Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55

Go To Rule 55 Essential Points

Rule 55. Default; Default Judgment

(a) ENTERING A DEFAULT. When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or other- wise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party’s default.


(1) By the Clerk. If the plaintiff’s claim is for a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by computation, the clerk— on the plaintiff’s request, with an affidavit showing the amount due—must enter judgment for that amount and costs against a defendant who has been defaulted for not appearing and who is neither a minor nor an incompetent person.

(2) By the Court. In all other cases, the party must apply to the court for a default judgment. A default judgment may be centered against a minor or incompetent person only if represented by a general guardian, conservator, or other like fiduciary who has appeared. If the party against whom a default judgment is sought has appeared personally or by a representative, that party or its representative must be served with written notice of the application at least 7 days before the hearing. The court may conduct hearings or make referrals— preserving any federal statutory right to a jury trial—when, to enter or effectuate judgment, it needs to:

(A) conduct an accounting;

(B) determine the amount of damages;

(C) establish the truth of any allegation by evidence; or (D) investigate any other matter.

(c) SETTING ASIDE A DEFAULT OR A DEFAULT JUDGMENT. The court may set aside an entry of default for good cause, and it may set aside a default judgment under Rule 60(b).

(d) JUDGMENT AGAINST THE UNITED STATES. A default judgment may be entered against the United States, its officers, or its agencies only if the claimant establishes a claim or right to relief by evidence that satisfies the court.

Essential Points

  • Default is where a defendant fails to defend the case – – for example, the defendant does not Answer the Complaint.
  • First, the court’s clerk will enter a default – – noting that the defendant failed to defend the case.
  • After that, the plaintiff will request a default judgment.  Either the clerk will determine the damages (if there is a fixed sum) or the judge will have a hearing on damages.
  • If a plaintiff fails to prosecute his case, the court can dismiss the case pursuant to Rule 41.