Saturday, July 12, 2008

Default Judgment Set Aside by Texas Supreme Court

Supreme Sympathy
In this appeal from a default judgment the Supreme Court grants the frail-old-lady defendant a second chance to appear by attorney to defend a lawsuit which had apparently been answered on her behalf by a family member who was not an attorney. Advised of the legal ramifications, the family member took the Fifth in court-testimony on the issue; the answer on file was stricken, and a no-answer default judgment was entered against the senior citizen defendant. The Supreme Court explains that the Defendant was not given notice of the hearing at which the sufficiency of her written answer was called into question and evidence was presented. Because she was entitled to such notice, and possibly to an opportunity to "cure" the deficiency (legalese for fixing the problem), the Supreme Court reverses the Court of Appeals, and vacates the default judgment entered by the trial court.
Sells v. Drott, No. 07-0848 (Tex. 2008)(per curiam)(default judgment set aside on lack of notice grounds) (entitlement to notice of evidentiary hearing resulting in striking of pleadings, prejudicial effect of invoking fifth amendment in civil proceeding, adverse inference) (download 5-page opinion in pdf)
LAVERNA SELLS v. EARL DROTT; from Smith County; 12th district(12-07-00020-CV, ___ SW3d ___, 07-18-07)

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