Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Coulas (Defendant), failed to appear in court claiming he had no notice that the trial date had been changed. The Defendant, Smith (Defendant), appealed the judgments entered against him at the trial.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Once an answer on the merits is filed and the case is at issue, a default judgment cannot be issued. If the defendant fails to appear at the trial, a judgment on the merits may be entered against him upon proper proof.
Issue. Whether a defendant, who has not defaulted in pleading, but fails to be present at trial, may have a judgment entered against him.
Held. Yes. A Defendant who has not failed to plead, yet fails to show up at trial, may not have a default judgment entered against him. Rather, a judgment that is based on the merits of the case as presented by the plaintiff, who is present at trial may be entered. Judgment affirmed.
Discussion. The court differentiates between a default judgment and a judgment that is entered in the defendant’s absence. In the former, the defendant does not partake in the pleadings process; in the latter, the defendant has pleaded. A default judgment may not be entered upon a party who has not evaded the pleadings process. A Defendant’s absence at trial does not warrant a judgment against him by default; a trial or hearing on the issues is necessary and the judgment that follows is based on the plaintiff’s ability to prove the ca