Does Vacation of a Default Judgement Automatically Grant a Party Leave to File An Answer Instanter ?
In Eady v. East Ohio Gas (May 10, 2000), Summit Cty. App. No. 19598, 2000 Ohio App, a motion for default judgment was filed after the defendant failed to file an answer to the complaint.
Six days later, the defendant filed a motion for leave to file answer instanter.
Thereafter, the trial court granted the default judgment and did not rule on the motion for leave to file. Subsequently, the defendant moved to set aside the default judgment, invoking Civ.R. 55(B) and 60(B).
The trial court granted defendant's motion, but again did not mention any ruling as to the motion for leave to file instanter or any indication that the attached answer had automatically been filed pursuant to the vacation of the default judgment.
Consequently, the trial court continued to view the complaint as unanswered and granted a second default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. In upholding the trial court's actions, the 9th Dist. held the following:
"An answer attached as an exhibit to a motion for leave to file instanter does not become operative as a pleading, absent an express statement by the trial court. Pollack v. Watts (Aug. 10, 1998), Fairfield App. No. 97CA0084, unreported, 1998 Ohio App.
A trial court may vacate a previous judgment for excusable neglect without granting a party's motion for leave to file an answer instanter.
The vacation of a judgment and the granting of a motion for leave to file are two separate concepts. As such, the vacation of a default judgment on the grounds of excusable neglect does not automatically grant a party leave to file an answer instanter." Eady, supra, 2000 Ohio App.
In a footnote, the court continued that, "this is not to say, however, that a trial court could not, in a single entry, vacate a default judgment and expressly grant such a motion." Eady, supra, n1.
Thus, the decision in Eady stands for the proposition that a trial court's vacation of a default judgment does not automatically transform a formerly filed answer instanter into an operative pleading without such expression by the trial court.
It is in the trial court's discretion to grant the pleading instanter or not. In Eady, supra, the trial court found that "an express statement granting the motion for leave to file is not in the record, and as such, the motion is presumed to have been overruled." Eady, supra, 2000 Ohio App.