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Entry of Default - You Snooze, You Lose (PA)

August 21, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">The Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued a precedential opinion on August 11, 2020 detailing the procedure for a defendant to properly open a default judgment. In<em> <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Eric-Scalla-v.-KWS-Inc.-A-Member-of-The-Thiele-Group.pdf">Eric Scalla v. KWS, Inc., A Member of The Thiele Group</a></em> (Pa. Super 2020) the defendant KWS, Inc., was served with a ten-day notice to enter a default judgment on March 13, 2020. KWS Vice President of Operations signed for the mail and set the ten-day notice aside. Thereafter, default judgment was entered on March 26, 2018.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">KWS then filed a motion to lift the default judgment. The Court denied this motion and found that KWS’ argument failed the three-part test for opening a default judgment. The party seeking to open a default judgment must meet the following three elements: (1) the petition to open or strike was promptly filed; (2) the default can be reasonably explained or excused; and (3) there is a meritorious defense to the underlying claim.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The court reviewed the timeliness under <em>Kelly v. Siuma</em>, 34 A.3d 86 (Pa. Super. 2011), which found that in cases where the courts have found a ‘prompt’ and timely filing of the petition to open a default judgment, the period of delay has normally been less than one month.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Additionally, the Court rejected the argument that the default can be explained or excused by the fact that the Vice President of Operations did not understand the legal mail or service of process and did not know there was a lawsuit against KWS.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">As to the third prong, the Court found that the defendant made boilerplate statements that failed to establish a meritorious defense. Thus, the Court found that KWS “failed to establish any of the three elements of the three-part test for opening a default judgment.” and the default judgement was not opened.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">This case confirms that defendants must be aware of the importance of legal documents and must respond promptly in accordance with the Court rules.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Emily Finnegan for her contribution to this post.  Please contact <a href="mailto:Haquino@wcmlaw.com">Heather Aquino</a> with any questions.</p>

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