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Benjamin Moore and Co. v. Menendez

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

July 29, 2019

BENJAMIN MOORE AND CO., Plaintiff,
v.
DELWYN HOWELL MENENDEZ, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JANE J. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are two motions filed by Plaintiff Benjamin Moore and Co.: (1) its Motion for Entry of Default Judgment (Doc. 20), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, filed on July 24, 2019, against Defendant Delwyn Howell Menendez; and (2) its Motion to Disburse Interplead Funds (Doc. 22), filed on July 26, 2019. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS both motions.

         I.

         BACKGROUND

         On August 29, 2018, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. filed its Original Petition for Interpleader, identifying Menendez and Benjamin Moore as claimants to funds in a Wells Fargo checking account. Doc. 1, Orig. Pet. for Interpl., ¶¶ 1-2. Wells Fargo sought to deposit the funds into the Court Registry, so that Menendez and Benjamin Moore could litigate their respective claims. Id. ¶ 18.

         On November 20, 2018, Benjamin Moore answered. Doc. 5, B.M.'s Answer. After Wells Fargo was unable to locate Menendez for service, the Court granted Wells Fargo's request for service by publication. Doc. 9, Elec. Order. Publication was made during four consecutive weeks in February 2019. Doc. 13, Notice. On May 3, 2019, the Clerk entered Menendez's default. Doc. 15, Entry of Default. To date, Menendez has not entered an appearance in this case nor filed any responsive pleadings to the Original Petition for Interpleader.

         On June 21, 2019, Wells Fargo was dismissed as a party and ordered to deposit the interplead funds into the Court Registry. Doc. 17, Order. On July 12, 2019, Benjamin Moore and Menendez were realigned as Plaintiff and Defendant, respectively, and Benjamin Moore was ordered to move for default judgment against Menendez no later than July 26, 2019. Doc. 19, Order.

         Benjamin Moore now moves for default judgment[1] and disbursement of the interplead funds.

         II.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         When only one of the claimants named in an interpleader action has answered, the court need not consider the merits of which party is entitled to the funds. USAA Fed. Sav. Bank v. Lavean, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134301, at *4 (W.D. Tex. Oct. 1, 2015) (citing Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Eason, 736 F.2d 130, 133 n.4 (4th Cir. 1984) (“Clearly, if all but one named interpleader defendant defaulted, the remaining defendant would be entitled to the fund.”); N.Y. Life Ins. Co. v. Conn. Dev. Auth., 700 F.2d 91, 95 & n.6 (2d Cir. 1983) (default of two of three interpleader defendants obviated need for judicial determination of answering defendant's entitlement to funds)). Accordingly, if default judgment against Menendez is warranted, then disbursement of the interplead funds to Benjamin Moore is proper.

         “When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, . . . the clerk must enter the party's default.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Once default has been entered, the court may enter a default judgment against the defaulting defendant upon motion of the plaintiff. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b).

         Generally, the entry of default judgment is committed to the district court's discretion. Mason v. Lister, 562 F.2d 343, 345 (5th Cir. 1977). Among the factors a district court may consider when deciding whether to grant a default judgment are whether: (1) material issues of fact exist; (2) there has been substantial prejudice; (3) the grounds for default are clearly established; (4) the default was caused by a good faith mistake or excusable neglect; (5) the harshness of a default judgment; and (6) the court ...


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