The record before us clearly demonstrates
that Realco obtained judgment on a complaint filed against and served upon Apex
Restaurants, Inc., a West Virginia corporation (hereinafter referred to as Apex
West Virginia), to obtain delinquent lease payments arising under a written
ten-year lease. The lease in question was attached to the motion for default
judgment. Apex West Virginia argued below, as it did before this Court, that
it was not a party to the lease and asserts that it was not incorporated until
after the date the lease was signed. It is hard to imagine more material issues
of fact and law than whether the claim stated against a defendant sought relief
against the wrong party with respect to a transaction for which that party was
not legally obligated. The lower court jumped over outstanding, material questions
of fact _ upon which the defendant was entitled to a jury trial _ to draw conclusions
of law unfavorable to the defendant not necessarily justified by the facts. It
was not properly within this Court's province or that of the trial court to decide
the factual questions raised. Rather, it was this Court's responsibility to recognize
that material issues of facts presented potentially meritorious defenses warranting
that the default judgment be set aside.
This Court has long held that courts should not set aside default judgments . . . without good cause. Syl. Pt. 2, in part, McDaniel v. Romano, 155 W. Va. 875, 190 S.E.2d 8 (1972). However, it should go without saying that whether a default judgment was
entered against the wrong party with respect to a transaction for which that party may not have been obligated constitutes good cause to set aside the judgment.
Accordingly, I dissent from the conclusion reached by the majority.