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Time Limit to Vacate Your Default Judgment: New York

Building upon yesterday's blog post "Need to Vacate a Default Judgment?" this post discusses the time limits to do so.

Understanding Time Limits for Challenging a Judgment

When seeking to vacate a judgment, consider four key subsections of CPLR § 5015:

  1. Excusable default
  2. Newly discovered evidence
  3. Fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct by the opposing party
  4. Lack of jurisdiction to render the judgment

Consumer clients often rely on "excusable default" and "lack of jurisdiction." While these grounds are subject to court discretion, building a convincing case is essential to sway the judge in your favor.

Excusable default is the only subsection with a time limit: one year after receiving the judgment with written notice of its entry. The other subsections require filing within a "reasonable time," which can vary. Prompt action with strong evidence is advisable.

Courts are lenient with defaulted consumer debtors, but delays and insufficient documentation can lead to denied requests for judgment vacation. Remember that time is of the essence in these matters.

Caselaw: Time Limitations Vacating Defaults under CPLR § 5015

  1. Time Limit for CPLR 5015(a)(1) Application: Vacatur motions under CPLR 5015(a) are subject to a one-year time limitation only under subdivision (a)(1) when the default is potentially excusable (Loeffler v Glasgow, 169 A.D.3d 1024, 94 N.Y.S.3d 607 [2nd Dep't. 2019]).

  2. Commencement of One-Year Period: The one-year period starts from the "service" of the order or judgment with notice of entry, not merely its "entry," to ensure fairness (Loeffler v Glasgow, 169 A.D.3d 1024, 94 N.Y.S.3d 607 [2nd Dep't. 2019]).

  3. Authority to Extend Time: Courts have the inherent authority to consider untimely vacatur motions in the interest of justice, derived from CPLR 2004, which permits time extensions for just cause (Ibukun Ogunbekun v Strong Memorial Hospital, 181 A.D.3d 1189, 117 N.Y.S.3d 905 [4th Dep't. 2020]).

  4. Discretionary Vacatur: Courts may vacate judgments beyond the one-year limit if circumstances are compelling, and reasonable excuses are provided (Capital Equity Mgt., LLC v Carrozza, 65 Misc.3d 153[A], 119 N.Y.S.3d 691 [App. Term New York 2019]).

  5. Two Layers of Reasonable Excuse: Late vacatur motions must address two layers of reasonable excuse—failure to bring the motion within one year and the initial default (Diaz v Wykoff Heights Medical Center, 148 A.D.3d 778, 49 N.Y.S.3d 149 [2nd Dep't. 2017]).

  6. Factors for Consideration: Courts consider factors such as the potential merit of the defense, the duration of delay, and the policy of deciding cases on their merits (Stern v Warren George, Inc., 82 A.D.3d 873, 918 N.Y.S.2d 355 [2nd Dep't. 2011]).

  7. Impact of COVID-19: COVID-19-related executive orders tolled the one-year limit for vacating excusable defaults during the pandemic (Brash v Richards, 195 A.D.3d 582, 149 N.Y.S.3d 560 [2nd Dep't. 2021]).

  8. Timely Filings Recommended: It is advisable to file vacatur motions within the statutory time limit to avoid complications.

  9. Meritorious Claim or Defense: Parties seeking vacatur under CPLR § 5015(a)(1) must also demonstrate a potentially meritorious claim or defense.

  10. No Time Limit for CPLR 5015(a)(2)-(5) Motions: Vacatur motions under subdivisions (a)(2) through (a)(5) have no specified time limit but must be filed within a reasonable time, subject to laches (North Side Sav. Bank v Rosati, 32 A.D.3d 921, 822 N.Y.S.2d 572 [2nd Dep't. 2006]).

  11. Jurisdictional Vacatur: No time limit or laches may be applied to a vacatur motion based upon the absence of personal or subject matter jurisdiction; if an order or judgment lacks jurisdiction, the application should not only be entertained, but granted if the appropriate proof is tendered (Nemes v Tutino, 173 A.D.3d 16, 101 N.Y.S.3d 538 [4th Dep't. 2019]).

The Importance of Timeliness and Sufficient Documentation

While courts are generally lenient towards consumer debtors who have defaulted, we have witnessed cases where debtors were denied the opportunity to vacate a judgment due to the length of their delay and the insufficiency of their supporting documents. Therefore, acting promptly and gathering as much helpful evidence as possible to strengthen your case for vacating the default judgment is crucial.

Worth noting is that CPLR § 317 provides another potential basis to vacate your default if you:

  1. weren't personally served;
  2. you make the motion within one year after knowledge of a judgment's entry but no later than five years after such entry;
  3. you convince the court that you did not personally receive notice of the summons in time to defend and
  4. you have a meritorious defense.

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Time limit to vacate judgment-The Langel Firm