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We were sued, not notified, then found guilty as we were not in court to defend the claims. How is this legal?

Brooklyn, NY |

How can a court case proceed without proof that the defendant was notified? This seems ludicrous. Now nearly a year after the court case, we have been served with papers to attend a hearing regarding what I can only imagine to be payment. Can someone please explain the process?

The details of the case was that someone alleged to have fell in front of our commercial property and broke their leg. There isn't any record of an ambulance being called, nor were we notified or aware of the event previously. They apparently sent paperwork for the initial court hearing to both us and the adjacent property, whom they are also suing. Neither of us received such paperwork. As an obvious result, neither defendants were at the case, yet it proceeded anyway! Is this some sort of dodgy tactic?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. I highly recommend you discuss your situation with a New York litigation attorney (if you do not have one) in a confidential forum as soon as possible as there may have been a Default Judgment granted against you. You may still have time to file a Motion to Vacate Default Judgment, but the allowed time is running and may have already expired.

  2. Notify your insurance carrier immediately. You can make an application to the court to vacate the default judgment, but you need to make your insurance company aware or they may disclaim any liability to pay.

    I am not your attorney and any posts/messages or responses to posts/messages can not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should not rely upon free legal advice and I disclaim any liability for the results if you do.

  3. You were allegedly served and defaulted. You can move to vacate the judgment, ask for a traverse hearing, etc. However, you should obtain a copy of the court file first and then meet with a lawyer, since s/he will have to review the affidavit of service and perform a legal autopsy and hopefully breathe new life into your case.

    If you found this "helpful" or "best answer," please click it with my appreciation. My response is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice nor creates an attorney client relationship which requires all the details and a personal conference.

  4. Dear Property owner:

    No lawsuit is allowed to proceed to a judgment by default without the court reviewing the plaintiff's proof that service of the summons and complaint was made as required by law. That does not mean that a process server may not fib in the affidavit of service, but does answer your concern about how this could happen. New York courts have multiple layers of requirements before allowing a matter to proceed to a default. An hearing in your absence ( an inquest) may have occurred.

    With an owner having direct liability for all injuries occurring on the property including the sidewalk, you either insure or you become your own insurance company. Unless you are fantastically wealthy self-insurance is an easy route to losing your property to a stranger who happens to fall or claims to fall on the sidewalk at your property.

    You need a lawyer. If the default occurred over one year ago there may be serious time issues involved but in any case you no longer have time to chat about this serious matter in an online forum, you need an attorney, now.

    Good luck.

    The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.

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