A default judgment is a decision made against a defendant in a proceeding who has failed to take the necessary steps to file a defence to a claim, or otherwise respond to a claim at all. It is often used as a penalty for a party who has failed to comply with an order, often a discovery request.
In a civil proceeding, a judgment is made in favour of the plaintiff (complainant) and in default of an appearance being made by the defendant, or a defence being filed. An appearance is a necessary step in court proceedings. If the defendant is served with the originating process and does nothing or fails to file a defence, the court will assume that they do not wish to defend the claim, and upon application by the plaintiff and an affidavit of service, the court will grant a default judgment. A judgment in default may be set aside, but the defendant must satisfy the court that justice will be served by doing so, requiring the defendant establish a credible defence to the claim and satisfy the court that the originating process was not served on the defendant.
In the case of criminal charges, an accused’s failure to plead will result in arrest and may result in a judgment of conviction entered for want of a plea.