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Default Judgment May Include Punitive Award Even if Plaintiff Fails to Plead a Specific Amount

Civil Procedure - Default Judgment Awarding Partnership Interest & Punitive Damages

Ezell v Quoun, 585 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 40 (App., Div. I, June 17, 2010) (J. Hall)

WHERE COMPLAINT PLEADS RIGHT TO PARTNERSHIP INTEREST AND PUNITIVE DAMAGES DEFAULT JUDGMENT FOR THESE DAMAGES APPROPRIATE

Plaintiff sued defendant claiming he tortuously breached a partnership agreement and damaged plaintiff. Defendant failed to respond to complaint. Plaintiff filed Notice of Application for Default and the court entered default. The defendant was permitted to appear at the default hearing where compensatory damages, the partnership interest and punitive damages were all awarded to the plaintiff.

Defendant appealed claiming the plaintiff could not acquire punitive damages on default where no specific amount of punitive damages was ever pled. The Court of Appeals disagreed holding a prayer for punitive damages "in an amount to be proven at trial" put the defendant suitably and sufficiently on notice that an award in amount justified by the evidence could be awarded against him. Similarly the court upheld the trial court's award of the partnership interest to the plaintiff finding that the statement in the complaint asking the court to "declare plaintiff has an interest . . . and barring defendant from having any interest" sufficiently notified the defendant that such relief might be granted on default and the award was proper.

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