There are a few different ways that New York State allows a person to vacate
judgements and reopen cases. There are also some practical ways that it
can be done outside of the law through negotiation. I will touch upon
these. But first and most importantly, the New York Civil Practices Legal
Rules (CPLR) states under rule 5015(a) (IV), that if there was no jurisdiction,
then a judgement is improper. This means that if a person or business
was improperly served, then there is no jurisdiction, and if there is
no jurisdiction, the judgement is improper and must be vacated. In these
cases, a meritorious defense is unnecessary, as is a reasonable excuse;
the judgement can simply be vacated based on a lack of jurisdiction.
The second potential way of vacating a judgement is by filing a motion
and using CPLR 5015(a) (I), which is almost the same statute as 5015(a)
(IV). The only major difference between the two is that a person would
have to provide both a reasonable excuse and a meritorious defense. In
order to provide a meritorious defense, a person must have a legitimate
reason as to why they do not believe they owe the debt in question. It
could also be argued that the amount of the money judgement is incorrect.
The most commonly used reasonable excuse is simply lack of notice. Lack
of notice can be used as a reasonable excuse even if service was technically
proper, but the person did not actually receive notice. This could happen
if the notice was left on a person’s door but it fell off, or if
the notice was left with a doorman who never ended up delivering it to
the person. Another reasonable excuse is having received misinformation
by opposing counsel in regards to the necessity of responding to the judgement.
It is important to be aware of the One Year from Judgement Rule, which
states that the motion must be filed within one year of the judgement
being entered and the notice given. Alternatively, a motion to have a
judgement vacated can be filed under CPLR 317, which states that the motion
must be filed within one year after the defendant learned of the judgement.
With that being said, it must be filed within five years total from the
entry of judgement. This means that if a judgement was entered in 2013
and the recipient did not find out about it until 2017, that person can
file a motion under CPLR 317 since it would be less than five years since
the judgement was actually entered.
As is the case under CPLR 5015(a) (I), a person must have a reasonable
excuse and a meritorious defense when filing a motion using CPLR 317.
If a person can demonstrate both, then the judgement can be vacated. The
courts in New York are fairly liberal when it comes to vacating judgements
because the goal is for them to be decided upon based on merits, rather
For more information on
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