United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
24, 2015, Pro Se Plaintiff Josephine Hawkins filed a
Complaint in this Court against MV Transportation, Inc. (MV),
alleging sex discrimination in employment in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e,
et seq.. After a number of problems with service of
process, on June 10, 2016, Hawkins filed a Proof of Service,
showing service of the Summons and Complaint on The
Corporation Trust Company (“CT Corporation”),
MV's registered agent in the State of Maryland. MV never
filed an answer nor, until very recently, did it enter an
appearance in the case. Accordingly, Hawkins filed a Motion
for Clerk's Entry of Default for want of an answer or
other defense (ECF No. 20), and on November 4, 2016, the
Clerk entered an Order of Default against MV (ECF No. 21). On
March 21, 2017, Hawkins filed a Motion for Default Judgment
(ECF No. 22), and on April 10, 2017, the Court entered a
Default Judgment against MV in the amount of $75, 347.60 (ECF
Nos. 23 & 24). On July 17, 2017, through counsel, Hawkins
had a Writ of Garnishment issued to an MV bank account at
Wells Fargo Bank in Riverdale, Maryland (ECF No. 28). The
issuance of the Writ stirred MV out of its torpor, and on
September 8, 2017, it filed the present Motion to Vacate
Default Judgment (ECF No. 31).
following reasons, MV's Motion to Vacate Default Judgment
(ECF No. 31) will be DENIED.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
to Hawkins, she began her employment with MV in November 2005
at MV's office in Hyattsville, Maryland. Aff. of Hawkins,
ECF No. 22-1. As of March 2012, she was serving as a Lead
Road Supervisor at MV at a salary of $19 per hour over a
forty hour week, plus benefits, including four weeks of paid
vacation per year. Id. In 2012, she began working
for a new supervisor at MV, Dwayne Hendricks. Id. At
the time Hendricks became Hawkins' supervisor, there were
five other Lead Road Supervisors, all male. Compl.,
Attachment 1, ECF No. 1-1. Aff. of Hawkins. Hawkins had the
second most seniority of the six. Aff. of Hawkins.
alleges that Hendricks interacted with her differently from
the way he did with the other Lead Road Supervisors, solely
because of her sex, treating her as if she occupied a lower
job position than in fact she held. Compl., Attachment 1.
Aff. of Hawkins. Due to this mistreatment, Hawkins claims to
have made several complaints to Hendricks. Aff. of Hawkins.
All of these complaints, she alleges, were ignored; indeed
Hendricks not only dismissed her concerns, he acted
maliciously toward her as a result. Id. After a year
of alleged mistreatment, Hawkins brought her concerns to
MV's Human Resources Department, which also did nothing
to alleviate the situation. Id.
March 17, 2013, Hawkins claims she was constructively
discharged from her position at MV, being unable to continue
in what she describes was a discriminatory work environment.
Compl., Attachment 1. Aff. of Hawkins. She then filed a
charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2014, which investigated her
charge and concluded that Title VII had not been violated.
Compl., Attachment 2, ECF No. 1-2. On April 24, 2015, the
EEOC issued Hawkins a right to sue letter, giving her 90 days
from the date she received the letter to file suit in federal
court. Compl., Attachment 4, ECF No. 1-4.
24, 2015, Hawkins filed her pro se Complaint in this
Court, raising the same allegations she had made before the
EEOC. ECF No. 1. She sought monetary damages in the amount of
$300, 000. Id. at 4.
had difficulties with service of process. She first failed to
effect service at all, reporting to the Court that she was
unaware that she had to serve MV and asking that she be given
another opportunity. ECF No. 6. The Court granted her request
and ordered the Clerk to re-issue summons. ECF No. 7. The
Court then provided Hawkins ten (10) days to complete and
return a request for summons to the Clerk and forty-five (45)
days from the date the summons was reissued to effect
first attempt to effect service was unsuccessful. On January
11, 2016, after the Clerk reissued summons as to MV (ECF No.
