Legal Memorandum: Motion to Set Aside a Default Judgment in HI

Issue: What is the law applicable to a motion to set aside a default judgment in Hawaii?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Motion to set aside; Default judgment
Jurisdiction: Hawaii
Cited Cases: 101 Haw. 400; 57 Haw. 73; 168 P.3d 17; 549 P.2d 1147; 115 Haw. 373; 799 P.2d 60; 65 P.3d 1029
Cited Statutes: Haw. R. Civ. P. 55(a), Rule 55(b)(2); Rule 55(c); Rule 60(b), Rule 37(b)(2)(C)
Date: 04/01/2013

Under the Hawaii Rules of Civil Procedure, a default and default entry may arise in at least two ways.  First, Rule 55 allows the clerk of court to enter default against a defendant when that party “has failed to plead or otherwise defend” against the plaintiff’s claims.  Haw. R. Civ. P. 55(a).  Following the entry of default in a matter where damages are uncertain, the court may enter a judgment of default on the application of the plaintiff.  Id. R. 55(b)(2).  Importantly, “[f]or good cause shown the court may set aside an entry of default and, if a judgment by default has been entered, may likewise set it aside in accordance with Rule 60(b).”  Id. R. 55(c). 

The plain language of Rule 55(c) demonstrates the fundamental difference in the rules governing a motion to set aside an entry of default from those governing a motion to set aside a default judgment.  With the former, the court’s discretion to set aside the default entry is guided only by a showing of “good cause.”  The latter, however, must abide by the requirements of Rule 60(b).  Notably, Rule 55(c) contains no requirement that the motion must be filed within one year of the date of the default entry.

When the entry of default and default judgment arose after a client’s former counsel failed to comply with an order compelling discovery, it strongly appears that the default and default judgment may be used as an exercise of the court’s sanction […]

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