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Matamodos v. E-Z-Erectors, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 13, 2017

WILMER MATAMODOS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
E-Z-ERECTORS, INC, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Timothy J. Sullivan United States Magistrate Judge

         This Report and Recommendation addresses the Motion for Entry of Default Judgment (“Motion”) (ECF No. 6) filed by Plaintiffs Wilmer Matamoros, et al.[1] Defendant E-Z-Erectors, Inc. has not filed a response, and the time for doing so has passed. See Loc. R. 105.2(a). On January 31, 2017, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 301, Judge Chuang referred this case to me for a report and recommendation on Plaintiffs' Motion. (ECF No. 7.) I find that a hearing is unnecessary in this case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2); Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, I respectfully recommend that Plaintiffs' Motion be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In this case, the Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (ECF No. 1.) Defendant was personally served with the complaint and summons but did not file an answer or responsive pleading within the requisite time period. On December 16, 2015, Plaintiffs moved for the Clerk's entry of default (ECF No. 4), and the Clerk entered default against Defendant on December 17, 2015 (ECF No. 5). On September 6, 2016, Plaintiffs filed the Motion, to which Defendant has not responded. (See ECF No. 6-1.)

         II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

         A. Standard for Entry of Default Judgment

         In determining whether to award a default judgment, the Court accepts as true the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as to liability. See Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780-81 (4th Cir. 2001); United States ex rel. Durrett-Sheppard Steel Co. v. SEF Stainless Steel, Inc., No. RDB-11-2410, 2012 WL 2446151, at *1 (D. Md. June 26, 2012). Nonetheless, the Court must consider whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action, since a party in default does not admit mere conclusions of law. United States v. Redden, No. WDQ-09-2688, 2010 WL 2651607, at *2 (D. Md. June 30, 2012) (citing Ryan, 253 F.3d at 790). Although 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), default judgment “is appropriate when the adversary process has been halted because of an essentially unresponsive party.” S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md. 2005). If the Court determines that liability is established, the Court must then determine the appropriate amount of damages. CGI Finance, Inc., v. Johnson, No. ELH-12-1985, 2013 WL 1192353, at *1 (D. Md. March 21, 2013). The Court does not accept factual allegations regarding damages as true, but rather must make an independent determination regarding such allegations. Durrett-Sheppard Steel Co., 2012 WL 2446151 at *1.

         Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[i]f, after entry of default, the Plaintiff's Complaint does not specify a ‘sum certain' amount of damages, the court may enter a default judgment against the defendant pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2).” 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. United States v. Redden, No. WDQ-09-2688, 2010 WL 2651607, at *2 (D. Md. June 30, 2012). Rule 55(b)(2) provides that “the court may conduct hearings or make referrals . . . when, to enter or effectuate judgment, it needs to . . . determine the amount of damages.” The Court is not required to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine damages, however; it may rely instead on affidavits or documentary evidence in the record to determine the appropriate sum. See, e.g., Mongue v. Portofino Ristorante, 751 F.Supp.2d 789, 795 (D. Md. 2010).

         B. Liability

         Under the FLSA, an employer must pay an employee overtime pay for each hour worked in excess of forty hours per week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). An employee's overtime rate must be at least “one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.” Id. An employer must keep records of its employees' wages and hours. 29 U.S.C. § 211(c); 29 C.F.R. §§ 516.2, 516.5, 516.6. If an employer does not keep records or fails to produce them in litigation, “an employee has carried out his burden if he proves that he has in fact performed work for which he was improperly compensated and if he produces sufficient evidence to show the amount and extent of that work as a matter of just and reasonable inference.” McLaughlin v. Murphy, 436 F.Supp.2d 732, 737 (D. Md. 2005) (quoting Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 686-687 (1946)). Employees do not have to “prove each hour of overtime work with unerring accuracy or certainty.” Pforr v. Food Lion, Inc., 851 F.2d 106, 108 (4th Cir. 1988)

         Accepting the allegations of Plaintiffs' complaint as true, Defendant's liability is readily established. Defendant employed Plaintiffs as hourly employees to perform work for Defendant in Maryland, Iowa, Indiana, and other states, from at least July 2012 through the time that Plaintiffs' complaint was filed. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 6.) Plaintiffs regularly worked more than forty hours per week, but Defendant did not pay Plaintiffs overtime wages at the rate required by the FLSA. (Id. ¶¶13-15.) Having shown that Defendant did not comply with its overtime obligations under the FLSA, Plaintiffs have established Defendant's liability. Accordingly, I conclude that Plaintiffs have stated a legitimate cause of action and are entitled to relief on their claim. I recommend that the Court grant Plaintiffs' motion with respect to Defendant's liability.

         C. Damages

         Having determined that Plaintiffs have established Defendant's liability, it is now appropriate to determine the damages to which they are entitled. Generally, an evidentiary hearing is required to determine an award of damages, even in the case of a defendant's default. See Laborers' Dist. Council Pension v. E.G.S., Inc., No. WDQ-09-3174, 2010 WL 1568595 (D. Md. Apr. 16, 2010). However, the Court may award damages “if the record supports the damages requested.” Id. at *3 (collecting cases). Here, Plaintiffs have provided sufficient evidence to support their claim for damages in the amount of $67, 793.30.[2]

         Plaintiffs have submitted affidavits in support of their claim for damages. (ECF Nos. 6-3; 6-4; 6-5). In addition, each of the plaintiffs' unpaid overtime wages are summarized in the spreadsheets attached to the motion and to Plaintiffs' supplement. (See ECF Nos. 6-6 & 10-1 at 2-4.) The spreadsheets summarize the overtime hours worked by each plaintiff, the hourly rate and corresponding overtime rate, and the total unpaid overtime. The spreadsheets initially submitted by Plaintiffs are somewhat inconsistent with the affidavits attached to the motion. Most notably, the original spreadsheets include overtime hours for a period of six weeks during which none of the plaintiffs performed work for Defendant. (See ECF Nos. 6-3 at 3; 6-4 at 3; 6-5 at 3.) The Court directed Plaintiffs to supplement their motion to explain this inconsistency. (ECF No. 8.) Plaintiffs filed revised spreadsheets that did not include any claim for overtime wages during these six weeks, thus resolving the previous inconsistency. (See ECF No. 10-1 at 2-4.) I ...


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