The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiffs’ motion to for leave to file a default judgment should have been granted and defendant’s cross-motion to compel the acceptance of a late answer should have been denied:
To defeat the plaintiffs’ facially adequate CPLR 3215 motion and be relieved of its default in answering the complaint, the defendant had to show either that it did not default, or that it had a reasonable excuse for its default and a potentially meritorious defense to the action … . In order to compel the plaintiffs to accept service of its untimely answer, the defendant also had to provide a reasonable excuse for the delay in answering and demonstrate a potentially meritorious defense to the action (see CPLR 3012[d]… . “[S]uccessful opposition to a CPLR 3215 motion for leave to enter a default judgment requires the same showing as an affirmative motion for leave to extend the time to answer” … .
The Supreme Court improvidently exercised its discretion in granting the defendant’s cross motion to compel the acceptance of its late answer, as the defendant did not offer a reasonable excuse for its failure to serve a timely answer in this action. The defendant, through an affidavit of its paralegal manager in its Massachusetts office, acknowledged that it received the complaint as of November 3, 2015, but blamed its failure to answer on a clerical error in its Mitchel Field, New York, office, which resulted in the complaint never being assigned to a claims handler. The affidavit of the defendant’s paralegal manager failed to provide any details surrounding the bare claim that a clerical error, which purportedly occurred in an office in which she did not work, caused the failure of the defendant to timely answer … . Moreover, the paralegal manager did not address why the defendant did not take any action upon being served with the plaintiffs’ initial motion for leave to enter a default judgment against it or the resulting court order …. .
Since the defendant failed to provide a reasonable excuse for its failure to timely serve an answer, it is unnecessary to consider whether it demonstrated the existence of a potentially meritorious defense … . Clarke v Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 2017 NY Slip Op 04250, 2nd Dept 5-31-17
CIVIL PROCEDURE (DEFAULT JUDGMENT, DEFENDANT DID NOT DEMONSTRATE AN ADEQUATE EXCUSE FOR FAILURE TO ANSWER THE COMPLAINT, CRITERIA EXPLAINED, MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A DEFAULT JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED)/DEFAULT JUDGMENT (CIVIL PROCEDURE, DEFENDANT DID NOT DEMONSTRATE AN ADEQUATE EXCUSE FOR FAILURE TO ANSWER THE COMPLAINT, CRITERIA EXPLAINED, MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A DEFAULT JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED)