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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Effect of a Default Judgement on Future Litigation (TransDulles Center v. Dr. Yash Sharma (1996))

Facts
Landlord obtained a default judgment in the General District Court in an unlawful detainer action. Tenant was personally served but did not appear at court. Default judgment was entered and landlord's witness presented evidence establishing a 3-month arrearage in rent, attorney's fees and costs. Even though the tenant was evicted pursuant to the unlawful detainer action, Tenant did pay the judgment amount.

Over a year later the Landlord again sued the Tenant for continuing rents accrued after the default judgment. The Tenant in this new case sought to assert defenses in order to deny liability.

Court Ruling
The issue of whether rent was owed had already been litigated, even though it was done by a default judgment. The Tenant cannot now deny liability.

Lease Drafting Tips
Permit the Landlord to seek continuing rents even after judgment or termination of the lease.

Action Advice
(1) File unlawful detainers in the General District Court, not the Circuit Court (2) Obtain personal service on the Tenant (3) Always present proof at court by a witness, not just by affidavit (4) Object to any contest of liability when seeking additional rental amounts at a later lawsuit.

The above is not meant to replace legal counsel. If you'd like to speak to an attorney, please contact Gross & Romanick directly by calling 703-273-1400 or by filling out the online Information Request Form.