That works for some problems. Ignore the itch in your shoe and it might just go away. Ignore an annoying passenger on the bus or train car and eventually you will get off. Ignore a legal proceeding against you and you could face a judgment against you, attorneys fees, penalties, interest, a lien on your home, and wage garnishment. It’s a really really bad idea to ignore a lawsuit. People know this, and do it anyway. Then they get served with a lien or wage garnishment and run to the attorney to undo it. Run fast, because the clock is ticking on any opportunity to undo a final court order.
To begin with, understand that an appeal probably cannot fix a default judgment. An appeal asks the appellate court to review an underlying case and determine whether there was a mistake on the law and whether this mistake affected the final outcome. An appeal does not rule on the merits of the case (except for in small claims court.) An appeal does not allow the appellant to make an emotional plea for a second chance. A defendant who failed to show up for court in response to an initial action does not have grounds for an appeal.
Instead a defendant who discovered he has a judgment against him will need to ask the court to vacate or set aside his judgment. (CCP § 663.). In short, a party may be entitled to a different judgment if the original judgment was based on an “[i]ncorrect or erroneous legal basis for the decision, not consistent with or not supported by the facts…”. This makes sense for a litigant who was actively involved with the case and received a unfavorable ruling by judge or jury. It doesn’t make much sense for a party that ignored the problem.
The Civil Code of Procedure also authorizes relief from judgment on grounds of mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect. (CCP § 473(b).) However, it requires that a motion be made within 6 months of judgment. With proper notice, that time is reduced even further.
Tara also offers some hope: “This does not mean that it is impossible to overturn a judgment after it has been entered in every circumstance. There are certainly situations in which a judgment was improperly taken. Some examples include an action taken without proper service; brought in the wrong jurisdiction; and entered against active military personnel.”
For those individuals who truly were unaware of the pending litigation against them, there may be a remedy. But it is not sufficient to ignore the problem then ask the court for forgiveness once the reality of the repercussions sets in.
For more information visit Tara Burd’s Who Is Page here in the Journal
Tara Burd San Diego Civil Law Attorney
You may contact her at her office
T.Burd Law Group
945 Fourth Ave., #307
San Diego, CA 92101
Or by telephone 858-215-2873