Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Melendrez v. Alpha Nursing and Therapy, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

January 22, 2018

LAURA MELENDREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
ALPHA NURSING AND THERAPY, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBERT PITMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Melendrez 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).[1] 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. ¶¶ 13-14).

         In 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).[2] That motion is now before the Court.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD AND DISCUSSION

         Under 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).

         In 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).

         1. Procedural Requirements

         To determine whether entry of a default judgment is procedurally warranted, district courts in the Fifth Circuit consider six factors: “[1] whether material issues of fact are at issue, [2] whether there has been substantial prejudice, [3] whether the grounds for default are clearly established, [4] whether the default was caused by a good faith mistake or excusable neglect, [5] the harshness of a default judgment, and [6] 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).

         On 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.

         A. Sufficiency of Melendrez's Complaint

         Default 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, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         The 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.