PALM BEACH COUNTY — A subcontracted worker in Florida lost his appeal in a default that was entered against him, according to an opinion by the 4th District Court of Appeal.
The appeals court agreed with a lower court’s decision to enter a default judgment against Eulogio Lisca after he failed to respond to a counterclaim. Lisca had worked as a subcontractor for Florida Atlantic Construction (FAC) and was allegedly injured on the job. He then filed a personal injury lawsuit against FAC, the general contractor.
In 2010, FAC filed a motion for final summary judgment, arguing that it was allowed protection against the worker’s claim because he was "not merely a 'materialman.'” The lower court denied that motion, so FAC filed another in 2013. This motion claimed that Lisca signed a waiver that relieved FAC of liability. It subsequently filed a counterclaim against Lisca for declaratory relief, court records state. It used the same reasoning for the first motion. The court then moved to give Lisca 20 days to respond to the counterclaim.
Lisca asked for an extension, which the court allowed. But Lisca then asked the court to throw out FAC’s counterclaim, arguing that the organization did it in an “untimely” manner. Lisca said the court had already dismissed FAC’s first motion. Still, on the date of the hearing for the motion to dismiss, Lisca’s legal team did not show up. The court subsequently denied his motion for dismissal and gave him 10 days to respond to FAC’s counterclaim.
Lisca filed for another extension of time, which was granted. Then in March 2014, his attorney then filed an emergency motion to continue for medical reasons. A month later, on April 17, the attorney filed yet another extsion to respond to the counterclaim. On April 29, FAC moved for default. It said that Lisca did not give a proper answer to FAC’s counterclaim nearly eight months after the first order. Lisca filed a “motion to strike” as well as sanctions and a continuance.
In the appeal, Lisca said the court should not have entered the default because his request for more time to respond to the counterclaim was still pending. He also said that the court erred when it granted a default after his failure “to plead or otherwise defend,” considering he said he responded to the counterclaim. When it was denied, he requested many extensions of time for a proper response.
Still, the appeals court agreed with the lower court because the appellant did not file an answer to the counterclaim in more than a year. Lisca also proved that he received enough notice of FAC’s move for default before he failed to respond to the default. The appeals court also considered that the trial court better understood the details and history of the case and therefore said it “cannot say that the court abused its discretion when it entered a default against appellant,” as well as its move to dismiss his request to vacate the default.
Considering this, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s decision.