Default judgment is a procedural process whereby a claimant in a claim can apply for judgment to be entered against a Defendant, regardless of the merits of its claim, if the Defendant has failed to acknowledge the claim against it. A defendant can acknowledge a claim against it by filing an acknowledgement of service or a defence.
A claimant making an application for default judgment will typically fail if a defendant has filed a defence. However, a recent case has demonstrated that a claimant can be successful in an application for default judgment even when a defendant has filed a defence, if the defence was filed late.
In Billington v Davies  EWHC 1919 (CH) the Defendant filed an acknowledgment of service. An acknowledgement of service is usually a short pro-forma document confirming the defendant's details and whether it intends to defence or admit the claim or part of it. A defence is usually due within 14 days of the filing of an acknowledgement of service, and for a default judgment application to success a defence must not have been filed. In Billington the Defendant failed to file a defence on time. The Claimant then made an application for default judgment, and the Defendant subsequently filed a (very late) defence, together with an application for an extension of time.
The court found that, despite the late filing of the defence, the claimant's application for default judgment would be successful. This decision is, strictly speaking, at odds with the requirement in the Civil Procedure Rules that default judgment will not be granted where a defence is filed. However, due the circumstances in Billington, the judge found that the filing of a defence several months after it was due was not sufficient to prevent the success of the application. The judge considered the black and white requirement in the CPR that the filing of a defence would bar an application, to be wrong, stating that the requirement was for a defence to be filed on time.
This case serves as a reminder to all litigants of the importance of adhering to court deadlines and the consequences that may arise as a result of failing to do so.
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