Civ Pro Practice Question 2

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Civil Procedure: Verdicts and Judgments

A farmer sued a chemical plant and a manufacturer in federal court alleging that they were liable to the farmer for damages caused to the farmer’s property by chemical emissions from their respective plants. The chemical plant answered the farmer’s complaint, denying that its plant emitted the chemical identified by the farmer and denying that the chemical was capable of producing the harm the farmer claimed to have suffered.

The manufacturer failed to appear or otherwise defend. The farmer then presented the appropriate affidavit to the court clerk to enter default against the non-appearing manufacturer. Two months later, the farmer applied to the court for a default judgment against the manufacturer.

Is the court likely to grant the farmer’s motion for default judgment against the manufacturer?

A: Yes, because courts may enter default judgments when parties fail to plead or otherwise defend and the default has been entered.

B: Yes, because the farmer provided the manufacturer with seven days’ advance notice of the hearing.

C: No, because the case against the chemical plant has not yet gone to trial.

D: No, because the fact finder might determine that the chemical plant alone caused the damage to the farmer’s property.

Answer and Explanation

A is correct. By not answering the farmer’s complaint, the manufacturer failed to appear and defend itself despite having the opportunity to do so. Therefore, upon the motion of the farmer, a default judgment is appropriate.

B is incorrect. Because the manufacturer never made an appearance, it is not entitled to any notice of the hearing on damages under FRCP 55(b)(2).

C is incorrect. A default judgment may be entered once a party fails to plead or otherwise defend, which may happen before the trial begins.

D is incorrect. A default judgment for the manufacturer’s failure to answer the complaint may be awarded to the farmer even if the chemical plant caused all the damage.

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