Default reinstated on utter technicalityJune 10, 2017

K.O. Med., P.C. v Avis Budget Group, 2017 NY Slip Op 50687(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2017)

(1) “On September 11, 2014, defendant served an answer, which plaintiff rejected as untimely.  Upon plaintiff’s application, a default judgment awarding plaintiff the principal sum of $2,069.76 was entered on October 1, 2014. Defendant moved by order to show cause, returnable on October 31, 2014, to compel plaintiff to accept the answer.”

(2) “Defendant’s motion should have been denied, as defendant failed to move to vacate the duly entered default judgment and as the court did not treat defendant’s motion as one seeking that relief. In view of the foregoing, we do not consider defendant’s proffered excuse for its default.”

The lesson learned here is that when an answer is rejected as untimely, the motion should always seek the following relief: (1) Motion to vacate pursuant to CPLR 5015(a)(__); (2) Motion to compel acceptance of answer, pursuant to CPLR 3012(d); (3) (sometimes) Motion to vacate any default based upon the Court’s interest of justice jurisdiction (Woodson v. Mendell Leasing).

This is a tough lesson here as the entry of a default occurred on three cases.  What I do find disturbing is that assuming Defendant included a general prayer clause in the application, why didn’t the Court consider the CPLR 3012(d) application as a CPLR 5015(a)(1) application?  Admittedly, the Court punished Defendant for a technicality that, at most, was just that.

Again, this Court continues to issue decisions that fly in the fact of the public policy that cases be heard on the merits absent intentional conduct.  I am thinking Albany needs to revisit CPLR 2005 because the trend of allowing the entry of default from the Second Department (Term and Division) flies in the fact of sound public policy of encouraging cases to be resolved on the merits and encourages entries of default judgments.