Orlando, FL asked in Contracts and Landlord - Tenant for Florida

Q: Our case was never heard and no mediation, the judge issued a default to plainiff.

How can a judge issue a final judgement without giving us a chance to present the case? The owner along with a tenant contracted for construction to the rental unit. All invoices presented by contractor were paid. Owner was later presented with a bill from a subcontractor, no contract or dealings with this subcontractor. We ask for itemized bill to present to contractor but was given general scope of work for a set amount. We did not pay so subcontractor took it to small claims. The property manager representative owners, unfortunately letter for power of attorney (POT)was missing the llc (we were not told this and did not realize it needed to be included as both owners were noted). The case was not heard and a default judgement was issued to the plaintiff. We file motion to set aside judgment and once again did not include the llc in POT. The property manager was present but did not even get a chance to go to mediation or present the case. Jusge just issued a defaul, whatnex

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2 Lawyer Answers

A: Your statements are confusing but it seems like you were attempting to have a property manager represent you or a group of owners in court? That would be the unlicensed practice of law and a felony in Florida. A default is entered whenever you do not file an answer to a lawsuit. The summons serving the lawsuit spells out the timeline for filing an answer. Once you have a default entered, you have lost your right to defend against the case and the plaintiff can get a default summary judgment. A motion to set aside the default has to be filed before the motion for default summary judgment is heard.

At this point you are obviously in over your head and need a lawyer immediately. The timeline to try to fix this is very short; 15 - 30 days from the date judgment was entered, depending on the remedy.

Charles M.  Baron
Charles M. Baron
  • Hollywood, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: Sounds like the default was entered due to someone's error, which may have been made due to failure to consult an attorney. In small claims court, an LLC does NOT need an attorney to represent the LLC if the proper documentation is prepared to authorize an eligible person to engage in the representation. Here, an error apparently was made regarding that documentation, and the issue for setting aside the default is whether the error constitutes excusable neglect. Generally, ignorance of the law, in itself, is not sufficient to show that the neglect was excusable. Once the Court has denied a motion to set aside (or vacate) a default judgment, the defaulted party must either live with it or appeal within 30 days of entry of judgment. "Live with it" means either pay up or determine if there's any means of asset protection to avoid it, without such action constituting fraudulent conduct.

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