Excusable neglect under Rule 4:50-1 has been defined as carelessness attributable to an honest mistake that is compatible with due diligence or reasonable prudence

Law Lessons from CLAUDINA BRIZUELA V. VICTOR ALONSO, App. Div., A-1867-08T3, April 27, 2010:

Rule 4:50-1 states:

On motion, with briefs, and upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party . . . from a final judgment or order for the following reasons: (a) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; . . . (c) fraud (whether heretofore denominated intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party; . . . or (f) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment or order.

Rule 4:50-1 is applicable to motions to vacate judgments in the Family Part. Eaton v. Grau, 368 N.J. Super. 215, 222 (App. Div. 2004). On appeal, a ruling pursuant to that rule is subject to the abuse of discretion standard of review. Hous. Auth. of Morristown v. Little, 135 N.J. 274, 283-84 (1994); Del Vecchio v. Hemberger, 388 N.J. Super. 179, 186-87 (App. Div. 2006).

Although the rule should be used sparingly to revisit judgments of the court, Hous. Auth., supra, 135 N.J. at 283-84; Hodgson v. Applegate, 31 N.J. 29, 37 (1959), motions to vacate default judgments, as opposed to judgments entered after contested litigation, are “viewed with great liberality, and every reasonable ground for indulgence is tolerated to the end that a just result is reached[,]” Marder v. Realty Const. Co., 84 N.J. Super. 313, 319 (App. Div.), aff’d, 43 N.J. 508 (1964).

“Excusable neglect” under Rule 4:50-1(a) has been defined as carelessness “attributable to an honest mistake that is compatible with due diligence or reasonable prudence.” Mancini v. EDS, 132 N.J. 330, 335 (1993).

The Supreme Court has laid out the broad contours of Rule 4:50-1(f):

[N]o categorization can be made of the situations which would warrant redress under subsection (f). . . . [T]he very essence of (f) is its capacity for relief in exceptional situations. And in such exceptional cases its boundaries are as expansive as the need to achieve equity and justice.

[Hous. Auth., supra, 135 N.J. at 286 (quoting Court Inv. Co. v. Perillo, 48 N.J. 334, 341 (1966)).]

See also Mancini, supra, 132 N.J. at 336; Baumann v. Marinaro, 95 N.J. 380, 395 (1984); Palko v. Palko, 73 N.J. 395, 398 (1977); Hodgson, supra, 31 N.J. at 41. In applying subsection (f), courts must focus on equitable considerations to avoid an unjust result. Hous. Auth., supra, 135 N.J. at 294.

Rule 4:50-1 is intended to reconcile the judicial efficiency resulting from treating judgments as final with the equitable principle of permitting courts to avoid injustice in a particular case. . . . [S]ubsection (f) is to be used “sparingly” and only “in situations in which, were it not applied, a grave injustice would occur.”

[First Morris Bank & Trust v. Roland Offset Serv., Inc., 357 N.J. Super. 68, 71 (App. Div.) (quoting Hous. Auth., supra, 135 N.J. at 289), certif. denied, 176 N.J. 429 (2003).]

See related Blog Post, published in the New Jersey Family Law blog.


This Blog/Blawg, NJ Family Issues, is managed by Paul G. Kostro, Esq., an attorney/lawyer/mediator in Linden, Union County, New Jersey. My legal and mediation services are offered to Polish-speaking and other clients in Union, Middlesex, Somerset, Essex, Hudson, Bergen, and Morris counties in NJ; including the municipalities of Fanwood 07023; Garwood 07027; Kenilworth 07033; Mountainside 07092; New Providence 07974; Roselle Park 07204; Roselle 07203; Elizabeth 07201; Linden 07036; Plainfield 07060; Rahway 07065; Summit 07901; Westfield 07090; Berkeley Heights 07922; Clark 07066; Cranford 07016; Hillside 07205; Scotch Plains 07076; Springfield 07081; Union 07083; Winfield; Carteret 07008; Dunellen 08812; East Brunswick 08816; Edison 08817; Jamesburg 08831; Metuchen 08840; New Brunswick 08901; Old Bridge 08857; Perth Amboy 08861; Sayreville 08871; South Amboy 08878; South River 08877; Avenel 07001; Colonia 07067; Iselin 08830; Woodbridge 07095; Somerset 08873; Somerville 08876 and Watchung 07069, New Jersey. My legal services include family law, divorce, child support, litigation, arbitration, mediation, child custody and visitation, alimony, equitable distribution, separation agreements, palimony, PSA, property settlement agreement, premarital and prenuptial agreements, midmarriage and marital agreements. My Law Office is located at 726 West Saint Georges [W. St. Georges] Avenue (Route 27), Linden, Union County, NJ. Telephone: 908-486-2200 Adwokat / Prawnik Adwokaci Pawel Kostro mowi po polsku.

NOTE: Adwokat / Prawnik Pawel Kostro mowi po polsku.