How long before a defendant can no longer re-open a small claims case in which a default judgment has been made?

UPDATED: Feb 25, 2011

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How long before a defendant can no longer re-open a small claims case in which a default judgment has been made?

I sued my landlord in small claims court and they did not show up in court to dispute the case, despite being fully aware of it. I was granted a default judgment of $5000, which they were notified of. They wanted to re-open the case, so instead we agreed on a $3000 settlement, which was never reported to the court. That was 8 months ago, and they still haven’t paid, despite many back and forth messages. My question is, how long before they can no longer re-open the case, so I can just nullify the settlement and get a court officer to collect the original $5000 default judgment?

Asked on February 25, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New York


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Landlord tenant disputes are a tricky minefield.  You need to understand that while the landlord may have defaulted, the landlord could have a viable excuse that could have led to the landlord filing a motion to re-open or re-hear the matter. If the judge allowed it, you would have to present your case again.  If you agreed to a $3,000.00 settlement, and if it was in writing, you need to be aware that the court could view it as an accord and satisfaction.  You essentially put aside the initial default order of $5,000.00 as consideration for him not motioning to re-open the case and to pay the $3,000.00.  If it was in writing and you conditioned the settlement and nullification of judgment if he paid, then you may be safe to enforce the $5,000.00.  If you didn't condition it, you may be only to really get a lien or garnishment on the $3,000.00. 

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