Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Third District Issues Clarified Opinion Relating To Default Judgment

In Infante v. Vantage Plus Corp., et al (3D08-1960), the Third District granted a motion for clarification.  The original opinion, released on June 24, 2009, was discussed here.  As with the original opinion, the court held that "We reverse because Infante correctly asserted all of the causes of action in her complaint, and thus, the trial court improperly vacated the default final judgment on the grounds that the complaint was technically deficient."

The main additions/changes to the clarified opinion appears to be the following:
“A default admits every cause of action that is sufficiently well-pled to properly invoke the jurisdiction of the court and to give due process notice to the party against whom relief is sought.” Bowman v. Kingsland Dev., Inc., 432 So. 2d 660, 662 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983). Furthermore, as we stated in Becerra v. Equity Imports, Inc., 551 So. 2d 486, 488 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989), a “judgment by default operates as a waiver of any mere formal errors in plaintiff’s pleading but does not cure a totally defective complaint or waive errors which go to the foundation of plaintiff’s cause of action.” (citing 49 C.J.S. Judgments § 200 at 356 (1947)).
In Moynet v. Courtois, 8 So. 3d 377, 380 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009), we stated that plaintiff’s “failure to allege criminal intent is fatal to their cause of action for civil theft. Moreover, there are no other facts alleged from which criminal intent may be implied.” While the words “criminal intent” did not appear on the complaint, it is quite detailed in setting forth how the defendants conspired to defraud Infante of her money. We have never required the incantation of magic words, nor voided default judgments on the basis of mere technical errors in pleading. See, e.g., Lazcar Int’l., Inc. v. Caraballo, 957 So. 2d 1191, 1193 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007)."


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