The Appellate Group

Young v. Hagel

Young v. Hagel, 2020 UT App 100 (Harris, J.)

Civil Procedure

After years of vigorous child custody litigation, Young and Hagel mediated a new issue. After the mediation, Hagel’s counsel withdrew without a court order, incorrectly representing that no motions were pending before the court. Young’s counsel also withdrew; Young’s new counsel appeared and filed a notice for Hagel to appear or appoint new counsel. Hagel did not respond. Ultimately, the district court granted Young’s motion for default judgment. It denied Hagel’s motion to set aside the order under Utah R. Civ. P. 60(b). The Utah Court of Appeals reversed, holding:

  • The district court abused its discretion in denying Hagel’s rule 60(b) motion to set aside default judgment because the motion was timely filed, Hagel’s failure to respond to Young’s notice to appear or appoint was due to excusable neglect, and a failure to respond did not entitle Young to a meritorious default judgment in the first instance.
  • The district court erred when it found that Hagel was in default. A court should not infer that a newly pro se defendant who has vigorously litigated a case for years is in default merely because she has failed to respond within a 21-day window to a notice to appear or appoint counsel. A notice to appear or appoint is not necessarily a complaint for purposes of default.

Read the full court opinion