2022 Brings Louisiana New Default Laws and Additional Time to Answer in State Court
This year brings change to default laws and the time within which responsive pleadings must be filed. Effective January 1, 2022, almost everything you may know about answering a petition and securing a default judgment in Louisiana state, parish, city, and justice of the peace courts needs to be updated. The default process has been streamlined, but there are new notice requirements to keep in mind.
There are no longer preliminary defaults and the new law requires written notice of plaintiff's intent to secure a default at least seven days prior to a default judgment in some cases unless notice is waived. The notice provisions discussed below and others now in place could trip up unwary plaintiff's counsel.
- If a party has made an appearance, plaintiff must first give the party notice that he/she intends to take a default by certified mail at least seven days before a default judgment may be obtained.
- If an attorney contacts plaintiff's counsel in writing about the suit after it has been filed and no responsive pleadings have been filed, plaintiff must give the attorney notice of his/her intent to take a default judgment by certified mail at least seven days before a default judgment may be rendered.
- In tort cases where defendant has not made an appearance and an attorney has not contacted plaintiff's counsel about the suit in writing, written notice of plaintiff's intent to take a default judgment must be sent by regular mail to the address where service was obtained on the defendant at least seven days before a default judgment can be entered.
- In non-tort suits, suits where a party has not made an appearance, suits in which an attorney has not contacted plaintiff's counsel in writing about the suit after it was filed, and/or when notice has been waived, written notice of plaintiff's intent to secure a default judgment may not be required prior to a default judgment being entered.
In addition to delays resulting from compliance with the new notice requirements, there are other unchanged laws that may further delay the default process.
- In contract disputes, suits on open account, suits over promissory notes, and other conventional obligations where money is due, the clerk of court must certify that no answer has been filed prior to the entry of a default judgment.
- A default judgment cannot be rendered until 30 days after an affidavit of proof of service on the defendant has been filed into the record.
The Louisiana Legislature also recently extended the deadline for responsive pleadings to service of a citation. Effective January 1, 2022, a defendant in state court has 21 days (previously 15 days) to answer. If plaintiff serves written discovery in connection with the suit, a defendant will have 30 days to respond to the citation. This revision to Article 1001 La.C.C.P. also extends the time within which a defendant must file an answer to 15 days (previously 10 days) after an exception is overruled or referred to the merits or 15 days (previously 10 days) after service of an amended petition when an exception is sustained and an amendment is ordered.
Why Is This Important?
1. The process of securing a default judgment in Louisiana has changed substantially;
2. A defendant in state court has more time to answer;
3. Being aware of and understanding the impact of these changes will allow a litigant to more efficiently navigate the new default judgment process; and
4. These amendments could provide a litigant seeking to have a default judgment nullified a basis to appeal that did not previously exist.