When it becomes necessary to sue a supplier, a distributor, a designer, or another commercial contract partner, you probably have some general expectations. This includes facing vigorous opposition. So, you may wonder, what do you do if the entity you sued simply does… nothing? Fortunately, the law has a process for that but, like all other civil litigation procedures, it is vitally important you complete every step correctly. To that end, even when yours is a lawsuit in which the defendant is not participating, it is still extremely valuable to have a knowledgeable Atlanta commercial contracts lawyer on your side.
A contract dispute from here in Atlanta shows what we mean. An architectural designer, as part of its work erecting a canopy system at the Atlanta international airport, inked a deal with a supplier to purchase steel and other materials.
The supplier allegedly shipped non-conforming materials and also failed to pay all of its own suppliers and subcontractors as required by the agreement. Based on those breaches, the designer terminated the agreement and later sued.
Two months after the designer sued, the supplier answered the complaint and countersued. The supplier ran into problems, though. Their attorneys withdrew from the case in mid-November 2021. The judge gave the supplier 21 days to find new attorneys but court records showed that no new attorneys entered the case on the supplier’s behalf.
Without an attorney, the supplier could not proceed. Corporate entities generally may not represent themselves in a case. Although the law considers corporate entities to be legal “persons,” an individual officer, director, member, shareholder, or employee of an entity cannot litigate the company’s case unless that person is an attorney and is licensed in that jurisdiction.
After the 21 days elapsed, that created an opportunity for the designer, which it seized. It filed a motion asking the judge to enter a default judgment in its favor. Filing a motion for entry of a default judgment is the second part of the two-step process. Before asking the judge for entry of a default judgment, you generally will ask the court clerk to enter a default, which establishes that the opposing party is in default.
Getting a Proper Amount of Money Damages is Not Automatic
Also, truly winning your case is about more than just getting the default judgment; it’s also about getting an appropriate sum of damages. To get the compensation you need, you still have to give the court proper proof establishing the degree of harm that you suffered.
In the designer’s case, it had the necessary evidence to back up the $107,000 award it sought based on the supplier’s failure to pay suppliers and subcontractors, $42,000 in delay damages, $64,000 in damages incurred fixing paint defects in the non-conforming steel materials, and $125,000 in damages incurred fixing engineering/fabrication defects in the steel materials. All totaled, the designer’s compensatory damages were $339,000.
Establishing damages in a default case may not always require huge mountains of evidence. In the designer’s case, it established its entitlement to $339,000 in damages based in large part on a single declaration from the project manager who oversaw the canopy job.
Even a case where the other side failed to oppose your claims is not necessarily a “slam dunk.” To get an appropriate outcome, there’s still work to do, including establishing the harm you suffered so that the court awards a proper amount of damages. Whether your breach of contract case is a default action or is hotly contested, skilled legal representation can help you ensure you get a fair outcome. The experienced Atlanta commercial contract attorneys at Poole Huffman, LLC are here to help. Our knowledgeable attorneys have the experience and skills you need. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (404) 373-4008 to schedule your confidential consultation today.