United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
March 18, 2016, Deanna Phillips and Camille Bivins,
plaintiffs, filed suit against Sigma Security, LLC
("Sigma") and Richard Fleurimond. Plaintiffs
asserted wage claims against defendants under the Fair Labor
Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§
201, et seq. ("FLSA"); the Maryland Wage
and Hour Law ("MWHL"), § 3-401 et
seq. of the Labor & Employment Article
("L.E.") of the Maryland Code; and the Maryland
Wage Payment and Collection Law, L.E. §§ 3-501,
et seq., ("MWPCL"). In addition to unpaid
wages, plaintiff requested treble damages, reasonable
attorneys' fees, and costs.
defendants were served. See ECF 3 (Sigma); ECF 9
(Fleurimond). But, neither responded to the suit. Therefore,
on October 30, 2016, plaintiffs filed a Motion for
Clerk's Entry of Default For Want of Answer. ECF 10. The
Clerk entered orders of default as to both defendants on
September 15, 2016. ECF 11.
on October 21, 2016, plaintiffs filed a "Motion For
Judgment By Default" against both defendants. ECF 12
("Motion"). It is supported by "Affirmation in
Support of Motion for Judgment by Default"
("Motion"), executed under penalty of perjury by
George Swegman, counsel for plaintiff. ECF 12-1. In addition,
the Motion is supported by affidavits as to damages submitted
by Phillips (ECF 12-2) and Bivins (ECF 12-3). Plaintiffs'
counsel also submitted an affidavit as to attorneys' fees
and costs (ECF 12-4), accompanied by billing records for
himself and a paralegal, and a "Non-Military
Affidavit" (ECF 12-5). Finally, plaintiffs submitted a
proposed order. See ECF 12-6.
have not responded to the Motion, and the time to do so has
expired. Local Rule 105.2.
hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant
the Motion but I shall reduce the award of attorneys'
is a private security services organization that provides
physical security on contract to various government and
private entities in the Baltimore area. ECF 1 at 1. It is
owned and operated by Fleurimond. Id. Plaintiffs
worked as security guards for Sigma at various locations.
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 plaintiffs claim is
"for a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by
computation." But, "[a] plaintiffs 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, M.J).
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 plaintiffs' 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 valid causes 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. Notably, 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
plaintiffs 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, Plaintiffs factual allegations
are accepted as true for all purposes excluding determination
of damages."). Rather, 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).
determination, 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.").
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