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Setting Aside A Small Claims Default Judgment

Learn what you can do if a default judgment has been entered against you (most likely because you failed to show up at a small claims hearing or failed to respond to the Small Claims Complaint you received), including how to ask the court to “set aside” (cancel or revoke) the judgment.


A “default judgment” is a money judgment that is entered against someone who fails to defend themself in a court case brought against them.

In a small claims case, the court might enter a default judgment against a defendant who fails to attend a small claims mediation or hearing. If the plaintiff appears at the mediation or hearing and proves that the defendant was properly served with the Small Claims Complaint, the court can issue a money judgment against the defendant for the amount of plaintiff’s claim, plus court costs. Plaintiff can then try to collect that judgment from the defendant by, for example, garnishing defendant’s wages or bank accounts.

To download a flowchart that shows how a small claims case moves through the court – and when a default judgment might be entered – click one of the file names below:
Flowchart – Overview of the Small Claims Process  
Flowchart - Overview of Las Vegas Small Claims Process

If you discover that a default judgment has been entered against you, you can file with the court to contest that judgment, as discussed below. 

Q&A – Default Judgments

How do I contest a default judgment entered against me?

If a default judgment has been entered against you, you can file a motion asking the court to “set aside” (cancel or revoke) the judgment.

A Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment is available, free of charge, at the Self-Help Center, or you can download the motion by clicking one of the formats underneath the form’s title below:




Click to visit Basics of Court Forms and Filing to learn how to fill out legal forms and file in the justice court, or click to visit Justice Courts for links and contact information for your court. For more information about the specific requirements for a small claims case in the Las Vegas Justice Court, click to visit the Las Vegas Justice Court Small Claims page.

What are the legal arguments I can make to ask the court to set aside a default judgment?

Legal reasons for setting aside a default judgment might include:

  • The defendant was not properly served with the small claims complaint;
  • Excusable neglect on the defendant’s part;
  • Fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct on the plaintiff’s part;
  • Mistake, inadvertence, or surprise;
  • Newly discovered evidence;
  • The default judgment is void; or
  • The default judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged.  (JCRCP 60(b)-(c).)

Keep in mind that the procedures and rules in small claims court are typically more relaxed than in ordinary justice court. So do not get bogged down in “legal speak.” In your motion, simply write down truthfully and clearly, for example, why you failed to respond to the small claims complaint, why you failed to attend the hearing, or why you believe you were not properly served.

What happens after I file my motion to contest the default judgment?

When you file your Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment with the court, check with the court clerk to find out what the next step will be.  In some small claims courts, a date and time for a hearing on your motion will be set.  In other justice courts, the judge might decide your motion without a hearing.  For court contact information or to look up your case to see whether a hearing has been set, click to visit Justice Courts and Look Up My Case.

If the judge sets aside the default judgment, the small claims case against you starts back up again. The plaintiff will have an opportunity to try and prove his case against you, and you will be able to assert any defense you might have.

If the plaintiff is trying to collect the judgment, does filing a motion stop the collection?

Filing a Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment does not immediately stop any collection that is already in progress. If the judge grants your motion and the default judgment is set aside, the collection against you should stop. If you get a hearing on your motion, you can ask the judge to order that collection stops and that any money collected from you be returned.

TIP! If your motion is granted, you might want to take a copy of the court’s order setting aside the default judgment to the constable, your employer, and anyone else involved in the collection so they’re aware the default judgment is no longer valid.

For more information about what you can do if the plaintiff is trying to collect a judgment against you, click to visit Collecting a Small Claims Judgment or Contesting Collection.