New York City Personal Injury Law Blog
What Happens When the Defendant is a No Show in a Trial in New York
Posted on Oct 29, 2014 in Personal Injury FAQs
This is a true story. A woman was walking down the intersection of 23rd Avenue and 1st Avenue when she was hit by a truck. A lawsuit was brought against the truck driver, the company that owned the truck – a construction company at that – and the lawsuit went to trial. At the trial, the plaintiff’s lawyers wanted to question that truck driver about how he could miss the huge signs screaming road safety erected on the busy crosswalk where the accident happen.
As luck would have it, the truck driver had bailed on the court and ran for his life (or freedom or responsibility). Despite repeated calls
and an investigating team trying to track him down through his last known address, the driver could not be found.
Asking the court to ‘strike’ answers
Despite the long arm of the law, such incidents do happen once in a while. It is called a ‘No Show’ on part of the defendant. So what does the plaintiff do in such a situation? The short answer is that in most of these cases where one party does not show up in court on the appointed time, the case is decided in favor of the other. But is does not happen in a simple way. There is a legal procedure behind this which begins with the lawyer of the opposing party asking the court to ‘strike’ the answer of the ‘No Show’ party.
Before a trial begins in court, the lawyers from both the opposition and the defendant’s party allege and accuse the other party of certain actions which they consider improper. Each party then has to create a list of answers to these allegations made against them by their opposition, and this is admitted into court as that particular party’s ‘Answer’.
In certain cases, such as when a particular party decides to not turn up in court for trial, the opposition party’s lawyer can ask the judge for special permission to strike the answers of the defaulting party. If the judge rules that the defaulter’s answers can be stricken, it means that all the allegations and claims made against that party were in fact correct and the opposition party wins the case without any further ado.
If the lawsuit pertains to specific damages; as in the above mentioned example where the New York woman was suing for damages against the truck driver and the company owning the truck, then the plaintiff has to prove in court that the defendant actually owes them money. In the case of the New York woman, once the driver of the truck decided to run away instead of facing trial, the case had already been decided in her favor on the issue of liability.
The trial then moved to a trial on damages where the lawyers argued over how much money the truck company owed the accident victim. The driver’s No Show made it easier for the woman’s lawyers to win her case, but she still had to fight for the compensation that was owed to her. It is good to see some common sense in America these days.