As an experienced San Diego litigation attorney, this writer knows just how devastating it is when someone learns that a court judgment has been entered against them without their knowledge. This usually occurs via what is called a default judgment. The plaintiff serves a summons and complaint on the defendant and, after the defendant fails to answer the complaint within the proscribed time limit, asks the court to enter judgment in its favor. The problem is that sometimes, default judgments are entered against people that had no idea that a legal case ever existed. This can be intentional where a plaintiff purposefully files a fraudulent proof of service claiming to have properly served the summons and complaint on the defendant, or unintentional where a plaintiff served the summons and complaint on an address they believed to be the Defendant’s correct address. There are also instances in which a defendant may have had knowledge of the case but for some excusable reason failed to participate in the case resulting in a judgment against them. Once a default judgment is entered against you, it is the same as any judgment. With a judgment, a plaintiff can attach bank accounts, garnish wages and put liens on real property, among other things.
Fortunately, California law provides defendants under these circumstances ways to set aside the default (essentially erasing it). However, timing is critical and it is important to act fast once you learn that a judgment has been entered against you. It’s advisable to contact an experienced litigation lawyer in San Diego as soon as possible to avoid missing important deadlines. Setting aside default judgments are governed by the following California law: California Code of Civil Procedure (“C.C.P.”) §§ 473, 473.1 and 473.5.
Mistake, Inadvertence, Surprise or Excusable Neglect (C.C.P. § 473(b))