Some consumers are shocked when they find out that a court has issued a Judgment against them. This can happen when a consumer was never formally notified of the lawsuit by a process server. Then, when they apply for credit, such as for a home loan or car loan, they are surprised to be declined because of the unknown Judgment.
Under Florida law, this does not necessarily mean you have no further options or that you have to pay the entire judgment. There are some circumstances that allow you to ask the Court to vacate the judgment, or have it set aside. This is because Florida law has a strong public policy favoring the resolution of cases in open court, rather than one party winning on a technicality. There are generally two categories of cases where a judgment can be reversed, each with its own set of deadlines.
For the first category, there is generally a time limit of one year. If less than one year has passed since judgment was entered against you, you may be eligible to get it set aside on any of the following grounds: mistake, inadvertence, surprise, excusable neglect, fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct of the party who obtained the judgment against you. For some of these, you must also be able to demonstrate that you had a “meritorious defense”. This simply means that you had a defense that you could have raised that could have made a difference in the outcome.
For the second category, there is no time limit for bringing the motion to vacate the judgment or have it set aside. This category includes cases where the judgment is void. Void judgments include those where the person being sued was not given the appropriate notice of the lawsuit or a reasonable opportunity to defend against the lawsuit. There is no time limit for such judgments, because Florida law considers such judgments to be invalid and not legally binding.
If you have a judgment against you that you did not know about, contact a lawyer promptly to determine your legal rights. If you live in (or the Judgment was entered in a court in) Seminole County, Orange County, Volusia County, Lake County or Brevard County, please feel free to call us toll-free at 1-888-834-5297 for a free consultation to determine your legal options.