Somebody sued me for breach of contract. The case is in circuit court. The judge gave a trial date. However, plaintiff sent me an updated complaint copy after that. I thought it's just an update. I didn't do anything. After exactly 30 days, I got a motion notice that he filed against me for default decision. I am in the state of TN.

Motion date is after 2 days. What are my options?

1 - Should I submit a reply to motion or just go on motion date to verbally explain?

2 - What to do about the notice? Should I also prepare a reply to the updated complaint?

3 - Could court simply follow the law and give a decision in his favor as I didn't reply to him within 30 days?

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    With respect to 1, 2 & 3, you should hire a lawyer. – Dale M Sep 9 '19 at 21:23
  • The amount he sued me for is less than $1000. Lawyer would cost me more than the amount he sued me for. On more point I missed to add in the question is that he lost the case in small claim court before. – AJW Sep 9 '19 at 21:34
  • In that case, pay him. – Dale M Sep 9 '19 at 21:36
  • But he lying and have no proof. He is lying and saying things about "verbal contract" that never happened. That's why he lost in small claim court as well. If I was wrong then I wouldn't mind paying my hard cash money. But I cannot pay anyone for lying about something that never happened. – AJW Sep 9 '19 at 21:39
  • BTW, what can I do for missing a reply to his notice? Is there any grace period I can request or anything? – AJW Sep 9 '19 at 21:40

It appears from your post that (1) the plaintiff amended the complaint (i.e., what you think was "just an update"); (2) you did not know that you had a deadline to file responsive pleadings to that amended complaint; and (3) having missed your deadline, the plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment.

Your mention [in the comments] that the plaintiff already lost this case in small claims court suggests that the current complaint is his attempt to re-litigate matters (that is, a matter that is res judicata).

If this is so, you should file a response to that motion and your responsive pleadings. There you need to point out --and preferably attach evidence-- that the matter is indeed res judicata and that therefore the court should dismiss the case. This is not necessarily the only defense available to you in the pleadings you file but, without knowing the specifics of your matter, it is impossible to identify what else would be appropriate for you to argue.

You could just show up at the hearing for default judgment, although that is strongly discouraged. It is better that you file your response to the motion & pleadings ASAP. First, because the dynamics of the court hearing might prevent you from adequately presenting your arguments verbally (let alone having them properly assessed by the judge). And second, to ensure that the record of the case clearly reflects your arguments & evidence in the event that this goes to the appellate court.

At this point it seems obvious that you have little-to-no time to become acquainted with TN court rules, aka procedural law or rules of procedure. Same with legal theories, contract law, statutory law, and rules of evidence. But even if you are unable to search for records of other proceedings litigated in your court, you should at all times strive to present and prove your arguments in writing and verbally as clearly as possible so that a judge (assuming that he is not so sloppy or negligent) grasps the merits of your legal position.

  • If it were CA, res judica would not apply to an appeal from small claims. Without knowing TN law this answer is dangerous. "A small claims appeal is a "trial de novo" or "new trial." This means that the case is decided by a new judge from the beginning so you have to present your case all over again." from courts.ca.gov/1072.htm – George White Sep 10 '19 at 0:00
  • Thanks for your reply. It's not a new case. It's an appeal to small claim court decision. Is it still the matter of res judicata? – AJW Sep 10 '19 at 3:00
  • @GeorgeWhite That site explains the notion of appealing a small claims ruling, which is different than filing elsewhere a new & updated complaint on a controversy that has already been adjudged in small claims. Moreover, the explanation in that website does not constitute case law. By contrast, Allstate Ins. Co. v. Mel Rapton, Inc., 77 Cal.App. 4th 901 reflects that res judicata certainly applies to CA small claims rulings. I see no case law reflecting that this would be any different in Tennessee courts. – Iñaki Viggers Sep 10 '19 at 10:19
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    the Allstate case was an attempt at a completely new case after a small claims case was decided. That is not the same as an appeal of the small claims case which is, in CA, de novo. – George White Sep 10 '19 at 17:14
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    Thanks a lot!!! you helped a lot. Submitting a belated answer was better than not answering. Judge dismissed the motion and set the trial date. For others, judges are not bad, they are also humans, they will understand. So better submit an answer even if you are late. – AJW Sep 13 '19 at 15:13

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