I'm a servicemember and I'm being sued. What can I do if I can't make it to court to defend myself or a default judgment is entered because I didn't appear in court?
If you are sued while a servicemember on active duty, you have certain legal protections under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
These protections include protections from a default judgment in a civil action. A default judgment is a court order in favor of the party or “plaintiff” suing you when you did not appear or defend yourself against the lawsuit. Some of your rights under the SCRA include:
- Before the court can sign or enter a default judgment, the party suing you must file an affidavit with the court stating whether or not you are in active military service, and provide facts in support of that statement. If the party suing you is unable to determine whether you are in active military service, the affidavit must state that fact.
- If you are in the military and have not appeared in a case against you, the court may not enter a default judgment until it appoints an attorney to represent you.
- The court also has to allow for a stay of proceedings for at least 90 days if certain conditions are met.
If a default judgment is entered against you during your military service or within 60 days after the end of your service, you may be able to have the judgment reopened. You may have important rights that need to be acted on quickly, so if you are notified of a lawsuit, you should immediately contact your local JAG office.
If you have an issue with a consumer financial product or service, you can also submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling 855-411-CFPB (2372). We’ll forward your complaint to the company and work to get a response from them.