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.
19. 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 GRANTED.
Ruben Vasquez-Padilla (Vasquez-Padilla) is a citizen of the
State of Delaware. ECF No. 12 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. 12. 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. Id. at ¶
to the Complaint, on or about February 16, 2014, at
approximately 9:30 a.m., Vasquez-Padilla parked his car in
the parking lot of the Golden Corral and began walking toward
the restaurant. The temperature was just above freezing and
dry, and numerous other cars were parked in the parking lot.
Id. at ¶¶ 8, 10. 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. 12 at ¶¶
8-11. Vasquez-Padilla asserts that he still experiences
physical pain from these injuries and believes he will need
future medical care. Id. at ¶ 9. He 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. Defendants did not answer the Complaint or
otherwise respond, and on April 5, 2017, the Clerk issued an
Order of Default pursuant to Rule 55(a) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff moved for default
judgment on May 24, 2017, which was denied because the
Complaint did not plausibly allege that Defendants had notice
of the parking lot's dangerous condition. ECF No. 11.
Plaintiff was given leave to refile, and submitted an Amended
Complaint on October 25, 2017, which he timely served on
Defendants, in compliance with Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure and Maryland Rule 2-124(o). See ECF
Nos. 12, 15 & 16. Defendants again failed to answer or
otherwise respond, and an Order of Default was entered on
January 29, 2018. Plaintiff renewed his Motion for Default
Judgment on March 13, 2018. ECF No. 19.
Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) governs 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)).
“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 contact him).
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.
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