July 5, 2018
The two most basic elements of due process are notice and a hearing. A court action without notice would violate due process. Bresky Law recently secured reversals of two substantial final judgments that had been entered against our clients without notice of their trial dates.
The case started when three plaintiffs filed three separate lawsuits against an individual and his limited liability company. The individual defendant and the company both retained the same defense counsel in all three cases. Eventually, defense counsel filed motions to withdraw in each case, which the trial court granted. In those orders granting withdrawal, the trial court relieved defense counsel of any further responsibility of representing the Defendants.
The withdrawal orders required that all future notices, pleadings, and orders must be mailed to the Defendants at their designated address until they obtain new counsel. However, the Defendants never retained new trial counsel after the court granted the motions to withdraw. Thus, all notices and orders should have gone to the pro seDefendants.
The court entered orders setting trials in the three cases. In two of the cases, the scheduling orders were served upon the Defendants’ former counsel after the court had granted the withdrawals. None of the orders were served upon the Defendants themselves.
The Defendants were absent from the three trials because they were unaware that any trials had been set. The juries found in favor of the Plaintiffs and awarded them over two million dollars in total. The trial court entered final judgments in accordance with the jury verdicts. After the final judgments were rendered, the Defendants became aware that the trials had taken place in their absence.
The Defendants retained our firm to represent them in appeals from the final judgments. We argued that our clients’ due process rights were abridged because they never received notice of the trial dates, resulting in the denial of an opportunity to be heard or assert a defense, which should make the judgments void for lack of notice.
As to the cases where the notices of trial were served upon the former counsel after the orders granting withdrawal, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the final judgments and remanded for further proceedings because our clients’ due process rights were violated. The appellate court explained that a final judgment is void if a party was not provided notice of the hearing producing the judgment.
Bresky Law was pleased to help our clients achieve justice through the appellate court’s decision to reverse the final judgments where they had not received any notice of trial.