Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment In Alabama

On an appeal from an order denying a motion to set aside a default judgment, review is confined to determining whether the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to set aside the default judgment. Kirtland v. Fort Morgan Auth. Sewer Serv., Inc., 524 So. 2d 600, 603 (Ala. 1988). When considering a motion to set aside a default judgment, a trial court has broad discretion. Kirtland, 524 So. 2d at 604. However, that discretion requires the trial court to balance two competing policy interests associated with default judgments: judicial economy and a litigant's right to defend on the merits. 524 So. 2d at 604. These interests must be balanced under the process established in Kirtland. In Ex parte Gilliam, 720 So. 2d 902, 905 (Ala. 1998), this Court summarized the requirements of Kirtland: "The Kirtland rule mandates that we begin with the presumption that a court should decide a case on the merits whenever it is practicable to do so. Kirtland, 524 So. 2d at 604. This presumption exists because the right to have a trial on the merits outweighs the need for judicial economy. Id. Second, the trial court must apply a three-factor analysis in deciding whether to grant a motion to set aside a default judgment. These factors are: (1) whether the defendant has a meritorious defense; (2) whether the plaintiff will be unfairly prejudiced if the default judgment is set aside; (3) whether the default judgment was a result of the defendant's own culpable conduct.' Id. at 605."