United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Xinis United States District Judge
Memorandum Opinion and Order address Plaintiff Ruben
Vasquez-Padilla's Motion for Default Judgment, ECF No.
10. Defendants Medco Properties, LLC (“Medco”)
and Potomac Foods Company-II, Inc. (“PFC”) have
not filed a response, and the time for doing so has passed.
See Loc. R. 105.2.a. Pursuant to Local Rule 105.6, a
hearing is not necessary. For the reasons stated herein,
Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment is DENIED without
prejudice to renewal.
Ruben Vasquez-Padilla (Vasquez-Padilla) is a citizen of the
State of Delaware. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 4. Defendants Medco
Properties, LLC (“Medco”) and Potomac Foods
Company-II, Inc. (“PFC”) are both Maryland based
companies with their principal place of business in Maryland.
ECF No. 1. at ¶ 5-6. At all times relevant to this case,
Medco was the owner and/or operator, along with its agent,
Defendant PFC, of the Golden Corral located at 301 E. Naylor
Mill Road, Salisbury, Maryland, 21804. Id. at ¶
to the Complaint, on or about February 16, 2014, at
approximately 9:30 AM, Vasquez-Padilla parked his car in the
parking lot of Defendants' Golden Corral and began
walking toward the restaurant. Although Vasquez-Padilla
“maintain[ed] a proper and vigilant outlook, ” he
slipped on ice and fell to the ground and was injured for
which he was “forced to incur substantial medical bills
and miss time from work.” ECF No. 1 at ¶¶
8-9. The Plaintiff asserts that he still experiences physical
pain from these injuries and believes he will need future
medical care. Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiff estimates
past and future damages of $350, 000. Id.
filed his Complaint to this Court on November 18, 2016,
asserting diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. After initial attempts to serve Defendants by
certified mail were unsuccessful, ECF No. 8-1 at ¶ 4,
Plaintiff effectuated service on Defendants March 8, 2017, in
compliance with Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure and Maryland Rule 2-124(o). Defendants have not answered
the Complaint or otherwise responded, and the deadline for
doing so is long past. On April 5, 2017, the Clerk issued an
Order of Default pursuant to Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. ECF No. 9. The Plaintiff then moved for
default judgment on May 24, 2017. ECF No. 10.
Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) governs the entry of default
judgments, which may be entered “[i]f the
plaintiff's claim is for a sum certain or a sum that can
be made certain by computation, ” and the defendant is
in default for failing to appear. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(1). For
“all other cases, ” in which the sum is neither
certain nor 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 (D) investigate any other matter.” The
entry of default judgment is a matter within the discretion
of the Court. SEC v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418,
421 (D. Md. 2005) (citing Dow v. Jones, 232
F.Supp.2d 491, 494 (D. Md. 2002)). Although “the Fourth
Circuit has a ‘strong policy that cases be decided on
the merits, '” Disney Enters. v. Delane,
446 F.Supp.2d 402, 405 (D. Md. 2006) (quoting United
States v. Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir.
1993)), “default judgment is available when the
‘adversary process has been halted because of an
essentially unresponsive party.' ” Id.
(quoting Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d at 421). Default
judgment is proper when a defendant is unresponsive. See
Park Corp. v. Lexington Ins. Co., 812 F.2d 894, 896 (4th
Cir. 1987) (upholding a default judgment awarded where the
defendant lost its summons and did not respond within the
proper period); Disney Enters., 446 F.Supp.2d at
405- 06 (finding appropriate the entry of default judgment
where the defendant had been properly served with the
complaint and did not respond, despite repeated attempts to
considering a motion for default judgment, the Court takes as
true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint,
other than those pertaining to damages. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6);
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.”
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted));
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(6) (“An
allegation-other than one relating to the amount of
damages-is admitted if a responsive pleading is required and
the allegation is not denied.”).
Fourth Circuit, district courts analyzing default judgments
have applied the standards articulated by the United States
Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662
(2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544 (2007), to determine whether allegations within the
complaint are “well-pleaded.” See, e.g.,
Balt. Line Handling Co. v. Brophy, 771 F.Supp.2d 531,
544 (D.Md. 2011); Russell v. Railey, No.
DKC-08-2468, 2012 WL 1190972 at *2-*3 (D. Md. Apr. 9, 2012);
U.S. v. Nazarian, No. DKC-10-2962, 2011 WL 5149832
at *2-*3 (D. Md. Oct. 27, 2011); Bogopa Serv. Corp. v.
Shulga, No. 3:08cv365, 2009 WL 1628881, at *1-2 (W.D.
N.C. June 10, 2009). Where a complaint offers only
“labels and conclusions” or “naked
assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement, ”
the allegations therein are not well-pleaded and, consistent
with the Court's discretion to grant default judgment,
relief should be denied. See, e.g., Balt. Line Handling
Co., 771 F.Supp.2d at 544 (internal quotation marks
omitted) (“The record lacks any specific allegations of
fact that ‘show' why those conclusions are
federal court sitting in diversity must apply the law of the
state in which the court is located, including the forum
state's choice of law rules. Colgan Air, Inc. v.
Raytheon Aircraft Co., 507 F.3d 270, 275 (4th Cir.2007).
Regarding tort claims, Maryland applies the law of the state
where the alleged harm occurred (“lex loci
delicti”). See Proctor v. Washington Metropolitan
Area Transit Auth., 412 Md. 691, 726 (2010). Because the
events alleged in the Complaint took place in Maryland, the
substantive tort law of Maryland governs the Plaintiff's
negligence claim. Thus, to succeed on his Motion for Default
Judgment, the Plaintiff must plead factual allegations
sufficient to support a cause of action for negligence under
Maryland law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(6); Ryan
v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir.
sustain a negligence claim in Maryland, the Plaintiff must
prove that: (1) the defendant was under a duty to protect the
plaintiff from injury, (2) the defendant breached that duty,
(3) the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss, and (4) the
loss or injury proximately resulted from the defendant's
breach of the duty. 100 Inv. Ltd. P'ship v. Columbia
Town Ctr. Title Co., 430 Md. 197, 212-13 (2013)
(emphasis omitted). The duty of care owed by the Defendants
is determined by their relationship with the Plaintiff.
Casper v. Chas. F. Smith & Son, Inc., 316 Md.
573, 578 (1989). At the time of the alleged injury, the
Plaintiff was a business invitee of Defendants. See
ECF No. 1 at ¶ 7.
context, Plaintiff can sustain his negligence claim only if
he establishes that (1) Defendant, as an owner or occupier of
land, has a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the
invitee from injury caused by an unreasonable risk; (2) that
the invitee would be unlikely to perceive the risk in the
exercise of ordinary care for his or her own safety, and (3)
the risk is one about which the owner knows or could have
discovered in the exercise of reasonable care. Plantholt