New York City Debt Collection Defense Attorney

Need to Vacate a Default Judgment? Include Good "Excuses" for Not Defending

Facing a wage garnishment or bank restraint due to a judgment? Consider the excuses below to help you overturn the judgment at issue.

New York law (CPLR § 5015) allows you to file a motion to vacate a judgment. This means you can ask the court to set aside the judgment and give you another chance to defend yourself. Several grounds for vacating a judgment include excusable neglect, lack of personal jurisdiction, and meritorious defenses. Excusable neglect is a legal term that means you had a good reason for not appearing in court to defend against the judgment. For example, if you were seriously ill or out of the country at the time, you may have a valid excuse for neglect. 

Although bad service of papers is often alleged as a stand-alone basis to vacate a judgment, I always recommend providing any and all excuses (reasons) why you couldn't appear in court to defend even if you had been properly served with papers. I would further recommend that you describe in detail all defenses you may have to the case, referred to as "meritorious" since they're supposed to have "merit." 

Possible Reasons for Failing to Appear in Court:

  1. Absent from the area, state, or country, unable to attend court.
  2. Residing outside the court's legal authority, questioning jurisdiction.
  3. Received poor legal representation affecting case outcome.
  4. Work commitments conflicted with court schedules.
  5. Sudden business crises clashed with court dates.
  6. Court clerical errors led to missed appearances.
  7. Court notices were not received as required.
  8. Important legal documents for the case were misplaced.
  9. The opposing party's deceit affected case fairness.
  10. Coercion or threats prevented court attendance.
  11. Death, illness, or disability caused absence from court.
  12. Unreported address change resulted in missed court communications.
  13. Incarceration made court attendance impossible.
  14. Fraudulent actions by others impacted the case.
  15. Language barriers hindered court process understanding.
  16. Unfamiliarity with legal procedures led to non-compliance.
  17. Severe weather conditions prevent travel.
  18. Transportation issues, such as vehicle breakdowns or public transit disruptions.
  19. Dependent care emergencies, including childcare or eldercare crises.
  20. Mental health crises that impair the ability to participate in legal proceedings.
  21. Active military duty or sudden deployment.
  22. Technical failures, including loss of internet connectivity or computer malfunctions.
  23. Conflicting civic responsibilities, such as jury duty in another case.
  24. Cultural observances and religious holidays that coincide with court dates.
  25. Educational commitments, like mandatory class attendance or exams.
  26. Mandatory public health restrictions, including quarantine or isolation orders.

A judge has discretion whether to honor or reject your offered excuses. Using any of the above is no guarantee that you'll succeed. Other factors will be considered in your case (for example, time delay, opportunity to defend, strength of defenses, and credibility).

Using plenty of facts to support your legal position, you would be wise to mount an aggressive challenge. We would be delighted to discuss your case with you. Feel free to complete a short intake form.

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Five Key Grounds for Vacating a Judgment under CPLR § 5015

  1. Excusable Default: Per NY CPLR 5015(a)(1), you can contend that the default occurred due to excusable neglect, meaning you had a justifiable reason for failing to meet the deadline or appear. This requires demonstrating a meritorious defense of the action as well. The excuse must be reasonable under the circumstances, like an unanticipated illness or accident.
  2. Lack of Jurisdiction: Under NY CPLR 5015(a)(4), you can argue that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over you, which could happen if you were improperly served with the summons and complaint, for instance.
  3. Newly Discovered Evidence: NY CPLR 5015(a)(2) allows you to assert that new evidence has come to light since the judgment was entered which would likely alter the outcome and couldn't have been discovered in time to request a new trial.
  4. Fraud, Misrepresentation, or Misconduct: Pursuant to NY CPLR 5015(a)(3), you can claim the judgment was obtained through fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct by the opposing party, such as deliberately lying about a crucial fact.
  5. Reversal, Modification or Vacatur of a Prior Judgment or Order: Under NY CPLR 5015(a)(5), you can contend that a prior judgment or order upon which the current judgment is based has been reversed, vacated, or otherwise modified.


16 Examples of Defenses to Challenge a Default Judgment Under CPLR 5015

  1. Complete or Partial Payment: The debt has been entirely or partly paid off, which can be demonstrated through evidence like receipts or financial records.
  2. Time-Barred Debt: The creditor has exceeded the legal time frame for initiating a debt collection lawsuit, making the action invalid and unenforceable. See statute of limitations.
  3. Unresolved Dispute: An ongoing disagreement about the debt or contract terms calls into question the legitimacy of the claim.
  4. Incorrect Service Address: The lawsuit was filed using the wrong contact information, potentially breaching procedural requirements or due process rights.
  5. Inaccurate Claim Amount: The sum being demanded is incorrect, and records can show the true amount owed is lower or zero.
  6. Fraudulent Use of Identity: The debt resulted from someone else fraudulently using the defendant's identity, not from the defendant's actions.
  7. Mistaken Identity: The defendant is mistakenly named as the debtor when the actual debtor is a different person.
  8. Unapproved Modifications: Alterations to the account or agreement were made without the defendant's awareness or approval, impacting the debt's enforceability.
  9. Abrupt Account Termination: The creditor or financial institution unexpectedly closed the account without adequate notice or reason.
  10. Insufficient Dispute Investigation: The creditor failed to properly consider or respond to the defendant's disputes concerning the debt.
  11. Absence of Legal Standing: The plaintiff lacks a valid legal basis to bring the lawsuit due to the absence of a legitimate agreement or relationship with the defendant.
  12. Improper or Harassing Collection Tactics: The creditor used strategies that contravene fair debt collection regulations, potentially invalidating the legal action.
  13. Deceptive Actions by Known Individual or Third Party: The debt arose from fraudulent behavior, including forgery, committed by someone familiar to the defendant or an external party without the defendant's agreement.
  14. Dishonesty by Creditor or Legal Representative: The creditor or their lawyer engaged in misleading conduct connected to the debt or legal proceedings.
  15. Minor Party Without Legal "Capacity" to Enter Contract: The defendant was a minor and thus legally incapable of agreeing to the contract that created the debt, rendering it voidable.
  16. Unrecognized Debt or Previously Settled Obligations: The defendant contests the validity of the debt, indicating that all debts have been previously resolved.

8 Tips to Vacate a Default Judgment in New York