Superior Court of the Virgin Islands
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Rules Governing the
Superior Court of the Virgin Islands

Rule 50. Setting aside defaults or judgments; new trials

For good cause shown, the court, upon application and notice to the adverse party, may set aside an entry of default, judgment by default or judgment after trial or hearing. Rules 59 to 61, inclusive, of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure shall govern such applications.

Case Notes

Amount of damages

Evidence

Admission

Evidence (cont.)

Weight

Setting aside entry of default

Amount of damages

Where defendant in action for assault without any justification pointed a gun at plaintiff's head in broad daylight on a public street, jury's award of punitive damages of $4,500 was reasonable, since a jury understandably would be repulsed by such reckless and malicious conduct and would believe that the actor should be punished, and therefore, motion for remittitur would be denied. Bevans v. Triumpho, Terr. Ct. St. T. and St. J. 1980, 17 V.I. 144.

Evidence--Admission

If court erred in permitting objectionable testimony to be heard by jury, new trial would be warranted only if error was so fundamental that gross injustice resulted. Bevans v. Triumpho, Terr. Ct. St. T. and St. J. 1980, 17 V.I. 144.

Where evidence regarding racial epithets made by defendant at time of alleged assault, for which defendant was found liable and assessed nominal damages of $500 and punitive damages of $4,500, was admitted without objection or request by defendant; the evidence was heard only in isolated instances, and was not argued to the jury by counsel; the court specifically instructed the jury that neither prejudice nor sympathy for either party was to influence the jury verdict in any way; and there was ample other evidence before the jury to support the finding of liability for assault and the award of punitive damages, motion for new trial on ground that remarks were given undue weight by jury would be denied since error, if any, was not so fundamental that a gross injustice resulted. Bevans v. Triumpho, Terr. Ct. St. T. and St. J. 1980, 17 V.I. 144.

--Weight

In civil action for assault where trial was simple and facts were easily understood by jury, whose main function was merely to determine the veracity of witnesses, it would be error to disturb jury's finding of liability and grant a new trial simply because jury gave greater weight to testimony of plaintiff and his witnesses than to defendant's case. Bevans v. Triumpho, Terr. Ct. St. T. and St. J. 1980, 17 V.I. 144.

Setting aside entry of default

Where defendants, renters defaulting on lease, acted in good faith by entering negotiations and making partial payment toward settlement and although the parties disagree whether the resulting oral agreement called for the property owners to dismiss the lawsuit, the defendants' actions in not answering the complaint constituted excusable behavior based on the reasonableness of their belief that plaintiffs would dismiss the debt action; motion to vacate default judgment entered against defendants should have been granted. Deal Furn. & Appliances, Inc. v. Four Winds Plaza Partnership, D.C.V.I. 1997, 36 V.I. 151, 961 F. Supp. 117.

Renters' proffer of facts in its motion, copy of tendered check, and affidavit from participant in settlement negotiations, presented sufficient information for the court to be able to evaluate the merits of their defense; trial court should have scrutinized the defense, and should not have rejected it without any analysis; denial of motion to vacate default judgment based on finding that renters' defense lacked merit, was premature and constituted an abuse of discretion. Deal Furn. & Appliances, Inc. v. Four Winds Plaza Partnership, D.C.V.I. 1997, 36 V.I. 151, 961 F. Supp. 117.

Property owner failed to show that vacating the default judgment entered against renters who defaulted on lease would have subjected it to greater prejudice than that ordinarily experienced in the processing of a normal court docket; mere delay was never contemplated as a factor to be considered in determining prejudice; denial of the motion to vacate judgment was error. Deal Furn. & Appliances, Inc. v. Four Winds Plaza Partnership, D.C.V.I. 1997, 36 V.I. 151, 961 F. Supp. 117.

Although the showing of a meritorious defense is a prerequisite to setting aside an entry of default, a non-conclusory assertion of a meritorious defense in the proposed answer is sufficient and an affidavit or other medium of proof of such defense is not required. Sea Chest, Inc. v. Santa Cruz Shores and Spas, Inc., Terr. Ct. St. T. and St. J. 1979, 16 V.I. 557.

Where plaintiff would not be prejudiced by setting aside default and defendant made sufficient showing of meritorious defense, but defense counsel's showing of excusable neglect was inadequate (because the circumstances of delay were in control of the defendant itself), motion to set aside default and for leave to file an answer out of time would be granted upon submission of an affidavit of defendant showing excusable neglect in failing to communicate with counsel. Sea Chest, Inc. v. Santa Cruz Shores and Spas, Inc., Terr. Ct. St. T. and St. J. 1979, 16 V.I. 557.

Where notice given defendant of trial date was fatally defective, in that defendant was not given the hour of the hearing, and the hearing was not on the court calendar on the date it actually was heard, default judgment for plaintiff was void and subject to attack at any time, since there was excusable neglect for defendant's non-appearance at trial. Rubin v. Johns, Terr. Ct. St. C. 1985, 21 V.I. 525.

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