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Berrios v. Green Wireless, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 8, 2018

DIANA C. BERRIOS, Plaintiff,
v.
GREEN WIRELESS, LLC, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Presently pending before the Court is Plaintiff Diana C. Berrios* Renewed Motion for Default Judgment as to Defendants Green Wireless. IXC ("Green Wireless") and Michael Pak. ECF No. 47. The motion arises out of a lawsuit alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., the Maryland Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL"). Md. Code Lab. & Empl.. § 3-401 et seq.. and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law ("MWPCL"). Md. Code. Lab. & Empl.. § 3-501 et .seq. No hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons. Plaintiffs motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A complete discussion of the factual and procedural background of this case can be found in the Court's prior opinions. See Berrios v. Green Wireless. LLC. No. GJH-14-3655. 2016 WL 1562902 (D. Md. Apr. 18. 2016) (hereinafter. ''''Consent Judgment Opinion"). Berrios r. Green Wireless. LLC. No. GJH-14-3655. 2016 WL 7451297 (D. Md. Dec. 27. 2016) (hereinafter. "Attorney's Fees Opinion "). and Berrios v. Green Wireless. LLC. No. GJH-14-3655. 2017 WL 2120038 (D. Md. May 15, 2017) (hereinafter, "Reinstatement Opinion"). Thus, the Court will only discuss the factual and procedural details necessary to resolve the present motion.

         Plaintiff tiled the instant Complaint against her employers Green Wireless, a cell phone and cell phone plan provider; Michael Shin, the owner and manager; and Pak. the co-manager. ECF No. 1.[1] The Complaint alleges that Defendants failed to pay her overtime wages in violation of the FLSA. MW11I, . and M WPCL. After Defendants failed to file an Answer to Plaintiffs Complaint, the Clerk"s Office entered an Order of Default against Defendant Green Wireless on March 30. 2015 and Defendants Shin and Pak on September 1. 2015. See ECF Nos. 8. 16. On October 22, 2015. Plaintiff filed a Motion for Default Judgment against all Defendants. ECF No. 18. On April 18. 2016. the Court approved a consent judgment between Plaintiff and Shin. Consent Judgment Opinion, ECF No. 29. In the same opinion, the Court stated that "it is unclear whether, in light of the settlement with Mr. Shin. Plaintiff intends to seek additional damages from Green Wireless or Mr. Pak." Id. at *3. Thus, the Court denied Plaintiffs Motion for Default Judgment as to Defendants Pak and Green Wireless without prejudice, explaining that Plaintiff "may refile her motion against the remaining defendants within fourteen days of the accompanying Order."' Id.

         Plaintiff did not refile the motion within that time period. Instead, in a footnote in her subsequent Motion for Attorney's Fees against Shin. Plaintiff stated her intention to dismiss the remaining defendants "if this judgment [against Defendant Shin], along with any modification for attorney fees, is fully satisfied." ECF No. 31 at 1. Plaintiff further stated that "in the event that this judgment is not paid. Plaintiff intends to prosecute her claims as to the two remaining defendants." Id.

         On July 7. 2016, Plaintiff requested that the Clerk "mark the judgment of $3, 000.00 as having been paid" but noted that because Plaintiffs Motion for Attorney's Fees was still pending, Plaintiffs claim for attorney's fees and cost had not been satisfied. ECF No. 34.

