Earlier this month, an appellate court in Alabama issued a written opinion discussing the situations when a court should issue a default judgment when a defendant in a lawsuit fails to respond to the plaintiff’s claim. In the recent case, the appellate court ultimately reversed a lower court’s default judgment after applying a multi-factor test.
The Facts of the Case
The defendant, a semi-truck driver, was backing a load of logs into his driveway when the plaintiff crashed into his truck. At the time of the accident, the truck was blocking all of the lanes of travel. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, which the defendant failed to answer. After approximately three months, the court issued a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
Two months after the default judgment was entered, the defendant submitted a motion to the court, asking it to set aside the judgment. In support of his motion, the defendant submitted an affidavit from a witness to the accident, stating that the defendant had taken reasonable precautions, including placing cones and using the truck’s four-way flashing lights. The defendant also claimed that, on the day of the accident, he notified his insurance company about the accident. The defendant explained that he thought this meant that the insurance company was investigating the accident and that no further action was needed on his part. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.
The Defendant Is Successful on Appeal
The appellate court began its analysis by explaining that a three-factor test should be applied to determine if a trial judge should grant a defendant’s motion to set aside a default judgment. The three factors are:
- Whether the defendant has a viable defense to the plaintiff’s claims;
- Whether the plaintiff will be unfairly prejudiced as a result of the default judgment; and
- Whether the defendant’s own conduct was a reason for the judgment.
After applying the three factors to the case, the appellate court determined that the lower court should have granted the defendant’s motion to set aside the default judgment and to defend against the case. As a result of the court’s most recent decision, the $550,000 award in favor of the plaintiff was reversed, and the case will proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Truck Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a Maryland truck accident, having a dedicated attorney on your side can make the difference between obtaining financial recovery for your injuries or walking away with nothing. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the Maryland-based law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have decades of experience handling truck accident cases in Maryland courts, and we know which issues to expect and how to overcome them. We ensure that our clients’ cases are diligently handled from day one throughout the entire process. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney.
More Blog Posts:
Mass Transit Accidents in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. Areas, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published January 18, 2017.
Semi-Truck Drivers and the Responsibility They Owe to the Public, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published January 4, 2017.