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Civil Procedure — default judgment — motions to reopen

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Civil Procedure — default judgment — motions to reopen

Where a defendant asserted no meritorious defense, his motion to reopen a default judgment was properly denied.

“Wells primarily argues that the district court abused its discretion because the motion set forth a meritorious defense: the transactions were authorized. We disagree. A meritorious defense need not, beyond a doubt, succeed in defeating a default judgment, but it must at least ‘raise[] a serious question regarding the propriety of a default judgment and . . . [be] supported by a developed legal and factual basis.’ Jones v. Phipps, 39 F.3d 158, 165 (7th Cir. 1994). In his motion to vacate the default judgment, Wells makes only a single conclusory statement that the transactions were authorized. We have consistently held that such a general denial of the complaint’s allegations, without any factual support, is insufficient to state a meritorious defense. E.g., Pretzel & Stouffer v. Imperial Adjusters, Inc., 28 F.3d 42, 46 (7th Cir. 1994) (‘[A] meritorious defense requires more than a “general denial” and “bare legal conclusions.”’); accord Stephenson v. El- Batrawi, 524 F.3d 907, 914 (8th Cir. 2008) (‘simple assertions unsupported by specific facts or evidence’ failed to establish meritorious defense); New York v. Green, 420 F.3d 99, 110 (2d Cir. 2005) (‘conclusory denials’ insufficient to raise meritorious defense). Moreover, as the district court correctly observed, the fact that the commissions charged to Wehrs’s account were reversed undercuts Wells’s contention that the transactions were authorized.”


11-3369 Wehrs v. Wells

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Lefkow, J., Kanne, J.

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