United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Hollander United States District Judge.
15, 2016, plaintiff Miguel Flores filed suit against
defendants City Certified Building Services, Inc.
(“City”) and Scottie Morgan. ECF 1. He asserted
wage claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201
et seq.; the Maryland Wage And Hour Law
(“MHWL”), §§ 3-401 et seq. of
the Labor and Employment Article (“L.E.”) of the
Maryland Code; and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection
Law, L.E. § 5-301. The docket reflects that both
defendants were served on July 1, 2016. See ECF 7
(as to City) and ECF 8 (as to Morgan). Neither defendant
responded to the suit. Therefore, pursuant to a request by
Flores (ECF 10), the Clerk entered an Order of Default as to
both defendants on August 31, 2016. ECF 11.
October 20, 2016, Flores filed a Motion For Default Judgment
(ECF 13), supported by a Memorandum of Law (ECF 13-1)
(collectively, the “Motion”) as well as the
Affidavit of Flores (ECF 13-2), with attachments, and the
Declaration of Roberto Allen, Esquire (ECF 13-3). The Motion
includes a request for costs and attorney's fees.
Defendants have not responded to the Motion, and the time to
do so has expired. See Local Rule 105.2(a).
hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall GRANT
the Motion, but shall reduce the award of attorney's
55(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil procedure governs default
judgments. In particular, 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.” But, “[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. Monge v. Portofino
Ristorante, 751 F.Supp.2d 789, 794 (D. Md. 2010) (Grimm,
sure, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit has a “strong policy that cases be decided on
the merits.” United States v. Shaffer Equip.
Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir. 1993); see Tazco,
Inc. v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation
Program, 895 F.2d 949, 950 (4th Cir. 1990); Disney
Enters. v. Delane, 446 F.Supp.2d 402, 405 (D. Md. 2006).
But, that policy is not absolute. Default judgment
“‘is appropriate when the “adversary
process has been halted because of an essentially
unresponsive party.'” Entrepreneur Media, Inc.
v. JMD Entertainment Group, LLC, 958 F.Supp.2d 588, 593
(D. Md. 2013) (quoting SEC v. Lawbaugh, 359
F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md. 2005)).
noted, defendants did not respond to the suit. Therefore, all
of plaintiff's factual allegations, other than those
pertaining to damages, are deemed admitted. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 8(b)(6); see also Ryan v. Homecomings Fin.
Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001) (stating that
the court accepts as true the well pleaded factual
allegations in the Complaint as to liability). But, the court
must determine whether the undisputed factual allegations
constitute a legitimate cause of action. Id. at
780-81; see also 10A Wright, Miller & Kane,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 2688 (3d ed.
2010 Supp.) (“[L]iability is not deemed established
simply because of the default . . . and the court, in its
discretion, may require some proof of the facts that must be
established in order to determine liability.”).
court is satisfied that liability has been established, it
must then determine the appropriate amount of damages.
Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780-81. Allegations
“relating to the amount of damages” are not
deemed admitted based on a defendant's failure to respond
to a suit. Fed R. Civ. P. 8(b)(6); see Ryan, 253
F.3d at 780 (“‘[D]efault is not treated as an
absolute confession by the defendant of his liability and of
the plaintiff's right to recover'”) (citation
omitted); Monge, 751 F.Supp.2d at 794; Trs. of
the Elec. Welfare Trust Fund v. MH Passa Elec. Contracting,
Inc., No. DKC-08-2805, 2009 WL 2982951, at *1 (D. Md.
Sept. 14, 2009) (“Upon default, the well-pled
allegations in a complaint as to liability are taken as true,
although the allegations as to damages are not.”);
Pentech Fin. Servs., Inc. v. Old Dominion Saw Works,
Inc., No. 6:09cv00004, 2009 WL 1872535, at *1 (W.D. Va.
June 30, 2009) (“Upon default judgment, Plaintiff's
factual allegations are accepted as true for all purposes
excluding determination of damages.”).
the court must make an independent determination regarding
allegations as to damages. See Credit Lyonnais Sec.
(USA), Inc. v. Alcantara, 183 F.3d 151, 154 (2d Cir.
1999). In so doing, the court may conduct an evidentiary
hearing. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). However, the court may also
make a determination of damages without a hearing, so long as
there is an adequate evidentiary basis in the record to
support an award of the requested damages. See Adkins v.
Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001) (“[T]he
court may rely on detailed affidavits or documentary evidence
to determine the appropriate sum.”); see also
Trustees of the Nat'l Asbestos Workers Pension Fund v.
Ideal Insulation, Inc., Civil No. ELH-11-832, 2011 WL
5151067, at *4 (D. Md. Oct. 27, 2011) (determining that, in a
case of default judgment against an employer, “the
Court may award damages without a hearing if the record
supports the damages requested”); Monge, 751
F.Supp.2d at 795 (same); Pentech Fin. Servs., Inc.,
Civ. No. 6:09cv00004, 2009 WL 1872535, at *2 (concluding that
there was “no need to convene a formal evidentiary
hearing on the issue of damages” after default judgment
because plaintiff submitted affidavits and records
establishing the amount of damages); JTH Tax, Inc. v.
Smith, Civil No. 2:06CV76, 2006 WL 1982762, at *3 (E.D.
Va. June 23, 2006) (“If the defendant does not contest
the amount pleaded in the complaint and the claim is for a
sum that is certain or easily computable, the judgment can be
entered for that amount without further hearing.”).
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c), “[a] default judgment must
not differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is
demanded in the pleadings.” See In re Genesys Data
Techs, Inc., 204 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir.
2000) (“When a Complaint demands a specific amount of
damages, courts have generally held that a default judgment
cannot award additional damages.”). This is meant to
enable the defendant to decide whether to expend the
resources to defend the action. Monge, 751 F.Supp.2d
seeks compensation for hours he worked for which defendants
did not pay him. The FLSA provides that, for any hours worked
in excess of forty hours per week, an employee shall
“receive compensation for his employment . . . at a
rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at
which he is employed.” 29 U.S.C. § 207. Similarly,
L.E. § 3-415(a) provides that “each employer shall
pay an overtime wage of at least 1.5 times the usual hourly
wage, ” and L.E. § 3-420(a) provides that overtime
wages shall be computed “on the basis of each hour over
40 hours that an employee works during 1 workweek.”
Further, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) states:
Any employer who violates the provisions of . . . section 207
of this title shall be liable to the employee . . . affected
in the amount of . . . their unpaid overtime compensation, .
. . and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.
. . . The court in such action shall, in addition to any
judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a
reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant,
and costs of the action.
law is to the same effect. If states: “If an employer
pays an employee less than the wage required under this
subtitle, the employee may bring an action against the
employer to recover the difference between the wage paid to
the employee and the wage required under this subtitle,