Until 2003, there was no clear rule on what notice of entry of judgment constituted. Indeed, in Palmer v.GTE California Inc. (2003) 30 Cal.4th 1265, the Supreme Court finally clarified what constitutes written notice. Palmer held that a party may satisfy the statutory “written notice of entry of judgment” requirement by serving a copy of the file-stamped judgment. The party need not serve a separate document titled “Notice of Entry of Judgment.”
In Palmer, a GTE employee won a $790,000.00 jury verdict for false imprisonment and gender harassment in the workplace. The plaintiff’s attorney mailed a conformed copy of the judgment to GTE’s attorney on Feb. 26, 1999. When told by GTE’s counsel and the court clerk that mailing a conformed judgment did not satisfy the notice requirements of CCP Section 664, plaintiff’s counsel served a separate document titled “Notice of Entry of Judgment” attaching a copy of the judgment and proof of the February 26 service. The trial court granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or when the judge enters a verdict notwithstanding the jury finding
The Supreme Court granted review to resolve whether a party’s service of a file-stamped copy of a judgment sufficed to trigger the post-trial motion jurisdictional time frames. The Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting GTE’s argument that only serving and filing a document titled “Notice of Entry of Judgment” triggered the jurisdictional time. The court held that the post-trial motion deadlines begin on the date that the moving party is served with the notice of entry of judgment, which needs not be a separate document titled “Notice of Entry of Judgment.” Instead, service by a party of a file-stamped judgment suffices (where filing is synonymous with entry, which is true in nearly every California County). Moreover, no document need be filed with the trial court. Thus, service of a conformed judgment alone can trigger jurisdictional deadlines, including the 60 day period for filing an appeal.
So how does this affect an enforcement of judgment attorney? From a post-judgment standpoint, particularly as it relates to default judgments, making sure the debtor gets notice of entry of judgment is an important last step to the process because it can start the clock ticking for any later attacks on the default judgment. For example, under CCP Section 473.5, a motion to vacate the default judgment must be filed the earlier of two years after entry of a default judgment or 180 days after service of a written notice that the default or default judgment has been entered. Good practice dictates sending a written notice of entry of the default judgment or sending a file stamped copy of the default judgment with a proof of service. Judicial Council Forms also has an optional form for notice of entry of judgment. Additionally, it is wise to do a post office verification of the address at the time of the notice of entry of judgment to confirm service of that address by mail as good for the defendant(s). A motion to vacate a default judgment often come years later and it is useful to have a post office verification showing that the address where you served the notice of entry of the default judgment was a good mailing address for service of the defendant and could help show that the motion to vacate was untimely under the 180 day period.
For more information on the debt collection process, contact attorney Ronald P. Slates today.