Paula R. Hicks


In Missouri, there has always been some confusion as to the name of the judgment entered when a party fails to appear for trial after participating in all other aspects of the litigation process. However, prior to 1988, the Missouri Supreme Court Rules and the holdings of the appellate courts4 made clear that the judgment in such a case was treated as a "judgment on the merits" and not as a "default judgment.” In Cotleur v. Danziger, the Missouri Supreme Court held that a judgment entered when a party failed to appear for trial is not a default judgment, in what it termed a "policy decision" in favor of "the orderly conduct of judicial process and the stability of judgments."' The majority's opinion was met by a vigorous dissent which found that the new default judgment rule was meant to encompass a "wide range of failures on the part of counsel and parties" in order that a judgment would be on the merits "whenever possible."'

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