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Do I have grounds to have my judgement vacated?

Crofton, MD |

I was sued my my previous landlord for breaking my lease. I missed the court date and received a default judgement. I did not appeal within 30 days, and now my bank account has been garnished. I reviewed the submitted paperwork and found that the lease they produced was from 2008 with a renewal clause that states that, if not re-signed, the lease would be renewed for "a like term." This was a one year lease and the claims against me are for January-March 2011. Would this meet the standard of "fraud, accident, or irregularity" and if so, how much would this cost me to pursue. (the claim against me is in the $5000 range)

Attorney Answers 2


Unlikely and here's why (I know this because I had a recent case in trying to vacate a default judgment for fraud):

There's two types of fraud: extrinsic and intrinsic fraud. Intrinsic fraud is an intentionally false representation that goes to the heart of what a given lawsuit is about. In your case, the intrinsic fraud would be the apparently fraudulent lease. Extrinsic fraud is a deceptive means of keeping a person from discovering and/or enforcing legal rights. Extrinsic fraud would be something along the lines of falsifying an affidavit of service when you weren't properly served in a lawsuit.

The thing is: you could have raised the issue of the lease at court. Missing the court date is not really considered an excuse by a court to avoid a judgment. Moreover, you had appeal rights and failed to take advantage of them within 30 days. Thus, for the same reason that I lost my previous case (and told my client that the client's failure to act would be the case's achilles heel), a court will not reward a litigant by vacating a default judgment when that litigant essentially sat on his/her hands and did not participate in the court process. The court will -- in reviewing the court file -- see that notices were properly sent to you advising you of the judgment entered against you, and the court will note that you took no action. The fact that you did nothing in response to those notices would be reason enough not to reopen the case or vacate the judgment.

DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.

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In addition to my colleague's answer, the only real chance you may have at getting the judgment vacated at this point would be to show that you were never served with process. Meaning, the Plaintiff never properly served you the complaint and summons. This is a tough burden prove, but it is possible. - This is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. This is for education and informational purposes only. It is always recommended that you contact an attorney with any concerns as each individual case is unique.

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