If you have served a summons and complaint and the defendant has not answered, don’t get too excited. Attorneys have a duty—an ethical duty, and a statutory duty—to warn opposing counsel before requesting default.
But the plaintiff’s attorney in Shapell Socal Rental Properties, LLC v. Chico’s Fas, Inc. (D4d3 Oct. 17, 2022 no. G060411) ___ Cal.Rptr.3d ___ didn’t do that. Far from it. Instead, counsel “calculated to keep [the defendant] in the dark” to obtain a default judgment.
In a published opinion, the Court of Appeal reversed the order refusing to set aside the default judgment, and pointedly noted counsel’s ethical shortcomings in the trial court. The Court of Appeal said the trial court’s failure to grant the motion to set aside the default was “inexplicable,” and on remand, disqualified the trial judge from hearing the case further.
The court also was unhappy with appellate counsel for refusing to acknowledge the ethical shortcomings below.
Driving the dagger even deeper into the landlord, the court noted that the tenant may seek an award of restitution against the landlord. This could include restoring possession to the tenant-appellant, or awarding money damages.
So bookmark Shapell Socal and consider restitutionary remedies if you are an appellant.