Paige Melendez
Houston Employment Trial Lawyer Paige Melendez

In the legal realm, there are various procedures and outcomes that can unfold during the course of a case. One such outcome, is a default judgment. When one party fails to respond or participate in legal proceedings, it can trigger a series of events leading to a default judgment. Let’s delve into what happens during a default judgment and its implications for both parties involved.

First, a default judgment occurs when a defendant in a civil case like a discrimination case fails to respond to a plaintiff’s complaint or petition within the specified time frame or fails to appear in court when required. Essentially, it means that the defendant has defaulted on their obligation to defend themselves or participate in the legal process.

A default judgment does not happen in a vacuum, there are specific events that must happen before this type of judgment is rendered. The Plaintiff has to file an initial complaint or petition against the Defendant named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit is then served to the Defendant, sometimes with a summons, which puts them on notice that there is a legal action against them and lays out a timeframe in which a response must be made. In Texas, the Defendant has until the 10:00 Am on the Monday, 20 days after service is received. If that set deadline passes, and Defendant fails to respond, then the Plaintiff can move to get a default judgment from the court. Part of what a Plaintiff has to show the court to support its motion for default judgment varies according to the state rules, but in Texas part of the evidence to support the motion has to be proof that the Defendant was served correctly. The court can also hold a hearing to determine if service was done correctly. After Plaintiff shows that the service was done correctly, then a hearing is set so the Plaintiff can have an opportunity to support the damages they are seeking. The court will review this evidence and if Plaintiff is successful grant the default judgment in their favor. 

Default judgment happens occasionally, but at any point before the judge signs the order on the default judgment, a Defendant may respond and the default judgment can no longer be entered. Defendants may also have grounds to set aside a default judgment. This typically involves demonstrating to the court that there was a valid reason for their failure to respond, such as excusable neglect, mistake, or lack of proper service of the summons and complaint.

The whole process has implications for each party regardless of the outcome. For the Plaintiff, a default judgment signifies a victory in the case without having to go through a full trial. It allows them to obtain a judgment in their favor relatively quickly, without the need for further litigation. Depending on the nature of the case, the relief sought, and the evidence Plaintiff has in support, the Plaintiff may be awarded monetary damages, injunctive relief, or other remedies as determined by the court. For the Defendant, a default judgment can have serious consequences. It means they lose the case without having the opportunity to present their side of the story or defend themselves in court. The defendant may be subject to the enforcement of the judgment, which could include paying damages or complying with other orders issued by the court.

In conclusion, default judgments serve as a reminder of the importance of timely response and active participation in legal proceedings. They underscore the significance of due process and the rights of all parties involved in a case. While they can provide a swift resolution for plaintiffs, they also highlight the potential consequences of non-response for defendants. Understanding the implications of default judgments is essential for anyone navigating the legal landscape. If you need help navigating this issue or others, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office to schedule a consultation.