motion for default judgment texas

In Texas, a motion for default judgment is a request made by a plaintiff when the defendant fails to respond to a civil complaint within the required time. If the defendant does not file a timely answer, the court may grant a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. This means the court decides the case without the defendant’s input.

The judge will issue a decision indicating that the defendant is responsible to pay whatever damages the plaintiff is seeking.

In some cases, the defendant didn’t respond to the lawsuit because they did not know the plaintiff had filed a complaint. Some people don’t even realize that they’ve been sued, and the paperwork is sitting in a pile of unopened mail. Sometimes there is a wrong address for the defendant. In other cases, the defendant may just choose to ignore the lawsuit. 

Another instance justifying a default judgment is when the defendant doesn’t attend a scheduled hearing. Regardless of the reason, once a Texas court issues an order granting a motion for default judgment, the defendant may have a hard time setting aside the judgment.

If a court has entered a default judgment against you and you don’t know what to do, there is still hope. The skilled default judgment lawyers at The Hunnicutt Law Group are here to help and answer all your questions. With our lawyers, you get small firm attention, but with big firm results.

What Is a Motion for Default Judgment in Texas?

In Texas, a “default judgment” refers to a legal decision granted by a court when the respondent fails to engage in the lawsuit process. This situation arises either because the respondent, after being duly served, neglects to file a timely legal response or answer by the specified deadline, or because the respondent, despite submitting an answer, fails to attend a scheduled court hearing. This type of judgment is thus rendered in the absence of the respondent’s participation in the legal proceedings.

Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21 governs motions in general and permits a litigant to ask the court to grant a default judgment. Usually, the plaintiff files a motion for default judgment if the defendant doesn’t respond or fails to attend a hearing.

The plaintiff has to provide an affidavit of the material facts, proof the defendant was served, and proof of damages. The plaintiff also provides a draft order for default judgment for the court to sign. This motion is served upon the defendant, even though they did not respond to the original lawsuit.

What Happens After the Filing of a Motion for Default Judgment?

After the motion for default judgment is filed and served upon the defendant, the defendant has an opportunity to respond. The defendant’s response should state a valid reason why they didn’t respond within the 20 day period to respond to complaints.

For example, the defendant could claim that they were never served the complaint and did not know of its existence. Once the judge has all the submissions, or the time for responding has passed, the court will make a decision. If the judge grants the motion, then they will issue a notice of default judgment upon the defendant.

Filing a Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment in Texas

If you received a notice of default judgment from a Texas court, your only option is to file a motion to set aside the default judgment. Normally, you would have 30 days from the judge’s order granting the motion to file a motion to set aside default judgment.

There are some exceptions to this 30 day rule, however. If you received notice of default judgment by the placement of the notice in a newspaper or publication, then you have 2 years from the date of the default judgment to ask for a new trial. Also, those on active duty in the military would have additional time to respond.

Reasons to Support a Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment in Texas

There are seven reasons or grounds that would support a motion to set aside a default judgment:

  • Mistake, 
  • Inadvertence, 
  • Surprise, 
  • Excusable neglect,
  • Fraud,
  • Misrepresentation, or
  • Other actions by the plaintiff.

With the first four grounds, for the court to grant a motion to set aside the default judgment, the circumstances would have to be extraordinary. There would have to be a very good reason for the defendant to not respond to the lawsuit. One thing that helps is if, once the notice of default judgment was received, the defendant responded immediately.

The last three reasons to support a motion to set aside a default judgment look to the actions of the plaintiff. Again, for a court to grant a motion to set aside, the circumstances would have to be extreme, such as the plaintiff engaging in some sort of fraud or subterfuge to trick the defendant into not responding.

The Texas Default Judgment Lawyers at The Hunnicutt Law Group Are Here for You

The Texas default judgment lawyers at The Hunnicutt Law Group have been representing clients with their business litigation needs for decades. We handle complex matters for local businesses, large companies, and individuals across the country.

Stephen Hunicutt has over 25 years of experience with Texas default judgment claims in both federal and state courts. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation to learn more about how we can help you.

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J. Stephen Hunnicutt

Our founding attorney, Stephen Hunnicutt, set the precedent for a commitment to excellence and a focus on the client. With 25 years of experience, he has handled countless cases involving business litigation and commercial litigation. Over the years, Mr. Hunnicutt has worked as in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 energy company, a large firm, a small firm, and finally, in his own practice.

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