Insurer that ignored injured woman's attorney's letters cannot set aside default
In Wallace v. Gator Fore, Inc., a Kent County judge set aside the default judgment that was entered against a grocery store after it ignored a premises liability lawsuit brought by a shopper who fell. The insurer argued that even though it delayed for months in answering the formal complaint, it should be allowed to set aside the default that entered against it, because under the existing law Wallace could not prevail on her claim, and therefore "manifest injustice" would result from upholding the default.
The trial judge accepted this reasoning, even though the store and its insurer offered no "good cause" for failing to respond to the lawsuit. Wallace's attorneys appealed, pointing out that under the Court Rules, the grocery store was not entitled to excuse its [very] late answer. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the decision of the lower court. There are clear rules about when a default for failing to answer may be set aside, and the tiial judge abused his discretion in failing to enforce them.