Jackson v. Hooker, 397 Ill.App.3d 614 (1st Dist. 2010) is dated but relevant for its interesting procedural history and nuanced discussion of appellate procedure, the difference between default orders and default (money) judgments and the appropriate time to vacate a dismissal for want of prosecution (“DWP”).
After obtaining an order of default against the defendant, the plaintiff didn’t show up for the prove-up hearing and the case was dismissed for want of prosecution (“DWP’d”). Four months later, the plaintiff moved to vacate the DWP. The trial court denied the motion and granted the plaintiff leave to file a Section 2-1401 petition to vacate the DWP. Plaintiff did so and the court granted the motion and reinstated the default.
Plaintiff later obtained a $700,000 money judgment after a prove-up hearing. This time, the defendant moved to vacate the judgment. The trial court denied the motion for failure to comply with Section 2-1401. Defendant appealed.
Reversing the default judgment, the trial court first focused on the nature of DWPs and when and how to vacate them. The guideposts:
– When a case is DWPd, a plaintiff has one year (or within the remaining limitations period) to file a new action under Code Section 13-217 (735 ILCS 5/13-217);
– A DWP order only becomes final and appealable when the one-year refiling period lapses. Until that one-year time period expires, the DWP isn’t a final order and can’t be appealed;
– In addition, the one-year period doesn’t start running until after a court rules on a motion to vacate a DWP. (For example: if a case is DWP’d on January 1, 2015, the plaintiff has through January 1, 2016 to refile the case. If the DWP is vacated on June 1, 2015, the plaintiff has one year – through June 1, 2016 – to refile.);
– Code Section 2-1301 (735 ILCS 5/2-1301) allows a court to set aside any (non-final) default order at any time or to set aside a final judgment within 30 days of the judgment’s entry;
– After 30 days from the judgment date, the more stringent Section 2-1401 standards apply (735 ILCS 5/2-1401). Section 2-1401 applies to judgments more than 30 days but less than 2 years old;
– A default order (an “order of default”) is simply a non-final order that prevents the defaulting party from making additional defenses but doesn’t determine any rights or remedies;
– A default judgment is the specific act that ends the litigation and finally decides the dispute;
– A default judgment has two elements: (1) a finding of the issues for the plaintiff; and (2) an assessment of damages.
Here, Since the one-year refiling period hadn’t expired when the plaintiff sought to vacate the DWP, the motion was timely. As a result, Section 2-1401 didn’t apply and the plaintiff didn’t have to show due diligence or a meritorious defense.
The court also held that Section 2-1401 also didn’t apply to the defendant’s motion to vacate the default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. A default order entered in October 2007 but the default judgment didn’t enter until June 2008. Since the defendant filed his motion to vacate the default judgment within 30 days of June 2008, the more relaxed standards of Section 2-1301 applied. ¶ 9; also see (here)
The case contains some good procedural reminders. Specifically, an order of default differs qualitatively from a default judgment. The latter assigns a dollar value to the plaintiff while a default order doesn’t award any monetary relief.
The case also stresses that a dismissal for want of prosecution isn’t a final (and therefore appealable) order until one-year elapses from (a) the date of the dismissal or (b) from the date a motion to vacate the DWP is denied.
Lastly, this case reaffirms the key differences between motions to vacate judgments before (Section 2-1301 motions) and after (Section 2-1401 motions) 30 days.