Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (b), contains the attorney-fault provision for relief from default which provides “…the court shall, whenever an application for relief is made no more than six months after entry of judgment, is in proper form, and is accompanied by an attorney’s sworn affidavit attesting to his or her mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or neglect, vacate any . . . resulting default judgment or dismissal entered against his or her client, unless the court finds that the default or dismissal was not in fact caused by the attorney’s mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or neglect.”
Relief under the statute is mandatory if the conditions are fulfilled. The motion is timely if filed within six months of the entry of default judgment or dismissal. Due diligence is not required. Nor is it necessary for the attorney attesting to mistake, inadvertence, surprise or neglect be attorney of record for the party requesting relief. The statute only requires the affidavit be executed by an attorney who represents the client and whose mistake, inadvertence, surprise or neglect in fact caused the client’s default or dismissal. Continue reading →
It is a fundamental concept of due process that a judgment against a defendant cannot be entered unless he was given proper notice and an opportunity to defend. Code of Civil Procedure section 580 therefore provides the relief granted to the plaintiff, if there is no answer, cannot exceed that demanded in the complaint or in a statement of damages as required by section 425.11. Section 425.11 refers to the required statement which must be served prior to entry of default in an action for personal injury or wrongful death. In those actions, the complaint must not allege a specific dollar amount of damages.The purpose of sections 580 and 425.11 is to guarantee defaulting parties adequate notice of the maximum judgment that may be assessed against them. Continue reading →
Over the years I have handled my fair share of quiet title cases. They are unique in several respects. The recent case of Nickell v. Matlock, Second Appellate District, highlights one unique aspect: default judgments are not allowed. Pursuant to statutes specific to quiet title actions, the court must, in all cases, require evidence of plaintiff’s title and must hear evidence that is offered as to the claims of any other defendants.
What about the circumstance when a defendant’s pleading has been struck and his default entered as a sanction? Is that defendant allowed to present evidence of title at the evidentiary hearing? Continue reading →