United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge.
in this case is Plaintiffs Motion for Default Judgment. ECF
No. 19. The issues have been fully briefed and a hearing was
held on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, with supplemental
briefing to follow. ECF No. 26. For the following reasons,
Plaintiffs motion is granted.
October 17, 2014, Plaintiff Dakota Financial
("Dakota") entered into a finance lease agreement
with Defendant Dallas Trucking, LLC ("Dallas")
whereby Dakota agreed to lease to Dallas a 2005 Mack Granite
CV713 Tri-Axle Dump Truck, Vehicle Identification Number
1M1AG11Y35M018941 (the "Equipment"). ECF No. 1 at 2;
ECF No. 1-2. According to the terms of the lease agreement,
Dallas was required to pay monthly installments of $2, 737 to
Dakota for forty-two months. Defendant Antonie Robinson
signed as the guarantor of the lease, unconditionally
guaranteeing, among other things, "the due and punctual
payment and performance by [Dallas] of all Obligations"
and "promis[ing] to pay all Obligations under the terms
of the Lease." ECF No. 1-3. On March 23, 2016, Dakota
filed a Complaint against Dallas and Robinson (collectively,
“Defendants”), alleging that Dallas breached the
terms of the finance lease by failing to make timely
payments. Robinson likewise breached the lease agreement and
also breached the guaranty agreement for his failure to make
the necessary payments after Dallas defaulted on its
obligations. Dakota also requested a writ of replevin for the
immediate seizure and delivery of the truck back to Dakota.
ECF No. 1 at 5-6. On June 13, 2016, the Clerk entered an
Order of Default against the Defendants for failure to plead
or otherwise defendant against the Complaint within the time
allowed. ECF No. 18.
August 4, 2016, Dakota filed the pending Motion for Entry of
Default Judgment, asking this Court to “[e]nter
judgment by default, jointly and severally, against
defendants Dallas Trucking, LLC and Antione Robinson, in the
total amount of $83, 138.76, plus attorneys' fees, with
post-judgement interest at the legal rate until the judgment
is fully paid.” ECF No. 19 at 3. Dakota also requested
the Court award possession of the Truck to Dakota and award
Dakota “damages for the wrongful detention of the
Equipment, . . . and enter judgment in Dakota's favor and
against Defendant Dallas Trucking, LLC, in the amount of $25,
55(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs default
judgments. 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.” A plaintiff's assertion of a sum in a
complaint does not make the sum “certain” unless
the plaintiff claims liquidated damages; otherwise, the
complaint must be supported by affidavit or documentary
evidence. See Medunic v. Lederer, 64 F.R.D. 403, 405
n.7 (E.D. Pa. 1974) (concluding that clerk could not enter
default judgment where damages were not liquidated),
rev'd on other grounds, 533 F.2d 891 (3d Cir.
1976). If the sum is not certain or ascertainable through
computation, Rule 55(b)(2) provides:
[T]he party must apply to the court for a default judgment .
. . . The court may conduct hearings or make
referrals-preserving any federal statutory right to a jury
trial-when, to enter or effectuate judgment, it needs to:
(A) conduct an accounting;
(B) determine the amount of damages;
(C) establish the truth of any allegation by evidence; or
investigate any other matter.
Court noted in Disney Enters. v. Delane, 446
F.Supp.2d 402, 405 (D. Md. 2006), this Circuit maintains a
“strong policy that cases be decided on the
merits.” Id. (quoting United States v.
Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir. 1993)).
But where the “adversary process has been halted
because of an essentially unresponsive party, ” default
judgment is an appropriate vehicle to resolve the case.
S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md.
determining whether to award a default judgment, the Court
will take as true the well-pleaded factual allegations in the
complaint, other than those pertaining to damages. Ryan
v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir.
2001) (“‘The defendant, by his default, admits
the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact, is
concluded on those facts by the judgment, and is barred from
contesting on appeal the facts thus established.'”)
(quoting Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l
Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975)); see
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(6). However, “[a] defendant's
default does not in itself warrant the court in entering a
default judgment. There must be a sufficient basis in the
pleadings for the judgment entered.” DIRECTV, Inc.
v. Pernites, 200 F. App'x 257, 258 (4th Cir. 2006)
(quoting Nishimatsu, 515 F.2d at 1206). It remains
“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); 10A ...