Potentially meritorious defense [CPLR 5015]

Lai v Montes, 2020 NY Slip Op 02134 [3d Dept. 2020]

Moreover, defendants have proffered several defenses that are potentially meritorious based upon their verified answer and affidavits in support of the motion to vacate the default judgment (see Global Liberty Ins. Co. v Shahid Mian, M.D., P.C., 172 AD3d 1332, 1333 [2019]; Luderowski v Sexton, 152 AD3d 918, 918 [2017]). “To establish the existence of a potentially meritorious defense, defendants needed only to make a prima facie showing of legal merit, as the quantum of proof needed to prevail on a CPLR 5015 (a) (1) motion is less than that required when opposing a summary judgment motion” (Luderowski v Sexton, 152 AD3d at 920 [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]). Defendants’ affidavits of merit indicate that plaintiffs breached the contract by misrepresenting that the dog was an “AKC [registerable] purebred English bulldog . . . that would be suitable for breeding or showing” when it is not suitable for same due to certain genetic defects. As a result, defendants claim that they were not unjustly enriched, as alleged in the complaint. Defendants also assert that the allegedly defamatory statements are true, an “absolute defense” provided they are “substantially true” (Hope v Hadley-Luzerne Pub. Lib., 169 AD3d 1276, 1277 [2019] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; see Cusimano v United Health Servs. Hosps., Inc., 91 AD3d 1149, 1151 [2012], lv denied 19 NY3d 801 [2012]). Further, defendants served an answer with numerous affirmative defenses and participated in depositions,[FN3] “indicat[ing] that they had no intention of abandoning their defense[s]” (Luderowski v Sexton, 152 AD3d at 920-921).

While these defenses may ultimately prove to be unsuccessful, we find that they are potentially meritorious so as to satisfy CPLR 5015 (a) (1), in that they “suffice to make the requisite prima facie showing of merit” (Luderowski v Sexton, 152 AD3d at 921; see Matter of Santander Consumer USA, Inc. v Kobi Auto Collision & Paint Ctr., Inc., 166 AD3d at 1366; Passeri v Tomlins, 141 AD3d 816, 818-819 [2016]). “Under these circumstances, and considering the strong public policy favoring the resolution of cases upon their merits” (Matter of Walker v Buttermann, 164 AD3d 1081, 1082-1083 [2018] [citations omitted]), we find that defendants’ motion to vacate the default judgment should have been granted. Accordingly, the final order issued following the inquest must be reversed and defendants’ remaining contentions addressed to the inquest have been rendered academic.

Bold is mine.

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