Legal Memorandum: Grounds for Vacating a Default Judgment

Issue: Under the laws of the Virgin Islands, what are the grounds for vacating a judgment entered by default?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Default judgment; Motion to vacate
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 834 F.2d 71; 488 N.E.2d 199; 822 F.2d 416; 695 F. Supp. 827; 356 So. 2d 1212
Cited Statutes: Terr. Ct. R. 50; Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b); Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)
Date: 09/01/2004

When the trial court considers a motion to vacate a default judgment, it “must consider three factors:  (1) whether the plaintiff will be prejudiced if the default is lifted; (2) whether the defendant has a meritorious defense; and (3) whether the default was the result of the defendant’s culpable conduct.”  Zawadski de Bueno v. Bueno Castro, 822 F.2d 416, 419-20 (3d Cir. 1987).  Accord EMCASCO Ins. Co. v. Sambrick, 834 F.2d 71, 73 (3d Cir. 1987).  On appeal of the lower court’s decision on a motion to vacate a default judgment, the appellate court considers the same three factors.  Zawadski de Bueno, 822 F.2d at 420. 

Territorial Court Rule 50 provides that “[f]or good cause shown, the court, upon application and notice to the adverse party, may set aside an entry of default, judgment by default, or judgment after a trial or hearing [and] [r]ules 59 to 61, inclusive, of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure shall govern such applications.”  Terr. Ct. R. 50.  Rule 60(b) provides, in relevant part:

On motion and upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party or a party’s legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect. . . or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.  The motion shall be made within a reasonable time, and for reasons (1), (2), and (3) not more than […]

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