         On December 27. 2016. the Court awarded Plaintiff $16.4110.00 in attorney's fees and costs. Attorney's Fees Opinion, ECF No. 35. In that same opinion, the Court dismissed the remaining claims against Defendants Pak and Green Wireless, noting that "the Plaintiff previously stated its intent to dismiss the remaining defendants upon the satisfaction of the judgment awarded against Defendant Shin . . . [and] (a]s that judgment has been satisfied . . . the remaining claims are dismissed." Id. On January 3. 2017. Defendant Shin appealed the Attorney's Fees Opinion to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. ECF No. 37. On May 15. 2017, while the appeal was pending, the Court granted Plaintiff's Motion to Vacate and Reinstate her previously dismissed claims against Defendants Pak and Green Wireless under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). See Reinstatement Opinion. ECF No. 41. The Court determined that its prior dismissal of Defendants Pak and Green Wireless was in error because Plaintiff only intended to dismiss these defendants if the judgment against Defendant Shin, including any award of attorney fees, was fully satisfied. Id. at *3. Because the Attorney's Fees Opinion was pending appeal, the award had not been satisfied, and the Court reinstated Plaintiffs claims against Defendants Pak and Green Wireless. Id. The Court then granted Plaintiff a stay pending resolution of the appeal. ECF No. 44. but the Fourth Circuit determined that in light of the Reinstatement Opinion, the Attorney's Fees Opinion was no longer a final order and dismissed Shin's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. See Berrios v. Shin. 700 Fed.Appx. 222 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4)(B)(i)) (docketed as ECF No. 45-1). Plaintiffs Renewed Motion for Default Judgment as to Defendants Pak and Green Wireless, ECF No. 47. followed and is now pending. Defendants Pak and Green Wireless have not responded to the Motion.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought 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). "A defendant's default does not automatically entitle the plaintiff to entry of a default judgment; rather, that decision is left to the discretion of the court." Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp. v. Optimum Welding. 285 F.R.D. 371. 373 (D. Md. 2012). Although "[t]he Fourth Circuit has a 'strong policy' that 'cases be decided on their merits.'" Choice Hotels Intern., Inc. v. Savannah Shakti Corp., No. DKC-11-0438. 2011 WL 5118328. at *2 (D. Md. Oct. 25. 2011) (citing United States v. Shaffer Equip. Co.. 11 F.3d 450. 453 (4th Cir. 1993)), "default judgment may be appropriate when the adversary process has been halted because of an essentially unresponsive party[.]" Id. (citing S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh. 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md. 2005)).

         "Upon default, the well-pled allegations in a complaint as to liability are taken as true, although the allegations as to damages are not." Lawhaugh. 359 F.Supp.2d at 422; see also Ryan v. Homecomings Fin Network. 253 F.3d 778. 780 (4th Cir. 2001) (noting that "[t]he defendant, by [its] default, admits the plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations of fact." which provide the basis for judgment). Upon a finding of liability, "ft]he court must make an independent determination regarding damages . . . ." Int 7 Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Capital Restoration & Painting Co.. 919 F.Supp.2d 680. 684 (D. Md. 2013). Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c) limits the type of judgment that may be entered based on a party's default: "A default judgment must not differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in the pleadings." While the Court may hold a hearing to prove damages, it is not required to do so; it may rely instead on "detailed affidavits or documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum.*' Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001) (citing United Artists Corp. v. Freeman. 605 F.2d 854. 857 (5th Cir. 1979)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Liability

         The FLSA and MWHL require that any employee who works more than forty hours in a workweek be paid one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for each additional hour worked. See FLSA. § 207(a)(1); MWHL § 3-415(a). Further, the MWPCL requires employers to pay employees all wages due for work performed, including overtime wages, see MWPCL § 3-501(c)(2)(iv); see also Peters v. Early Healthcare Giver. Inc.,97 A.3d 621. 624-25 (Md. 2014 ("Read together, [the MWHL and MWPCL] allow employees to recover unlawfully withheld wages from their employer, and provide an employee with two avenues to do so."). Under the FLSA. an "employer" includes "any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee." See FLSA. § 203(d); see also MWHL § 3 -401(b) (providing same definition of employer). In determining individual employer status under the FLSA, courts consider whether the purported employer had sufficient operational control of the employee, including whether the employer: (1) had the power to hire and fire employees: (2) supervised and controlled employee work schedules or conditions of employment: (3) determined rates and methods of payment; and (4) maintained employment records. See Garcia v. Frog Island Seafood, Inc..644 F.Supp.2d 696. 720-21 (F.D. N.C. 2009). Furthermore, an employee may have more than one employer for purposes of the FLSA. See 29 C.F.R. ยง 791.2(a) ...


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