Deutsche Bank National Trust Company v. Gabriele
Ordinarily a court's ruling on a motion for default is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard; but, where review requires the interpretation of an order, it involves a question of law over which the Appellate Court exercises plenary review. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company brought this residential mortgage foreclosure action against Michael and Victoria Gabriele. The defendants filed a motion for extension of time to file a responsive pleading to the complaint seeking "an extension of time to plead of thirty (30) days or such other time as the court shall determine from the later of the date that the plaintiff files and forwards any unattached exhibits to its complaint…or the date the court grants this motion for extension of time." The trial court granted the motion on Jan. 28, 2010. The plaintiff filed an amended certification of service of exhibits on Jan. 28, 2010. On Feb. 25, 2010, the plaintiff filed a motion for default for failure to plead. The court overruled the defendants' objection and implicitly granted the motion for default. The court denied the defendants' request to revise the complaint and to set aside or to open the default and granted the plaintiff's motion for a judgment of strict foreclosure. The defendant appealed claiming that the trial court erred in rendering judgment of strict foreclosure because the plaintiff's motion for default was filed prematurely. The Appellate Court agreed and reversed the judgment. The trial court granted the motion for extension of time without elaboration. The only logical interpretation was that the defendants had 30 days from the plaintiff's filing of unattached exhibits on Jan. 28, 210, which was later than the court's granting the plaintiff's motion for extension of time. The plaintiff's Feb. 25, 2010 motion for default was filed within the 30 day period. The defendants were not in default at the time the motion was filed. Thus, the trial court abused its discretion in granting the motion for default.