Update, 1 February 2012: Glen Wright of Tas Legal brought to my attention the case of Gavin Boyle Constructions Pty Ltd v Fabrok Pty Ltd  QDC 214 in which the judge set aside a regularly entered default judgment, but declined to award costs in favour of the plaintiff because it knew, pre-commencement of the proceeding, that the defendant denied liability and failed to enquire of the defendant’s solicitor whether it intended to defend before signing judgment. His Honour relied on Coburn v Brotchie and s. 5 of Queensland’s Uniform Civil Procedure Rules, which echo the overarching obligations in Victoria’s Civil Procedure Act, 2010.
Original post: I must say I was brought up believing that there was nothing at all wrong with rushing down to the court’s registry and entering default judgment if an appearance, or defence, was not filed by the due date. Apart from anything else, you force the other side to set out enough on oath about their case to prove an arguable defence, plus you get the psychological advantage of an early interlocutory costs order, even if the judgment is set aside, as it usually is. But where there is reason to believe that the defendant desires to defend, the practice is frowned upon, especially where the plaintiff is represented by a solicitor who knows who represents the defendant. The duty of professional courtesy comes into play. The procedure is really there to provide a vehicle for the production of judgments in those many cases which pass quietly through the courts, particularly the Magistrates’ Court, without the defendant participating. In fact ‘snapping on’ default judgment in bad faith, to use the strangely quaint language of some of the older cases, is an irregularity entitling the defendant to have the judgment set aside ex debito justitiae as they say in the classics (as of right). And it generally carries with it a costs sanction. I was vaguely aware of these authorities, but thought they were less unanimous and less modern than in fact they turn out to be. I have extracted the relevant bits below. Continue reading “‘Snapping on’ judgment in default”