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Can a defendant open a judgment by agreement which stipulated

that part of the debt...
Can a defendant open a judgment by agreement which stipulated that part of the debt would be accepted if paid in 90 days, and due to no fault of his own, the defendant could not meet the deadline, resulting in the plaintiff entering judgment for the full amount of the debt?
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Answered in 57 minutes by:
4/25/2013
Dimitry K., Esq.
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 41,221
Experience: Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.
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Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns. I am a licensed Pennsylvania professional and will do my best to try to help.

In this situation the breach by the defendant is really irrelevant to the underlying case. The courts (and the plaintiff) only need to go by two conditions:
1. What the agreement was between the parties AND
2. If the agreement was performed adequately or if it was breached.

The reason for the breach is immaterial, what governs are the conditions under which the agreement was made. If the agreement, for example, had no language pertaining to allowing more time due to specific facts that caused the defendant to miss the deadline, the contract is binding and no longer something that can be opened. While the defendant can try to get it re-heard, I see very few PA judges who would entertain this as a valid petition and would otherwise instead push to dismiss it.

Good luck.

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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Thank you for your answer, although I had hoped that I would be able to find some way to open this judgment. The judgment by agreement was to pay 12,000 of a 17,000 debt within 90 days. We applied for a reverse mortgage on our home so that we could pay the !2,000.00. The closing on the loan was delayed beyond the 90 day deadline due to no fault of our own - it had something to do with the lender's extensive requirements. The plaintiff agreed to one extension of time for 30 days and we were still not able to meet the extended deadline. The creditor went ahead and entered the judgment for the full amount of !7,000.00. I have not been able to find any PA cases that allowed opening of a judgment by agreement.. When we signed the judgment by agreement, We gave up substantial legal rights to go to trial, to challenge part of the debt based upon a statute of limitations (SOL) defense (ergo, the plaintiff's agreement to accept less than the full debt in the first place) .


 


Is there no basis for getting a reduction in the judgment, based upon the SOL??

Thank you for your follow-up.

You are most welcome, and I am truly sorry to hear that you are in this situation. I truly am sad to be the bearer of unwelcome news but the whole point of a judgment by agreement is that both parties agree to give up certain rights. The other party agreed to give up their claim to the remaining money if they obtained the judgment for the rest within a timely period, and you agreed to pay the funds but no longer be liable for the remaining amount so long as you execute the conditions. A judgment is no longer bound by the SOL--the judgment itself is what is binding. The only option is to have the other party agree to a reduction in the debt, something that I admit is highly unlikely, but it is really your only remaining option at this point.

Good luck.

Dimitry K., Esq.
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 41,221
Experience: Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Thank you for your advice. I have continued to do legal research on this matter and I think I have found a very small loophole in the law pertaining to consent judgments and/or confessed judgments. I have petitioned the Court for reconsideration of the judgment. The plaintiff waited almost 5 months past the original deadline to file judgment for the higher amount.. During that time I was proceeding with the loan application on the assumption that I would only be liable for $12,000.00. I have found a couple cases that are similar to mine in which the Court held that if a plaintiff delays in invoking a time limitation in a contract, that party may have waived the condition of timeliness and is therefore estopped from invoking the condition at a later point in time if the other party has changed her position to her detriment. It's the equitable doctrine of Waiver and Estoppel. This is my last straw. I'm hoping that the plaintiff would rather have $12,000.00 rather than go through a lengthy appeal process and run the risk of having the Court reduce the judgment . Do you think this is a good strategy?

Thank you for your follow-up.

That is a very good argument on waiver. My concern here would be that since that time was waived once in writing, it potentially maintained the right to pursue beyond that period since the other party is not legally required to file against you immediately upon breach, simply within the statutory period. I agree that it is a potential loophole, but check the cases that you filed to see if there was previous written modification of the waiver as was in your case because that would be the crux of the opponent's argument to your position. The estoppel argument would only work if you can show that the other party legitimately created an expectation that any reasonable person would find as waiving the past obligations. If that did not occur, the waiver argument is really fairly weak and likely not actionable.

Good luck.

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