Default Proceedings in a California Civil Case

Default Proceedings in a California Civil Case

This article provides an overview of the requirements for obtaining a civil default judgment in a California civil case.

Threshold Requirements for All Default Judgments

The requirements for obtaining any default judgment in a California civil case are:

  • Defendant must be properly served with the summons and complaint.
  • The time for defendant to answer the complaint (thirty days in most cases) has passed and the defendant has not filed an answer or other responsive pleading to the complaint with the court.

Once these prerequisites are satisfied, a default judgment may be sought immediately. 

Requirements for Obtaining a Clerk’s Default Judgment

A clerk’s judgment can only be sought under the following circumstances:

  • the case is based on a contract;
  • the case only seeks to recover money or damages in a fixed or determinable amount; and
  • the defendant was not served by publication.

The Plaintiff must file numerous pleadings and other documents supporting the judgment, including (1) a Request for Default Judgment, (2) a Request for Dismissal of DOE Defendants, (3) a Memorandum of Costs and (4) a Proposed Judgment. In addition, in personal injury cases, a Statement of Damages must be filed and served before the default judgment can be entered.  Strict adherence to all the above procedures is required. The default judgment will be rejected for any technical deficiency in the supporting documents.

Requirements for Obtaining a Court Default Judgment

If the case does not qualify for a clerk’s judgment, the Plaintiff is required to follow a more complex set of rules resulting in entry of judgment by the court.  A court judgment is necessary in all personal injury cases and cases where the defendant is served by publication. Court default judgments are like mini trials. The plaintiff is required to present admissible evidence to the court supporting all the elements of the case. It’s possible to avoid a court appearance by presenting the default judgment by way of admissible evidence in the form of sworn affidavits and documents, as authorized by CCP section 585(d). 

The following items are submitted when requesting a court default judgment:

  • a case summary setting forth the facts of the case;
  • written declarations under oath attesting to the facts of the case;
  • interest computations if you are seeking interest on the judgment;
  • a cost memo setting forth the costs incurred in the case;
  • a signed affidavit affirming that the defendant or defendants are not in the military;
  • a proposed judgment;
  • a Request for Dismissal of any and all other parties from the case including Doe defendants;
  • supporting documentary evidence (exhibits);
  • a request for attorney fees if applicable; and
  • proof of publication if the defendant was served by publication.

After these pleadings and documents are submitted, the Court will determine whether a hearing is necessary or whether the court can render a judgment solely on the submitted papers. If the Court requires a hearing, the plaintiff will be required to appear before the judge and present its evidence.

Please contact Lynx Legal Service at 925-237-9216 for more information on obtaining a civil default judgment in California. You can also schedule a free telephonic consultation on our website to discuss any issues related to your specific situation.  Our knowledgeable staff routinely processes defaults for our clients and is standing by to assist in any way we can. 

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