If you have been served with a complaint, do not ignore it! A default judgment may be entered against you for failure to respond.
In Massachusetts, failure to respond to a legal complaint can lead to the entry of a default against the defendant. Once the default is entered, the plaintiff can obtain a default judgment for damages and enforce it against the defendant. If the plaintiff is seeking a “sum certain,” or “a sum which can by computation be made certain,” the default judgment does not even have to go before a judge, but can be entered by a clerk. See Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure 55(b)(1)-(2).
However, “a default does not concede the amount of damages.” Johnny’s Oil Co., Inc. v. Eldayha, No. 11-P-1682, Nov. 8, 2012. In Johnny’s Oil, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals clarified what is required to prove a “sum certain,” reversing a clerk’s default judgment against a gas station owner for unpaid deliveries of gasoline and the purchase of a truck. The Court held that the plaintiff failed to establish a “sum certain” for damages.
The Court gave guidance to others, saying that those seeking a default judgment from a clerk to recover on a contractual agreement should include (a) a description and documentation of the contract; (b) an itemization of the goods and services delivered, supported by bills, invoices, and records of performance; and (c) verification of all allegations. See Johnny’s Oil. Where the damages claim involves equitable principles, as with detrimental reliance, the default judgment cannot be issued by a clerk, and must come from a judge under the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). Id.
Do not put off responding to a complaint. If you have questions about default judgments or how to respond to a complaint, call or contact Hutchins Law, P.C today.