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Clinton Loses Lawsuit by Default

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton is alleged to be in default in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a family member of one of the individuals killed in the 2012 Benghazi attack. The suit was filed by Charles Woods and Patricia Smith, the latter being the mother of Sean Smith (who was killed when the U.S. embassy compound was attacked in 2012). The suit alleges that Mrs. Clinton’s negligent acts – more specifically her use of a private e-mail server – directly led to Sean Smith’s death. According to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mrs. Clinton was served with notice of the lawsuit and given an opportunity to respond but failed to do so within the allotted time.

What “Default” Really Means

Let us leave the merits of the wrongful death lawsuit for a moment. Being found to be in default in a civil lawsuit is a serious predicament for either party. A party may be declared to be in “default” if:

The party has failed to respond to an initial complaint or petition within the allotted time;
The party has failed to appear in court despite having received notice of a hearing (or despite notice having been given in a manner that is reasonably calculated to provide the party with actual notice, such as publication of the hearing date and time in a local newspaper);
The party files a claim or counterclaim but then fails to prosecute that claim.

Being in “default” can lead to a court entering a default judgment. A default judgment occurs when a court considers only the allegations and assertions of the non-defaulting party, finds that party is entitled to legal relief based upon those allegations and assertions, and accordingly enters a judgment in that party’s favor. Assuming that the underlying wrongful death lawsuit against Mrs. Clinton is valid and jurisdictional requirements have been met, a default judgment would mean that a judgment would be entered against Mrs. Clinton and the plaintiffs would receive the relief and/or compensation they requested. (If a default judgment is entered against a plaintiff, any counterclaims made by the defendant are typically granted and the plaintiff’s case dismissed.)

Are You in Default? Take Immediate Action

Having a default judgment entered against you because you failed to respond to a summons or did not file an answer with the court in time is like a baseball game in which only one team takes the field. Once a court finds you to be in default and enters a judgment against you, it can be difficult to undo. A court can vacate a default judgment and allow the case to proceed, but only if you act quickly and if you satisfactorily explain to the court why the default occurred.

If you have received notice that you are in default or that a default judgment has been entered against you, contact the California catastrophic injury lawyers of Heiting & Irwin right away. You may be able to have the judgment vacated. Call our Riverside firm at (951) 682-6400 or contact us online.


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