The inherent power to vacate CPLR 5015

Katz v Marra, 2010 NY Slip Op 04957 (App. Div., 2nd 2010)

Pursuant to CPLR 5015(a), "[t]he court which rendered a judgment or
order may relieve a party from it upon such terms as may be just." This
statute sets forth certain grounds for vacatur, including excusable
default, newly-discovered evidence, fraud, misrepresentation, and lack
of jurisdiction. As recognized by the Court of Appeals, the drafters of
CPLR 5015 did not envision that this statute would provide an exhaustive
list of the grounds for vacatur (see Woodson v Mendon Leasing Corp.,
100 NY2d 62, 68). Instead, a court retains "its discretionary power
to vacate its own judgment for sufficient reason and in the interests
of substantial justice'" (Goldman v Cotter, 10 AD3d 289, 293, quoting Woodson
v Mendon Leasing Corp.,
100 NY2d at 68; see Ladd v Stevenson, 112
NY 325, 332). However, "[a] court's inherent power to exercise control
over its judgment is not plenary, and should be resorted to only to
relieve a party from judgments taken through [fraud,] mistake,
inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect"
(Matter of McKenna v
County of Nassau Off. of County Attorney,
61 NY2d 739, 742 [internal
quotation marks omitted]; see Long Is. Light Co. v Century Indem. Co., 52
AD3d 383
, 384; Quinn v Guerra, 26 AD3d 872, 873).


Here, the defendant failed to establish grounds warranting relief under
CPLR 5015(a)(1)


In our view, this case does not warrant the invocation of a court's
inherent power to vacate its orders and judgment in the interest of
substantial justice. Notwithstanding the dissent's characterization,
there is nothing unique or unusual about this case. This Court has
previously found that claims of financial distress are not sufficient to
justify the exercise of the court's inherent discretionary power to
vacate its own judgment in the interests of substantial justice
(see Matter of Dayton Towers Corp. v Gethers, 24
AD3d 663
, 664). Simply stated, this is not an appropriate case in
which to exercise the broad equity power of a court to vacate its own
orders and judgment.
We note that the cases cited by the dissent for the proposition
that vacatur is warranted in the interest of substantial justice are
inapposite and/or distinguishable. For instance, in Ruben v American
and Foreign Ins. Co.
(185 AD2d 63), the court vacated a judgment,
upon the "joint" motion and consent of the parties. Other cases relied
upon by the dissent, such as Government Empls. Ins. Co. v Employment
Commercial Union Ins. Co.
(62 AD2d 123) and Soggs v Crocco (247
AD2d 887), did not involve a motion to vacate an order or judgment
entered upon default.

In May of 2009, I posted a case where the Appellate Division, Third Department, found facts sufficient to warrant vacatur in the interest of justice: Kostun
v Gower
61 AD3d 1307 (App. Div., 3rd, 2009).  That case was also interesting because of FN 1.  In June of 2009, I posted a Appellate Division, First Department, case, where the court found sufficient facts: Diane
v Ricale Taxi, Inc.
2009 NY Slip Op 05680 (App. Div.,
1st, 2009).

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