8), she filed a Proof of Service that indicated that she
herself had left the summons with the receptionist at the MV
office at 6505 Belcrest Road, Suite 520, Hyattsville,
Maryland, 20782. ECF No. 10. On March 14, 2016, the Court
issued an Order to Hawkins to Show Good Cause why her
Complaint should not be dismissed without prejudice for
failure to timely serve MV, explaining that per the Maryland
Rules of Procedure (MD R. Civ. P. 2-123, 2-124), service must
be effected by a person who is not a party to the litigation
and must be made on the defendant's resident agent. ECF
No. 11. Hawkins responded that she was not aware that someone
else needed to serve MV or that she had to serve MV's
Resident Agent, and asked for yet another opportunity to
effectuate service. ECF No. 12. The Court granted her request
and gave her a third opportunity to effect service, ordering
the Clerk to re-issue summons and providing Hawkins ten (10)
days to complete and return summons to the Clerk and
forty-five (45) days from the date the summons was reissued
to effect service. ECF No. 13. On April 29, 2016, the Clerk
reissued the Summons. ECF No. 14.
final attempt to effectuate service was apparently
successful, and on June 10, 2016, she filed a Proof of
Service indicating that the Summons and Complaint had been
personally served by Kim Robinson on Matthew Bartynski of CT
Corporation in Baltimore, MV's Resident Agent. ECF No.
16. In order to be doubly certain that good service had been
effected, the Court had its then law clerk, Christine Bonomo,
Esquire, independently call MV's Resident Agent and speak
to a representative in the Service of Process Department.
That person confirmed that CT Corporation had indeed received
the Complaint and Summons and had forwarded both to MV (this
sequence is reflected in the Court's internal log, where
all actions taken vis-à-vis its cases are recorded by
date). The Court then had its law clerk attempt to phone MV
at the location listed in Hawkins' Complaint, but there
was no answer. The Court then had its clerk call other MV
offices in the United States, one of whose franchisees
suggested that MV's Maryland locations might no longer be
in operation. But eventually, the law clerk determined that
MV had a General Manager in MV's Baltimore location,
whose name and number she obtained and whom she called,
leaving multiple voicemails that he should contact the Court,
but no response was ever forthcoming.
August 12, 2016, the Court sent a letter to Hawkins,
informing her that she might be entitled to seek default
judgment, and instructed her to advise the Court if she
wanted the Court to appoint an attorney to assist her in that
regard. Hawkins in fact requested that the Court appoint an
attorney as to that (ECF No. 17), whereupon the Court
appointed Jeremy R. Feldman, Esquire, as her counsel (ECF No.
18). Through Feldman, Hawkins subsequently filed a Motion for
Clerk's Entry of Default (ECF No. 20), which the Clerk of
the Court entered in favor of Hawkins on November 4, 2016
(ECF No. 21). And on March 21, 2017, Hawkins filed a Motion
for Default Judgment, seeking $24, 240 in back pay and
compensatory damages as well as $300, 000 in punitive damages
against MV. ECF No. 22. On April 10, 2017, the Court granted
Hawkins' Motion for Default Judgment, but limited the
amount of damages to which she was entitled to back pay, lost
fringe benefits, pre-judgment interest, and punitive damages,
a total damage award of $75, 347.60. ECF Nos. 23 & 24.
13, 2017, Hawkins, through Attorney Feldman, filed a Request
for Garnishment of Property Other Than Wages (Financial
Institution), asking that the Court issue a Writ of
Garnishment against MV's bank account at Wells Fargo Bank
in Riverdale, Maryland. ECF No. 25. The Writ of Garnishment
was issued on July 17, 2017 (ECF No. 28), and Wells Fargo
Bank filed an Answer to the Writ, confessing assets soon
thereafter (ECF No. 30).
Writ of Garnishment finally jolted MV into action. On
September 8, 2017, it filed the present Motion to Vacate the
Entry of Default, arguing that the Default Judgment was void
because the Court lacked personal jurisdiction ...