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Newsletter > January 2009 > "Default Judgment In Texas Set Aside"
Default Judgment In Texas Set Aside
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, email@example.com
As reported in the November 2008 issue of Fraternal Law, in October, a Travis County Texas Trial Court judge had issued a $16.2 million default judgment against both National Sigma Alpha Epsilon and its chapter at the University of Texas. The Court has now reversed that decision. That judgment occurred in a case which grew out of the death of Tyler Cross, who died from a five-story fall from a balcony. When the fraternity and chapter failed to respond to the complaint filed in the case, the request for default judgment was filed by the plaintiffs.
After the default judgment was entered, Jim Ewbank, a Texas attorney who has previously written for Fraternal Law and who has handled numerous fraternity matters, was brought into the case. He filed a motion, which was granted, asking the judge to reverse his October decision and allow the fraternity and its chapter to file an answer and proceed to defend the case.
In a statement issued by Ewbank after he successfully reversed the default judgment, he explained that “the two Sigma Alpha Epsilon defendants put on evidence that showed their failure to file an answer to the lawsuit was an accident and there were meritorious defenses to the family’s claim . . . the defendants will have their day in court to prove that Tyler Cross’ death was an unfortunate accident.”
The Austin American-Statesman had reported that Cross died when he fell from an off-campus dormitory and “investigators have said that the night before his body was discovered, he and other pledges were given half-gallon liquor bottles to drink. An autopsy report said Cross had a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit for driving in Texas.”
The case will now proceed through discovery with all parties preparing for a trial that is likely to be many months in the future.