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Setting aside default judgment

A default judgment is a judgment made against you without a case being heard in court, because you did not respond to a Statement of Claim.  The judgment will say that you must return the goods to the plaintiff, or pay to the plaintiff an amount equal to their value. The judgment might also say that you have to pay damages and costs. If the plaintiff has judgment against you, they can get orders from the court to:

  • force you to return the goods
  • take money from your wages or bank accounts
  • sell some of your property. 

You may have a default judgment against you because:

  • you were not served with the court papers and did not know about the claim against you
  • you were not available, for example you were overseas or in hospital when the court papers were served
  • you did not file any documents at court in response to the claim within 28 days.

If you want to defend the claim (tell the court why you think that you do not have to return the goods or pay any money), you may be able to 'set aside' the default judgment. Setting aside a default judgment means cancelling the judgment, giving you an opportunity to file a Defence.

To get the default judgment set aside you have to show:

  • that you have a good reason for not filing your Defence within 28 days from the date the plaintiff says they served the claim on you
  • that you have a genuine defence to the claim
  • that you have filed the Notice of Motion to set aside judgment as soon as possible after you found out there was a judgment against you.

When you apply to set aside the default judgment you can and should also apply for a stay of proceedings. A stay of proceedings is an order stopping the plaintiff from enforcing the judgment until your application to set aside the default judgment has been dealt with by the court. This will stop the sheriff from seizing your property.

Alert icon​You should get legal advice before applying to set aside default judgment. If you don't have an actual defence to the claim and you apply to set aside default judgment, you may have to pay more costs to the other side.

For more information, see Applying to set aside default judgment​​ in the 'Debt - small claims' topic of this website.

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