What Were They Thinking? Even the least experienced Massachusetts lawyer knows that when an answer to a lawsuit is not filed within the requisite 20 days and a default judgment is issued, the default is easily set aside as a matter of course based on even the flimsiest excuse. And, if the answer is filed only one day late professional courtesy mandates that the plaintiff permit the defendant to file late.
Apparently some lawyers in a large Boston law firm (unidentified) never got this message: they refused to agree to set aside a default under these circumstances, forcing the defendant (who filed his answer one day late) to file a motion to remove the default. After reviewing the law and (predictably) setting aside the default, Superior Court Judge Mitchell Sikora slammed the plaintiff’s lawyers hard:
Beyond the letter and purpose of the legal standards, conscientious judges and attorneys attempt to implement our litigation system with reasonable efficiency, civility, and common sense. This episode illustrates an egregious breach of those professional and cultural values. Counsel for Perrina Construction Company, a large Boston firm, has engaged in a mean-spirited and wasteful tactic. It has wasted the time and effort of an opposing attorney practicing in a small office. It has wasted the time and effort of the Superior Court. If one were to dramatize the public’s worst image of the contemporary litigator, it would employ the present scenario in which a large firm procures an instantaneous default and then stonewalls against its removal in utter disregard of the letter and purpose of the governing legal standards. The performance of the Perrina attorneys would be rich grist for the mill of a contemporary Dickens.
REMEDIAL ORDER FOR SANCTIONS
This cynical shenanigan will exact a price from its practitioners. The court will entertain a motion for an award of fees and costs from attorney Murphy. He will file and serve that application, supported by a verified itemization of the fees and costs, within ten days of the entry of the present Ruling and Order. From the date of service, counsel for Perrina Construction will have seven days for filing and service of any opposing papers.
The court will conduct a hearing upon that application on March 15, 2006. Attorney Murphy will attend. The court orders all three attorneys whose names appear on Perrina Construction Company’s opposition to the removal of default to attend that hearing. Attendance is not optional. All three attorneys shall attend.
Here is a link to the full case [link]