Plaintiffs Win Default Judgement on Appeal Against “Off-Grid” Defendants

In this civil case, the Fourth District reversed an Orange Country trial court who granted the defendants’ motion to vacate a default and vacate a default judgment against them, holding that the trial court erred in granting equitable relief.

The court order said:

“To the extent defendants were unaware of the amended complaint, it was due to their own negligence. They chose not to participate in the proceedings. They also missed every document served on them, including the amended complaint, because they failed to inform the trial court and plaintiff of their current mailing address. Indeed, defendants made themselves unreachable by any means. They could not be reached by phone or e-mail, missing multiple phone calls from plaintiff and an e-mail from the trial court. Defendants cannot deliberately neglect this lawsuit and go off-grid, so to speak, and then complain that they lacked notice of the proceedings. Besides, about a month prior to entry of default, defendants received actual notice that an amended complaint had been filed. Yet they did nothing.

Nor is equitable relief warranted based on the alleged misrepresentation made by plaintiff’s attorney that defendants were in default. If defendants were misled, it was due to their own negligence. They failed to pay any attention to this lawsuit and missed every notice from plaintiff because they had made themselves unreachable. Moreover, defendants have not explained why they failed to act after the misrepresentation occurred. This lack of diligence bars them from seeking relief. Simply put, there are no exceptional circumstances warranting relief. Thus, we reverse the trial court’s order.”

Read the court’s opinion here.

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