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A California appeal court didn’t bite when Home Depot tried to wriggle out of a nearly $1 million default judgment by accusing an identity theft victim of pulling a fast one. Instead, the 4th District Court of Appeal told the giant do-it-yourself retailer that it should have done something itself to avoid the judgment in the first place. On top of affirming the lower court’s judgment, the 4th District called Home Depot’s accusations out of line. In a published Feb. 17 opinion, the court slapped the company with sanctions for making “unsupported attacks on the integrity of [the] plaintiff and his lawyer.” It all started when Alan Sporn sued an unknown person for stealing his identity to apply for credit at Home Depot, the appellate opinion says. Sporn named Home Depot as a defendant in the Orange County, Calif., Superior Court suit, claiming that after the identity theft, the company checked on him so frequently with a credit reporting agency that his credit was damaged. Home Depot didn’t chime in on the litigation until months after a superior court judge had given Sporn a $930,000 default judgment. Trying to get the judgment set aside, the company blamed its tardiness on Sporn’s lawyer, Kelly Johnson of Newport Beach, Calif., claiming he hadn’t let the company know about the hearing at which the judge decided the judgment. But the appellate justices declared themselves “less than impressed” by Home Depot’s accusations that Sporn had been “laying [sic] in the weeds” and hiding information to stop the firm from defending itself. “The record does not support these characterizations,” wrote Justice William Rylaarsdam, with Justices William Bedsworth and Raymond Ikola concurring. The court noted that Sporn’s counsel properly notified Home Depot of the suit, and said Johnson “extended a commendable courtesy” when he wrote Home Depot a letter offering the company two extra weeks to respond to the suit before he’d seek a default judgment on Sporn’s behalf. Besides, Home Depot never offered the court a good excuse for ignoring the complaint in the first place, Rylaarsdam wrote. “There is no statement that the papers were lost, stolen, forwarded to the wrong person or eaten by the dog.”

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