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State v. Consolidated Recycling, Inc.

ELR Citation: 30 ELR 20227
Nos. No. 97-656, 743 A.2d 839/(N.H., 12/16/1999)

The court affirms a lower court's decision to deny a recycling company's motion to strike a default judgment issued against it for violating state hazardous waste laws, but vacates the final order and remands the case because the lower court failed to conduct a hearing on the relief requested by the state. The company was prosecuted under state hazardous waste laws for knowingly operating a solid waste facility without a permit and failing to manage hazardous waste in accordance with state law. The parties entered into a temporary agreement that was incorporated into a court order, and the company, believing that the agreement concluded the matter, failed to file an answer to the state's order of notice. The court first holds that the lower court properly denied the company's motion to strike the default judgment. The company's failure to file an answer to the state's petition was not due to accident, mistake, or misfortune and a reasonably prudent person would have filed an answer. The court then holds that the lower court erred when it entered the final order without providing the company with the opportunity for a hearing to determine the appropriate relief. The lower court treated the default as a full judgment on the merits rather than as a decree pro confesso. A decree pro confesso admits only those well-pleaded facts alleged in a petition and requires a properly noticed hearing to be held to determine the proper remedy. The court, therefore, vacates the lower court's final order and remands for a hearing.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (3 pp., ELR Order No. L-143).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Geoffrey J. Ransom, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
State Capitol Annex
25 Capitol St., Concord NH 03301
(603) 271-3658

Counsel for Defendants
Steven A. Bolton
Bolton Law Offices
One Indian Head Plaza, Nashua NH 03060
(603) 886-0205