This feature originally appeared in the April 20th edition of the Pittsburgh Business Times.
Q: My company received notice of a significant default judgment against it. After investigating, I discovered that an employee received notice of the lawsuit in the mail but never opened it. Can we do anything?
Advice: After you are served with a lawsuit you have a certain amount of time to respond (usually 20-30 days depending on your jurisdiction). If you don’t submit a written answer to the lawsuit the court can enter a default judgment.
First, it is important to determine whether your company was properly served. Service by mail is only proper under certain circumstances. If you determine your company was not properly served with notice of the lawsuit, any default judgment is invalid and you should file a motion in Court to have the judgment removed.
If you discover that your company was properly served, you may still be able to open the judgment. Generally speaking, a default judgment may be opened if the moving party has (1) promptly filed a petition to open the default judgment, (2) provided a reasonable excuse or explanation for failing to file a responsive pleading, and (3) pleaded a meritorious defense to the allegations contained in the complaint. Setting aside a judgment can be time-sensitive and complex – the attorneys at Bernstein-Burkley would be happy to guide you through the process.