The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the court should not have considered issues of liability because defendant had defaulted and thereby admitted liability:
In this action, inter alia, to recover damages for personal injuries, the defendant failed to appear or answer the complaint. In an order … , the Supreme Court granted the plaintiff’s unopposed motion for leave to enter a default judgment against the defendant and directed an inquest on the issue of damages. After conducting the inquest, the court … determined that the plaintiff had failed to establish, prima facie, that the defendant was negligent and that her negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injuries, and thereupon, sua sponte, directed the dismissal of the complaint.
By defaulting, the defendant admitted “all traversable allegations in the complaint, including the basic allegation of liability” … . As such, the sole issue to be determined at the inquest was the extent of the damages sustained by the plaintiff, and the Supreme Court should not have considered issues of liability … . Arluck v Brezinska, 2020 NY Slip Op 00839, Second Dept 2-5-20