Default Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Default, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Default?

1\) n. A party’s failure to respond to a summons and complaint that was served upon them. This can result in the rights of the defaulting party to be terminated if the legal answer or other response isn’t entered in the record. New York has a unique statute where a default can be taken by failure to respond to a summons that was served without complaint. 2) Notice of default and beginning of foreclosure proceedings if one fails to make a payment when due and the debt is secured by a mortgage or deed of trust. 3) v. To fail to respond to a summons and complaint, or to fail to pay a debt when due.

History and Definition of Default

The term "default" in a legal context refers to a situation in which an individual or entity has failed to perform a legal duty, such as repaying a debt or appearing in court to answer a complaint. The legal consequences of default can vary depending on the specific context.

In the context of civil litigation, if a defendant fails to respond to a summons and complaint that was properly served upon them, they will be deemed to be in default. This means that the plaintiff may be entitled to a default judgment against the defendant, allowing them to collect damages or other relief. In the context of debt collection and foreclosure, if a borrower fails to make timely mortgage payments, they may be in default, which can result in the initiation of foreclosure proceedings.

Examples of Default

  1. Mary received a summons and complaint in a lawsuit, but failed to respond within the required time frame. As a result, she was deemed to be in default, and the plaintiff was awarded a default judgment.
  2. John fell behind on his mortgage payments and failed to cure the default within the time allowed by his lender. As a result, the lender initiated foreclosure proceedings.
  3. ABC Company borrowed $10,000 from XYZ Bank, but failed to make the required payments on the loan. XYZ Bank declared a default, demanding repayment of the full amount immediately.

Legal Terms Similar to Default

  1. Breach of contract: A failure to perform a duty or obligation under a contract.
  2. Delinquency: Failure to make a required payment on time, such as a mortgage or loan payment.
  3. Forfeiture: The loss of property or rights due to a failure to perform a legal obligation or breach of contract.