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Ventura v. Professional Frame and Home

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

June 11, 2019

LIBERATO VENTURA, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated. Plaintiff,
v.
PROFESSIONAL FRAME AND HOME and WILLIAM LINARES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JANE J. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Liberato Ventura's Motion for Final Default Judgment (Doc. 8), filed on May 1, 2019. For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES without prejudice Plaintiff's Motion for Final Default Judgment (Doc. 8) and DENIES as moot Plaintiff's Motion to Extend Time to Supplement the Record (Doc. 12).

         I.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff originally filed this suit against Defendants Professional Frame and Home and William Linares (collectively, “Defendants”) on October 8, 2018, for overtime wage violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Doc. 1, Pl.'s Compl. Plaintiff alleges that he was employed by Defendants as a carpenter from approximately January 20, 2015, through August 10, 2018. Id. ¶ 9. During that time, Plaintiff alleges that he worked an average of sixty-five hours per week but never received overtime pay for the time he worked in excess of forty hours per week as required by 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). Id. ¶¶ 8, 14. Plaintiff further claims that Defendants willfully and intentionally refused to pay him overtime wages, and Plaintiff now seeks to recover damages under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Id. ¶¶ 6, 15.

         Defendants were served with the Summons and Complaint on December 20, 2018. Docs. 5-6, Returns of Service. Despite having received process, Defendants failed to answer or otherwise respond in the time allowed. On May 1, 2019, Plaintiff filed a combined request for Entry of Default by the Clerk and a Motion for Final Default Judgment (Doc. 8). The Clerk of the Court entered a default against Defendants on May 1, 2019. Doc. 9, Clerk's Entry of Default. Plaintiff's present Motion asks the Court to enter a default judgment in his favor and to award him $55, 500.00 or alternatively $69, 375.00 in total damages (depending on whether the statute of limitations applied), plus attorney's fees. Doc. 8, Pl.'s Mot. for Default J., ¶ 7. Defendants once again failed to respond to Plaintiff's Motion, and the time to do so has passed. The Court now considers whether default judgment is proper in this case.

         II.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes federal courts to enter a default judgment against a defendant who has failed to plead or otherwise defend a complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a)-(b). Nevertheless, default judgments are disfavored by the Federal Rules and should be resorted to only in extreme circumstances. 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 as a matter of right even when the defendant is technically in default. Ganther v. Ingle, 75 F.3d 207, 212 (5th Cir. 1996). Rather, the decision to issue a default judgment is “committed to the discretion of the district judge.” Lewis v. Lynn, 236 F.3d 766, 767 (5th Cir. 2001) (quoting Mason v. Lister, 562 F.2d 343, 345 (5th Cir. 1977)). In considering a motion for default judgment, courts accept as true the well-pleaded allegations of fact in the complaint. Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975).

         Courts have developed a three-part analysis to determine whether a default judgment should be entered against a defendant. Vickers v. Luschak, 2018 WL 3036559, at *1 (N.D. Tex. June 19, 2018) (Boyle, J.) (citing United States v. 1998 Freightliner Vin #: 1FUYCZYB3WP886986, 548 F.Supp.2d 381, 384 (W.D. Tex. 2008)). First, courts must consider whether entry of default judgment is procedurally appropriate under the circumstances. See Lindsey v. Prive Corp., 161 F.3d 886, 893 (5th Cir. 1998). The relevant factors to consider include: (1) whether material issues of fact exist; (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. Id.

         Second, courts assess the substantive merits of the plaintiff's claims to determine whether there is a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment. Nishimatsu, 515 F.2d at 1206. Courts are to assume that a defendant admits to all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint due to its default. Id. However, “[t]he defendant is not held to admit facts that are not well-pleaded or to admit conclusions of law.” Id.

         Third, courts determine “what form of relief, if any, the [plaintiff] should receive.” 1998 Freightliner, 548 F.Supp.2d at 384. Although “[a] defendant's default concedes the truth of the allegations of the Complaint concerning the defendant's liability, ” the same is not true for damages. Ins. Co. of the W. v. H & G Contractors, Inc., 2011 WL 4738197, at *4 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 5, 2011) (citing Jackson v. FIE Corp., 302 F.3d 515, 524-25 (5th Cir. 2002)). Normally, damages are not to be awarded without a hearing or a demonstration by detailed affidavits establishing the necessary facts. See United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5th Cir. 1979). But if the amount of damages can be determined with mathematical calculation by reference to the pleadings and supporting documents, a hearing is unnecessary. James v. Frame, 6 F.3d 307, 310 (5th Cir. 1993).

         III.

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