Blatter v. D.N. Suyte Inc.
5/3/23, Per Curiam (C.J. Klingensmith, and Judges Damoorgian and Levine)
Topics: Default Judgment
D.N. Suite, Inc. sued Mr. Blatter, and he failed to respond to the Complaint. The clerk entered a default against Mr. Blatter, and the Mr. Blatter filed a motion to vacate the default. D.N. Suyte opposed the motion to vacate the default. D.N. Suite also filed a motion seeking a final default judgment.
The trial court held a hearing on both the motion for final default judgment and the motion to vacate the clerk’s default, and the trial court sided with D.N. Suyte. The final judgment included some sort of injunction against Mr. Blatter.
Mr. Blatter appealed. The DCA noted that review of a default final judgment is typically done under an abuse of discretion standard, but in this case, because the issues were issues of law, the review was de novo.
A trial court cannot enter a default judgment while a motion remains pending that would affect the plaintiff’s right to proceed to judgment. If a party is challenging a clerk’s default with a motion to vacate, the trial court has to rule on that before ruling on a motion for a final default judgment.
Here, the motion to vacate the default was filed prior to the court’s entry of the default judgment, but the trial court granted the motion without addressing the Blatter’s motion to vacate the clerk’s default. While the parties “almost certainly addressed the motion to vacate at the hearing,” there was apparently no transcript of the hearing. And while the lack of a transcript would ordinarily be bad news for the appellant, not the appellee, the order that resulted from the hearing—on its face— did not address the motion to vacate. Reversed and remanded. (NOTE: While this was an issue of law that sprang from the face of the judgment, one wonders if the rule requiring that a party preserve a failure to make findings of fact by filing a motion for rehearing will result in a different outcome in similar cases in the future).