United States District Court, D. Maryland
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
in this case involving alleged violations of the Fair Labor
Standards Act, Maryland Wage and Hour Law, and the Maryland
Wage Payment and Collection Law is Plaintiff Akintola
Falaiye's second motion for default judgment. ECF No. 21.
The issues are fully briefed and the Court now rules pursuant
to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. For the
reasons stated below, the motion is granted.
CCA Academic Resources, d/b/a Capitol Christian Academy
(“CCA” or the “School”), is a private
high school located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Complaint,
ECF No. 1 at ¶ 2. In December 2015, CCA hired Akintola
Falaiye (“Plaintiff”) as a teacher to instruct
students on United States history and government, cultural
studies, and world history. Id. at ¶¶ 4,
6. Plaintiff taught classes for approximately three hours
each weekday and spent an additional two hours each day
planning his curriculum, grading papers, and performing other
related tasks. Id. at ¶ 7.
alleges that during his tenure with CCA, he often requested
that CCA and the School's principal, Van Whitfield
(collectively, the “Defendants”), provide him
formal documentation of his salary and rate of pay. His
requests were denied. Id. at ¶ 8. In fact, the
Defendants kept no records pertaining to Plaintiff's
employment. Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiff also alleges
that Defendants did not pay him his agreed-upon compensation
apart from a single $1, 000 payment tendered to him three
months into his employment. Id. at ¶ 11;
see also Pl.'s Mot. Default J., ECF No. 21-1 at
3. Frustrated, Plaintiff resigned in April 2016, just five
months into his tenure with the School. Defendants tendered
one additional payment of $500 to Plaintiff several months
after he resigned. Id.
August 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court
against the Defendants for violations of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201
et seq.; the Maryland Wage and Hour Law
(“MWHL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl., §
3-401 et seq.; and the Maryland Wage Payment and
Collection Law (“MWPCL”), Lab. & Empl.,
§ 3-501 et seq. Defendants were properly
served, see ECF Nos. 10 and 18, but never answered
the complaint or otherwise responded. Plaintiff consequently
filed a motion for Clerk's Entry of Default on November
2, 2016, which the Clerk of Court promptly entered. ECF Nos.
11 and 12. Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Default Judgment
on December 5, 2016. ECF No. 13.
11, 2017, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order
denying Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment and
vacating the Clerk's Entry of Default at ECF No. 12.
See ECF Nos. 16 and 17. The Court held that
Plaintiff had not offered sufficient proof that he had
properly effectuated service on CCA, and so it allowed
Plaintiff fourteen days to supplement the record with such
proof. The Court also held that Plaintiff had not properly
alleged that Van Whitfield was his “employer” as
defined by the FLSA, MWHL, and MPCWL. It allowed Plaintiff
fourteen days to file an amended complaint curing this
15, 2017, Plaintiff filed another affidavit of service as to
CCA which explains that the process server served CCA on
September 12, 2016 by delivering a copy of the summons and
complaint “to Van Whitfield as Principal and Registered
Agent of CCA.” See ECF No. 18. He then filed
renewed motions for clerk's entry of default judgment
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a) and for default judgment
pursuant to Rule 55(b) on June 21, 2017. See ECF
Nos. 20 and 21. The clerk entered default on July 5, 2017. In
his motion for default judgment, Plaintiff explained that he
is voluntarily dismissing Van Whitfield as a defendant and is
now only pursuing a default judgment against CCA.
See ECF No. 21-1 at 2.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establishes a
two-step process when a party applies for default judgment.
First, the Rule provides that “when a party . . . has
failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is
shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the
party's default.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Following the
Clerk's entry of default, “the plaintiff [then may]
seek a default judgment.” Godlove v. Martinsburg
Senior Towers, LP, No. 14-CV-132, 2015 WL 746934, at *1
(N.D. W.Va. Feb. 20, 2015); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
55(b). “The Fourth Circuit has a ‘strong
policy' that ‘cases be decided on their
merits.'” S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359
F.Supp.2d 418, 420 (D. Md. 2005) (citing Dow v.
Jones, 232 F.Supp.2d 491, 494-95 (D. Md. 2002)).
However, “default judgment may be appropriate when the
adversary process has been halted because of an essentially
unresponsive party.” Id. at 420-22.
determining whether to grant a motion for default judgment,
the Court takes as true the well-pleaded factual allegations
in the complaint, other than those pertaining to damages.
See Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778,
780 (4th Cir. 2001). “It, however, 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) (citing Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780-81; 10A
Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and
Procedure § 2688 (3d ed. Supp. 2010)
(“[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.”)). A court need not
accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions but must
independently review whether sufficient factual predicate
exists to sustain the claim. Baltimore Line Handling Co.
v. Brophy, 771 F.Supp.2d 531, 550 (D. Md. 2011) (citing
Cragin v. Lovell, 109 U.S. 194, 199 (1883) (holding
that “a mere conclusion of law . . . is not admitted by
demurrer or default”)).
Court finds that “liability is established, [it] must
then determine the appropriate amount of damages.”
Agora Fin., LLC, 725 F.Supp.2d at 484 (citing
Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780- 81). In so determining,
“the court may conduct an evidentiary hearing . . . or
may dispense with a hearing if there is an adequate
evidentiary basis in the record from which to calculate an
award.” Mata v. G.O. Contractors Grp., Ltd.,
No. TDC-14-3287, 2015 WL 6674650, at *3 (D. Md. Oct. 29,
2015); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b).