Standards for Vacating a Default Judgment

Motions to open default judgments and allow a defendant to appear and defend are addressed to the sound discretion of the Court. In the exercise of that discretion, real doubts are usually resolved in favor of the application to open the default judgment. Kaiser-Frazer Corp. v. Eaton, Del. Supr., 236, 48 Del. 236, 9 Terry 236, 101 A.2d 345, 353 (1953). "Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the petitioner because of the sound public policy favoring determination of actions on the merits." Tozer v. Charles A. Krause Milling Co., 3 Cir., 189 F.2d 242, 245 (1951). Defendant seeks to set aside the default judgment in accordance with CCP Civ.Rule 60(b)(1) and (6). The relevant provisions of Rule 60(b) provide: On motion and upon such terms as are just, the Court may relieve a party or a party's legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) Mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect; ... or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment. The standards for vacating a default judgment are set forth in Keith v. Melvin L. Joseph Constar. Co., Del. Super., 451 A.2d 842, 846 (1982). With reference to the Rule 60(b)(1) requirement of "excusable neglect", the Court must first determine whether the conduct of the moving party was the conduct of a reasonably prudent person, citing Cohen v. Brandywine Raceway Association, Del. Super., 238 A.2d 320 (1968). "Only where the conduct can be so characterized, and the moving party also establishes: the possibility of a meritorious defense, no substantial prejudice to the non-moving party, will the Court grant the motion to vacate pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1). Battaglia v. Wilmington Sav. Fund Soc., Del. Super., 379 A.2d 1132 (1977)."