California Code of Civil Procedure Section 473(D) - Interpretation

In Lee v. An (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 558, the defendant moved under Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (d) to set aside a default judgment entered after the trial court struck her answer and entered her default as a sanction for her failure to appear at a case management conference. Relying on Sole Energy Co. v. Hodges (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 199, the defendant argued the default and default judgment were void, not voidable, because the trial court did not give her notice it was considering imposition of terminating sanctions. (Lee v. An, at pp. 561, 566.) The Court of Appeal, affirming, concluded the default and default judgment were voidable because "the court had fundamental jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter, but acted in excess of its jurisdiction by imposing terminating sanctions without adequate prior notice." (Id. at p. 565.) The Court of Appeal accurately explained the meaning of Sole Energy: "Appellant relies on Sole Energy ... , in which the court held that orders imposing terminating sanctions for discovery violations without adequate prior notice were void. But no issue was raised in Sole about the timeliness of the motions for relief from the invalid orders. In using the term 'void,' the court in Sole did not have to distinguish void or voidable orders for the purpose of deciding whether relief could be sought after the six-month period in Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (b)." (Lee v. An, at p. 566.)