When Is Time Really Of The Essence For Purposes Of Attacking A Final Judgment Or Order?

by:  Steven P. Gouin

In a recent decision, Orner v. Liu, the Appellate Division supplied some clarity on the issue of how long a party has to move for relief from a final judgment or order.  Unlike motions for relief from default judgments, which are routinely granted, motions under R. 4:50 are governed by a higher standard of proof, are appropriate in only six specific situations, and must be made “within a reasonable time” after entry of the final judgment or order.  What has caused some confusion is the requirement, found in Rule 4:50-2, that motions based on three of the six situations — mistake, newly discovered evidence, and fraud — must be brought “within a reasonable time . . . not more than one year after the judgment, order, or proceeding was entered or taken.”  Does this mean that one year is presumptively reasonable in these situations?  According to the Appellate Division in Orner, the answer to this question is no. While motions like these are always fact sensitive, Orner will be instructive going forward because there are only a handful of reported decisions construing the limits of reasonableness under Rule 4:50.

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