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Supreme Court Affirms Default Judgment for Trespass

Saipan, CNMI – On June 21, 2024, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s entry of default judgment in Triple J Saipan, Inc. v. Luis Pelisamen. The lower court granted a default judgment against Pelisamen for trespass on lands leased by Triple J in Chalan Laulau.


Triple J sued Pelisamen in 2020. Pelisamen did not file a written answer as required by court rules and only first appeared in-person at the hearing for default judgment over 5 months later. Pelisamen claimed he owns the small portion of land where he was trespassing because his mother’s estate has contested the land’s ownership in a separate probate case against the estate from which Triple J leases the land. In response, Triple J presented a 2018 agreement signed by Pelisamen and his wife. In the agreement, Pelisamen stated that he waived all rights and claims to the land where he trespassed.


In affirming the lower court’s order, the Supreme Court held that Pelisamen needed to have presented a meritorious defense to the default judgment to have it set aside. He did not refute the 2018 agreement and waived any affirmative defense of ownership by not responding to the lawsuit. Without a meritorious defense, Pelisamen gave no reason to set aside the judgment.


The Court also found that the lower court’s denial of punitive damages against Pelisamen and its decision to stay the case were not an abuse of discretion. In taking these actions, the lower court did not prejudice Pelisamen and, in fact, provided him greater opportunity to defend against the trespass claim. The Supreme Court affirms the lower court’s judgment.



2024-PR-0008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JUNE 21, 2024

This press release has been prepared by court staff for the convenience of the public. For further information, contact the Supreme Court at Supreme.Court@NMIJudiciary.gov.

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