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    What is a Default Judgment? Part One
    Posted: 2011-02-16 06:25:59

    By Laurie Lonsdale

    The dictionary defines the word “Default” as “Failing to perform a task or fulfill an obligation”.  Whether in a dictionary or in the Ontario Court of Law, the word holds exactly the same meaning.  And when coupled with the word “Judgment”, it takes the meaning a step further and deems a defendant at fault for a claim that they have failed to defend.  So, how does a “Default Judgment” come into play?

    When served with a claim or a counterclaim, the defendant of that claim is given twenty (20) calendar days to respond to the court, by filing their defence.  Many people make the mistake of thinking the 20-day grace period refers to 20 “business” days, meaning days in which the court system is open to the public.  However, 20 calendar days actually represents 20 days from the date on which the defendant was served with the claim.  This timeframe includes weekends and statutory holidays.

    Some plaintiffs will deliberately choose to serve a defendant with a claim, just prior to a major statutory holiday, such as Christmas and New Years.  This becomes part of the strategy for their case, as they hope that the defendant’s inability to access the court during this period will prevent them from filing their defence on time.  The absence of the defendant’s response to the claim then gives the plaintiff the option of filing for a “Default Judgment”. If the judgment is granted, it essentially makes the defendant responsible for the claim.  In simpler terms, the plaintiff wins and the defendant loses.

    But what happens if the plaintiff and defendant are not in agreement on the date the claim was served or the defendant has a valid reason as to why he or she couldn’t file their defence on time?  Can a Default Judgment be overturned or set aside?

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