Trials & Litigation

Florida court puts default judgment in reverse on case gridlocked after lawyer was stuck in traffic

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The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded a Broward County Court case after the trial judge entered a default followed by a default final judgment because the defendant’s attorney arrived 25 minutes late for an in-person case management conference, reports.

Fedia Chariscar wrote a personal check to Off Lease Only Inc. for a down payment on a car. After it allegedly bounced, Off Lease Only sued the customer.

Chariscar then countersued Off Lease Only, claiming that the car dealer allegedly violated the Florida Consumer Protection Act and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by knowingly overcharging her by $7,200, and that Off Lease Only didn’t amend its complaint seeking triple the damages and attorney fees.

When that case came before Broward County Court Judge Corey Amanda Cawthon, one of Off Lease Only’s attorneys arrived late, blaming traffic delays beyond her control.

The Broward County Court entered then the default. Two days later, the defense filed to vacate that default. That was more than a month before the trial court entered a default judgment, reports.

“The trial court acknowledged the pending motion to vacate but noted that the motion ‘ha[d] not been set for hearing, nor ha[d] [the dealer] moved forward on the motion,’” the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday. “This was error.”

The appellate judges used the ruling in Vacation Escape Inc v. Michigan National Bank as the foundation of their decision. That case ruled that the trial court erred in entering a final judgment.

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