United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division
PITMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff Laura Melendrez's
(“Melendrez”) Motion for Default Judgment. (Dkt.
40). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that the
motion should be granted.
alleges the following facts in her complaint. (Dkt. 1).
Melendrez performed “general office duties” for
Defendant Alpha Nursing and Therapy, LLC
(“Alpha”) from January 2013 to May 2015.
(Id. ¶ 7). Alpha paid Melendrez hourly at a
rate of $14 per hour from May 2013 to January 2014, and then
$15 per hour for the remainder of her employment.
(Id. ¶ 9). Melendrez often worked more than 40
hours per week, but Alpha never paid her at 1.5 times her
regular pay rate for her overtime hours. (Id.
¶¶ 8, 12). Alpha willfully deprived Melendrez of
overtime wages despite being aware of the Fair Labor Standard
Act's (“FLSA”) requirements (Id.
February 2016, the parties informed the Court that they had
reached a tentative settlement and requested a stay. (Mot.
Stay, Dkt. 13). The Court stayed this action on February 11,
2016. (Order, Dkt. 15). The settlement ultimately fell apart,
and Alpha's counsel withdrew. (See Order, Dkt.
21). When the Court permitted Alpha's counsel to withdraw
on August 15, 2016, the Court informed Alpha that its failure
to retain new counsel would subject it to default and ordered
Alpha to retain new counsel within 21 days. (Id. at
2). After Alpha failed to retained new counsel, the Court
ordered Alpha to show cause as to why a default judgment
should not be entered against it. (Order, Dkt. 23). Alpha
failed to respond, and Melendrez moved for entry of default.
(Dkt. 27). The clerk entered Alpha's default on March 17,
2017. (Dkt. 33). Melendrez then moved for a default judgment
against Alpha on March 21, (Dkt. 34); the case was stayed on
March 28 after Alpha filed for bankruptcy. (Dkt. 36). On
September 5, 2017, Melendrez informed the Court that
Alpha's bankruptcy case was dismissed, (Dkt. 38), and the
Court lifted the stay. (Dkt. 39). Melendrez then resubmitted
her motion for default judgment. (Dkt. 40). That motion is
now before the Court.
LEGAL STANDARD AND DISCUSSION
Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, federal
courts have the authority to enter a default judgment against
a defendant that has failed to plead or otherwise defend
itself. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a)-(b). That said, “[d]efault
judgments are a drastic remedy, not favored by the Federal
Rules and resorted to by courts only in extreme
situations.” Sun Bank of Ocala v. Pelican Homestead
& Sav. Ass'n, 874 F.2d 274, 276 (5th Cir. 1989).
A party is not entitled to a default judgment simply because
the defendant is in default. Ganther v. Ingle, 75
F.3d 207, 212 (5th Cir. 1996). Rather, a default judgment is
generally committed to the discretion of the district court.
Mason v. Lister, 562 F.2d 343, 345 (5th Cir. 1977).
considering Melendrez's motion, the Court must determine:
(1) whether default judgment is procedurally warranted, (2)
whether the Melendrez's complaint sets forth facts
sufficient to establish that it is entitled to relief, and
(3) what form of relief, if any, Melendrez should receive.
United States v. 1998 Freightliner Vin #:
1FUYCZYB3WP886986, 548 F.Supp.2d 381, 384 (W.D. Tex.
2008); see also J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Morelia
Mexican Rest., Inc., 126 F.Supp.3d 809, 813 (N.D. Tex.
2015) (using the same framework).
determine whether entry of a default judgment is procedurally
warranted, district courts in the Fifth Circuit consider six
factors: “ whether material issues of fact are at
issue,  whether there has been substantial prejudice, 
whether the grounds for default are clearly established, 
whether the default was caused by a good faith mistake or
excusable neglect,  the harshness of a default judgment,
and  whether the court would think itself obliged to set
aside the default on the defendant's motion. Lindsey
v. Prive Corp., 161 F.3d 886, 893 (5th Cir. 1998).
balance, the Lindsey factors weigh in favor of
entering a default judgment against Alpha. Although Alpha
placed material facts at issue by filing an answer denying
Melendrez's claims, the remainder of the factors counsel
in favor of entering default judgment. Alpha's failure to
retain counsel for over sixteen months has ground the
adversary process to a halt, prejudicing Melendrez's
interest in pursuing her claim for relief. See J & J
Sports, 126 F.Supp.3d at 814 (“Defendants'
failure to respond threatens to bring the adversary process
to a halt, effectively prejudicing Plaintiff's
interests.”) (citation and quotation marks omitted).
The grounds for default are established: Alpha remains
unrepresented by counsel. The default was not caused by a
good faith mistake or excusable neglect, as Alpha has known
since August 2016 that it would be subject to default if it
failed to retain counsel. (See Order, Dkt. 21, at 2
(“Defendant is admonished that a failure to retain
counsel may be viewed as a failure to defend this action,
subjecting Defendant to default.”)). A default judgment
in this case is not particularly harsh; Alpha has already
paid Melendrez $9, 790.78 by way of settlement, and Melendrez
seeks only $5, 620.72 more in damages plus $6, 367.50 in
attorney's fees. (Pl.'s Mot. Def. J., Dkt. 40, at
7-8; Fletcher Decl., Dkt. 40-2, at 3-4). Finally, the Court
is not aware of any facts that would obligate it to set aside
the default if challenged by Alpha. The Court therefore finds
that default judgment is procedurally warranted.
Sufficiency of Melendrez's Complaint
judgment is proper only if the well-pleaded factual
allegations in Melendrez's complaint establish a valid
cause of action. Nishimatsu Constr. Co., Ltd. v. Houston
Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975). By
defaulting, a defendant “admits the plaintiff's
well-pleaded allegations of fact.” Id. In
determining whether factual allegations are sufficient to
support a default judgment, the Fifth Circuit employs the
same analysis used to determine sufficiency under Rule 8.
Wooten v. McDonald Transit Assocs., Inc., 788 F.3d
490, 498 (5th Cir. 2015). A complaint must contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
The factual allegations in the complaint need only “be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the
complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).”
Wooten, 788 F.3d at 498 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). While
“detailed factual allegations” are not required,
the pleading must present “more than an unadorned,
Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009)).
FLSA bars an employer from requiring an employee to work in
excess of 40 hours per week without paying the employee at
least 1.5 times her regular pay rate. 29 U.S.C. §
207(a)(1). An employer who violates Section 207 of the FLSA
is liable to the employee not only in the amount of their
unpaid overtime compensation but ...