denied his motion to set aside the entry of default and entered a default judgment in favor of the couple for over $3 million.

Car CrashThe motorist appealed. He argued that the court abused its discretion by refusing to set aside the default judgment. That state’s supreme court found that since default judgments are considered under a liberal standard, the court did abuse its discretion by refusing to set aside the entry of default. It noted that the motorist had seemingly valid defenses to the claim. In addition, the couple would suffer limited prejudice by reopening the case because they filed the claim three years after the actual accident and were still litigating the case with two insurance companies. For these reasons, the default judgment was set aside, and the case was reopened.

Default Judgments and Illinois Rules

A default judgment is a ruling that results from one party’s failure to comply with the requirements of the court. A default judgment is binding on a party even if the person has never appeared in the case. That means that even if a defendant never appeared in court in a case against them, the other party can collect compensation. However, even if a default judgment has been entered against a party, they can file a motion to set aside the judgment and reopen the case.

Under Illinois court rules, generally a defendant has 30 days after the complaint is served on the defendant to file an answer or otherwise make an appearance. Sometimes a defendant is required to appear in court within a certain amount of time. In any event, a defendant must respond as required by the court, and a failure to do so may result in a default judgment. However, in cases in which a defendant fails to appear, a default judgment is to be used only as a last resort, and a court can set aside a default judgment if the defendant later responds, and there is a potential defense. A default judgment can also be entered if a party is found liable for serious misconduct in the case, such as an egregious violation of a court order.

Have You Been Injured in an Accident?

If you have been injured in an Illinois car accident, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries. The Chicago personal injury attorneys at Moll Law Group can assist victims of car accidents and other acts of negligence. We are experienced in all types of personal injury law and serve accident victims and their families in Naperville, Wheaton, Schaumburg, and communities throughout Cook County. We understand the nuances of Illinois personal injury law and have a successful track record throughout all types of personal injury law. Call us at 312-462-1700 or use our online form to set up a free initial consultation.

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Court Hold Adults Who Serve Alcohol to Minors May Be Liable for Related Injuries, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, August 9, 2016.