UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DEFAULT JUDGMENT.
A Summary judgment is the procedure whereby judgment is entered in favour of the plaintiff/claimant summarily without going through a full trial that is hearing of evidence and written address by counsel. The judgment is based on the writ of summons, the statement of claim and sometimes statement of defence which discloses no reasonable defence. It is a quick or speedy means of disposing a case particularly when the matter is not contentious or when the defendant has no defence to the plaintiff’s claim. The procedure ensures the preclusion of frivolous defences for purpose of mere delay. A summary judgment is a final judgment and can only be set aside on appeal since it is a judgment given on the merit for want of a defence by the Defendant. In summary judgment proceeding, the claimant will file all the originating processes i. e statement of claim, the exhibit to be relied on at trials, the deposition of his witnesses and an application for summary judgment, supported by an affidavit stating grounds for his belief that there is no defence to the claim; and a written argument in respect of the application.
A defendant who is served with the processes under the summary judgment procedure and who belief that he has a defence to the claim and his willing to defend same, must do so by filling within the time limited for defence i.e. statement of defence, deposition of his witnesses, exhibit to be used in his defence and counter affidavit and a written brief in reply to the application for summary judgment. Where it appears to Judge that a Defendant has a good defence and ought to be permitted to defend the claim, the Judge may grant the Defendant leave to defend the claim. However where it appears to the Judge that the defendant has no good defence to the claim, the Judge may enter judgment for the plaintiff. Also where it appears to a Judge that the defendant has a good defence to a part of the claim but no defence to other parts of the claim, the Judge may thereupon enter judgment for that part of the claim to which there is no defence and grant leave to defend that part to which there is a defence.
A default judgment was defined in Mohammed v. Hussein,as one given in the absence of the defendant or in default of the defendant filing his pleadings or memorandum of appearance. A default judgment may be set aside by the same court upon the application of the judgment debtor showing good cause for his failure to apply to appear or file pleadings; or the reason for any other omission as the case may be.
The principles guiding the setting aside of a default judgment were enunciated in the case of Williams v. Hope Rising & Voluntary fund Society to include the reason for default; whether there was undue delay in bringing the application to set aside the judgment; whether setting aside the judgment will be prejudicial to the judgment creditor; and the conduct of the Applicant throughout the proceeding.
Summary judgment is a fast track proceeding in court whereby judgment is obtained without the merit and complements of a full trial; whereas Default judgment is entered for a party upon the adverse party’s failure or inability to fulfill and perform a certain task or condition required of such party.
Usually, default judgment can be set aside by the same court where the defaulter can show reasonable cause for the default; whereas summary judgment is usually given on the merit and substance of the case and therefore can only be set aside on appeal.
It will be observed from the foregoing that both summary judgment and default judgment are judgment delivered before the hearing of a case.
Written By: Leke Oyeniran