Excusable Neglect Law and Legal Definition

Excusable neglect refers to a legitimate excuse for the failure to take some proper step at the proper time. For example, this is claimed to set aside a default judgment for failure to answer or neglecting to answer a lawsuit within the period set by law. This can happen not because of the party's own carelessness, inattention, or willful disregard of the court's process, but because of some unexpected or unavoidable hindrance or accident or because of reliance on the care and vigilance of the party's counsel or on a promise made by the adverse party.

Example of case law (Wisconsin) discussing excusable neglect.

Excusable neglect is that neglect which might have been the act of a reasonably prudent person under the same circumstances; however, it does not include situations brought about by the moving party's own carelessness or inaction.[ Pagels v. Vargas, 2004 WI App 21, 269 Wis. 2d 543, 674 N.W.2d 681, 2003 Wisc. App. LEXIS 1144 (2003).]

In a small claims action, a trial court may reopen a default judgment when good cause is shown. Good cause includes the excusable neglect of a party but excusable neglect is not synonymous with carelessness or inattentiveness. [Tsuchiya v. Brennan, 215 Wis. 2d 324, 572 N.W.2d 903, 1997 Wisc. App. LEXIS 1346 (Wis. Ct. App. 1997).]

Excusable neglect is conduct that might have been the act of a reasonably prudent person under the same circumstances. A court must look beyond the cause of the neglect to the interests of justice, considering both the need to afford litigants a day in court and to ensure prompt adjudication. Whether the dilatory party acted in good faith, whether the opposing party was prejudiced, and whether prompt remedial action took place are factors to consider. An attorney who relied on an oral courtesy agreement whose terms were not disputed and promptly filed for an extension acted with excusable neglect. [Rutan v. Miller, 213 Wis. 2d 94, 570 N.W.2d 54 (Ct. App. 1997)]