Obtaining Relief from Default Judgments under North Carolina Law


The North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure require a defendant in a civil lawsuit to file an answer or other responsive pleading, such as a motion to dismiss, within thirty days after service of a complaint and summons. If you do not timely respond, or otherwise contact plaintiff’s counsel, the plaintiff may move for entry of default and default judgment against you. If that judgment is obtained, the defendant may then receive a “Notice of Right to Designate Exemptions,” which begins the process of them attempting to collect the judgment against you. If you have recently received such a Notice, then you may still be able to fight the default judgment if you move quickly. Call the Raleigh civil litigation attorneys of Maginnis Law at 919.526.0450 or email us at info@maginnislaw.com to discuss how we might assist you. You can also subscribe to our mailing list to learn about the rights you have under consumer protection law against large corporations.

Importantly, if you have had a default judgment set aside or if you’ve paid that judgment off, you should also pull your credit report and dispute the entry relating to your judgment if it does not correctly show the status of your case. A failure by the credit reporting agency to correct the judgment disposition can violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act and can allow you to recover statutory damages, actual damages, punitive damages and attorney fees. Contact our firm for assistance if this issue has come up for you.

Our firm recently represented an individual who had obtained a set-aside of a default judgment on a credit card bill that he had actually paid in full. After filing lawsuit against the credit card company, the credit reporting agency, and the collection agency who was pursuing the debt, our client was able to obtain almost $40,000.00 for the emotional distress and damage to his credit stemming from the improperly obtained judgment.

The rule allowing relief from a default judgment is North Carolina Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). This rule allows a judge, in his or her sole discretion, to set aside a default judgment in situations involving, among other things: mistake, inadvertence, surprise, misrepresentation, fraud, or excusable neglect. There is also a “catch all” provision in Rule 60(b) which states that a judge can grant relief for “any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.” Courts often cite this language when it would be inequitable to impose a large default judgment.

While Rule 60(b) motions are not always successful, they are a relatively inexpensive option for defendants looking for help in dealing with the consequences of a costly default judgment. Before paying a default judgment, contact the Raleigh civil litigation attorneys of Maginnis Law for a free consultation. Our lawyers are experienced in arguing Rule 60(b) motions and can evaluate and discuss whether your case may prove successful.

As a small law firm, Maginnis Law is able to work under a variety of billing arrangements, including flat rate and hourly. We regularly represent clients in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Morrisville, Apex, Wake Forest, Clayton, and the rest of the Triangle. To speak with one of our civil litigation lawyers, contact us at 919.526.0450. You may also submit confidential email inquiries using our contact page.