Civ Pro 2 Notes 11/5/04


Resolution without trial


There are fewer and fewer actual trials, even though there are many, many more cases!The data that Fairman is showing us is just for federal trials.Most cases are state cases, though.And when we look at what happens in the states, the data is about the same.Lots of cases settle, around 70% of them.Rule 12 motions dispose of a certain number of cases.Default judgments can cause the end of suits.Summary judgment, dismissals, and ADR are other options.


Default judgments Ė Rule 55


Here are Paula and Darlene.Paula sues Darlene for negligence.Twenty days pass, but nothing happens.Can you ask for default judgment?One option is if you are asking for a sum certain amount.On the other hand, if itís not a sum certain, you must go before the court.Youíll have to prove the damages before the judge so that the judge can enter judgment for an amount.This isnít particularly cumbersome because thereís nobody on the other side.So in this example, itís a car wreck so we donít have a sum certain.Youíll have to go to the judge.What could Darlene do about this?Rule 54(c) says you can set aside a default judgment for good cause.This Rule uses Rule 60 as a standard for when a court will set aside a previous ruling.


Peralta v. Heights Medical Center


This is a Supreme Court case generated by the state of Texas.What happened?Peralta had an employee who got injured, went to the hospital, and was supposed to pay for the employeeís injuries.Peralta was served, but under Texas law, he claimed invalid service.Peralta chooses not to show up.Donít take a default judgment when you have property in the jurisdiction of the court!His stuff gets sold!He goes to court in an attempt to argue for a bill of review.You need three things: (1) a meritorious defense, (2) being prevented from raising the defense by the wrongful act of another party, and (3) the defaulting party had no fault.The courts reject the bill of review because there is no meritorious defense.That leads to the federal review that gets to the Supreme Court.


Justice White says that to have due process, you need notice that is reasonably designed to tell parties whatís up.But if Peralta has no meritorious defense, why isnít that just the end?The difficult thing is the question of whether there was notice.Peralta had every opportunity to respond to the suit outside of court.But he chose not to.This is a hard-line notice view!The reality is that Peralta had actual notice.But the Court doesnít care!What can the hospital do now?Can they still get Peralta?


If your suit gets involuntarily dismissed under Rule 41, you win.They canít file the lawsuit again.Itís a determination on the merits.Voluntary dismissal, on the other hand, is governed by Rule 41(a), and it provides for voluntary dismissals either by answer or agreement.


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