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Hernandez v. Hoge

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 19, 2016

MILAGRO DE LA PAZ FLORES HERNANDEZ
v.
JAMES CHRISTOPHER HOGE

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge

         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this unpaid wage and overtime case is a motion for default judgment and for attorney’s fees and costs filed by Plaintiff Milagro De La Paz Flores Hernandez (“Plaintiff”). (ECF No. 6). The court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Plaintiff’s motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff worked as a “kitchen hand” for Defendant James Christopher Hoge (“Defendant”) from 2008 until March 22, 2015. (ECF No. 6-1 ¶ 3). During the time period relevant to this case, Defendant paid Plaintiff $10.00 per hour from June 2012 till May 2014 and $13.00 per hour from May 2014 until March 2015. (ECF No. 6-2). According to the complaint, Defendant was aware of the legal requirements to pay timely wages due, and he knowingly failed to pay Plaintiff time and a half for overtime hours worked. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 32, 37). Plaintiff alleges that she regularly worked more than forty hours per week and was paid her regular hourly rate for all hours worked, including overtime hours. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 22). In all, Plaintiff was paid only her regular rate for 759.5 hours of overtime.[1] (See ECF No. 6-2). Additionally, Plaintiff contends that she was not compensated at all for thirteen hours of work, both regular and overtime.[2] (See Id. at 2-4).

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed her complaint on July 7, 2015. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff alleges violations pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”) (Count I); the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-401 et seq. (“MWHL”) (Count II); and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-501 et seq. (“MWPCL”) (Count III).

         Service of process was properly effected on Defendant on July 19, 2015. When Defendant failed to respond within the requisite time period, Plaintiff moved for entry of default. (ECF No. 4). On September 8, the clerk entered default. (ECF No. 5). On October 5, Plaintiff filed the pending motion for default judgment and for attorney’s fees and costs, attaching as exhibits an affidavit of Plaintiff, a damages calculations spreadsheet, an example of a timecard that Defendant used to track Plaintiff’s hours worked, and an affidavit regarding attorney’s fees, expenses, and court costs. (ECF Nos. 6; 6-1; 6-2; 6-3; 6-4). To date, Defendant has taken no action in the case.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a), “[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party’s default.” Rule 55(b)(1) provides that the clerk may enter a default judgment if the plaintiff's claim is “for a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by computation.”

         “Upon [entry of] default, the well-pled allegations in a complaint as to liability are taken as true, but the allegations as to damages are not.” S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 422 (D.Md. 2005). It remains, however, “for the court to determine whether these unchallenged factual allegations constitute a legitimate cause of action.” Agora Fin., LLC v. Samler, 725 F.Supp.2d 491, 494 (D.Md. 2010). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(c) limits the type of judgment that may be entered based on a party's default: “A default judgment must not differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in the pleadings.” Thus, where a complaint specifies the amount of damages sought, such as here, the plaintiff is limited to entry of a default judgment in that amount. “[C]ourts have generally held that a default judgment cannot award additional damages . . . because the defendant could not reasonably have expected that his damages would exceed that amount.” In re Genesys Data Technologies, Inc., 204 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2000). While the court may hold a hearing to consider evidence as to damages, it is not required to do so; it may rely instead on “detailed affidavits or documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum.” Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001) (citing United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5thCir. 1979)).

         III. Analysis

         A. Liability

         Defendant was served with the complaint but has not responded. Accordingly, all of Plaintiff's allegations ...


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