Q: How does a default judgement in California courts work? Can defendant provide an answer after filing for entry?
I filed a wage and hourly claim in Santa Clara Courts against my former employer (large tech company with lots of attorneys) pro per. They failed to respond to my complaint within 30 days, so I filed Request for Entry of Default and served it on the defendant. A week later I get in the mail the a general denial of my complaint from their attorney. 3 weeks later, their answer is still not showing up in the court records as being filed.
Yesterday, an attorneys from a huge well known law firm representing them reaches out to me to discuss settling. I tell them as they know I filed for default and she says they responded on time but the court is backlogged with entries. She goes on about how there is no way I will win my case. I also found it strange that the attorney reaching out to me was one of the managing partners. This all sounded suspicious. Confirmed with clerk that no answer has been filed and they are backlogged with entries for default but not on other entries.
It is entirely possible that the response was timely filed and it is not showing up on the Register of Actions because the court is backed up. That happens with some regularity is some courts.
Regardless, it would be a very bad idea to assume that the default would be upheld by a court. If necessary, the defendant simply moves to set aside the default, which is almost always granted if the motion is timely brought (i.e., within 6 months of entry of default) and in some cases longer than that. Assume you will be litigating this matter. Do not eschew settlement talk believing that you have them in a position of power. You do not.
If you have a case with merit and value, get an experienced employment law attorney involved on your behalf. Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law offer a free or low cost consultation in the beginning and then, if the matter has merit and value, will usually agree to work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.
I would suggest you look either on this site, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.
Good luck to you.
Maya L. Serkova agrees with this answer
I agree with Mr. Pedersen's comment. I recommend you consult an employment law attorney before you begin negotiating the settlement. There may be some procedural or substantive nuances that you are not aware of that can result in you discounting your settlement and leaving money on the table. Most employment law attorneys in California offer free-of-charge initial consultations and thereafter may take your case on a contingency basis, meaning you do not have to pay attorney’s fees unless and until there is a positive outcome for you. They may also advance either all or partial costs of litigation.
You can look either on this site in the Find a Lawyer section or go to California Employment Lawyers Association (www.cela.org), an organization whose members are committed to representing employees’ rights. Best of luck.
Maya L. Serkova
1 user found this answer helpful
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