Some of our clients contact us in distress when they find out that a default final judgment was entered again them. To their surprise, a debt buyer who had sent them letters months before now has a final judgment and is ready to start garnishing wages or is already doing so. How could this happen? How can the Court do this? Is there anything that can be done?
The typical reason this happens is because the defendant failed to do what the Court Summons instructed them to do. They either did not file an answer within 20 days of being served, or they did not appear at the mandatory pre-trial conference in small claims court. Sometimes defendants get served by the process server and honestly forget because of all the other things going on in their lives. Sometimes they miscalendar the deadline or court date and miss it. Sometimes a family member living at the home gets served with the lawsuit by substitute service and they forget to tell the defendant. Whatever the reason, the Court has to proceed with the case. This means that if a defendant does not do what they are supposed to do, the Court will likely enter a default and default judgment against them.
The good news is that something can be done. The Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540(b) provides a method to relieve a defendant from a Final Judgment, when it was entered because of mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect. A motion must be filed with the Court within one (1) year of the entry of the Final Judgment and the defendant must convince the court that the final judgment was a result of excusable neglect, that the defendant acted with due diligence, and that the defendant has a meritorious defense. While the rule allows the motion to be filed within one year, the sooner it is filed the more likely you are to be successful, so getting it filed as soon as possible is extremely important. The requirements for making the argument and filing the motion can be intimidating but hiring an experienced attorney to represent you can make a big difference!
The attorneys at Holland Law Group can help you analyze your situation and assist you in crafting the strongest argument to set aside a final judgment to get you the best result we can. We help people in your situation each and every day, across the state of Florida, from Miami to Tampa to Jacksonville and everywhere in between. Let us help you too! Call us today so we can discuss your case in a free consultation.