How Do You Know If A Lawsuit Is Pending In Broward?
Answered By A Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer and An Expert In Civil Procedure
The answer here is straightforward. If you were sued in Broward, then go to the Broward County Clerk of the Circuit and County Court Official Website to perform a case search. Once you are there, you can search by your name, business name, and/or case number.
After finding your case, click on the case number to display the court docket. The court docket is the record of all of the documents (papers) filed in your case. Note: When you select a document it will only show you the first page of the document. You have to select “View All Pages” which is in the top left corner once you click on the document you want to view. Also, some documents may not be viewable. Those documents will either have a “lock” symbol or a red icon. Typically, family law cases, probate cases, guardianship cases, and other specific types of documents, are protected due to privacy issues.
If there is a case, and you weren’t aware of it, then you need to check to see if a verified return of service is included on the docket. If so, that means an officer of the court is swearing that you were served with the lawsuit. If the verified return of service is filed, and you still maintain that you were not served, or if you were served it was done so improperly, you need to move quickly to address the issue, especially if a default judgment was entered against you.
What Is Insufficient Service of Process?
The first issue to address when you discover that you were sued in Broward is to determine if service of process occurred and if so was it done correctly. Service of process is where a Sheriff or authorized process server hands you the lawsuit along with a court summons (in certain types of cases they can post the lawsuit and summons on your door). There are so many issues relating to service of process that we wrote an article about it, especially issues related to defendants intentionally avoiding service.
Note: Service of process is a critical element of any lawsuit because it relates to our fundamental due process rights (notice and the opportunity to be heard). In fact, if service isn’t performed correctly, it is grounds to dismiss a lawsuit and perhaps set aside a judgment.
Read: Insufficient Service of Process in Florida
Was There a Default Judgment Entered Against You?
Oftentimes, after performing a case search, a searcher finds out that a judgment has been entered against them. The good news is, the failure to comply with Florida’s service of process requirements means a Judge is without authority to enter a default. However, a default judgment may still be entered and is likely valid if the defendant had actual notice of the lawsuit and did not act timely.
Pursuant to rule 1.540, Fla. R. Civ. P, a default may be set aside for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most common reason justifying the setting aside of a default is “excusable neglect.” If a defendant has not filed or served any paper in the lawsuit within the time allowed after service of process, the Plaintiff can have the clerk enter a default against that Defendant. However, a default can be set aside if the Defendant can show the complaint was misplaced, it was sent to an insurance company to defend but the insurer failed to act timely and for many other reasons. There are literally hundreds of Florida cases on whether the facts justify setting aside a default judgment.
Note: It is very difficult to set aside a default judgment that is older than 1 year on the grounds of excusable neglect. The reason for this is that the court wants finality and they want to prevent a procrastinating defendant from impeding a plaintiff in the establishment of his or her rights.
How Do You Set Aside A Default Judgment?
A defendant seeking to set aside a default needs to file one or more affidavits attesting to the reason a response to the Complaint was not timely filed. Simultaneously, an answer to the Complaint providing a meritorious defense must be filed. Finally, a party must act with due diligence in filing a Motion to Set Aside a Default. Normally, upon learning of a default, Florida courts generally hold that action must be taken by a defaulted defendant within two weeks (if not earlier). However, the facts of each case are determinative as to whether a default will be set aside. As stated, if there is doubt, courts generally set aside defaults so controversies can be resolved on their merits.
Read: How To Set Aside A Judgment in Florida
Here’s What To Do If You Have A Lawsuit Pending Against You in Broward
The issues discussed above are just a few of the issues that you may encounter if you find out after the fact that a lawsuit is pending against you in Broward. Other issues include domesticating judgments, appeals as well as wage garnishments.
If you are faced with any of these situations, then a good piece of advice is to talk with an experienced civil trial lawyer as soon as possible, especially if a default judgment has been entered. Most civil trial lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in-person) to answer your questions and explain your options.
Also See: How to Answer a Lawsuit in Florida
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