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Law School Case Brief

State Farm Life Ins. Co. v. Mosharaf - 794 S.W.2d 578 (Tex. App. 1990)

Rule:

A default judgment should be set aside and a new trial ordered in any case in which the failure of the defendant to answer before judgment was not intentional, or the result of conscious indifference on his part, but was due to mistake or accident; provided the motion sets up a meritorious defense and is filed at a time when the granting thereof will occasion no delay or otherwise work an injury to the plaintiff.

Facts:

Plaintiffs, Ferial Mosharaf and Narjes Vahdati, rented an apartment unit in a building in Houston, Texas, which was owned by defendant State Farm Life Insurance Company (State Farm), as part of their investment group. The renters filed suit on July 27, 1988, against defendant Sykes Roofing & Contracting Company (Sykes Roofing) and State Farm, alleging property damage, emotional distress, and medical expenses incurred as a result of a fire that plaintiff rents alleged occurred after State Farm hired Sykes Roofing to repair the apartment building's roof, and that a roofer's torch ignited roofing materials on the building and "burned it completely." A default judgment was issued against defendant State Farm, which sought review of the default judgment entered against it and the denial of its motion for a new trial.

Issue:

Was the default judgment entered against the apartment building owners proper?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The appellate court held that State Farm has successfully met all three of the criteria for setting aside a default judgment. The court stated that a default judgment should be set aside if a defendant's failure to file an answer before judgment was not intentional, or the result of conscious indifference but due to mistake or accident; the motion set up a meritorious defense and the granting of the motion would not occasion a delay or work an injury to plaintiff renters.

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