United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Xinis United States District Judge
Memorandum Opinion and Order addresses Plaintiff Mohamed
Sankoh's Motion for Default Judgment, ECF No. 9.
Defendants Gold Street Capital Fund LP, Money Back Taxx LLC,
USA Debt Solutions LLC, and Lovet Ako have not filed a
response or entered their appearance, 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
Mohamed Sankoh (“Sankoh”) is a citizen of the
State of Maryland and former employee of Defendants Gold
Street Capital Fund, LP (“GSCF”), Money Back
Taxx, LLC (“Money Back”), USA Debt Solutions, LLC
(“USA Debt Solutions”), and Lovet Ako
(“Ako”). ECF No. 1 at ¶ 12. GSCF is a
Delaware corporation which conducts substantial business in
Maryland; Money Back and USA Debt Solutions are Maryland
corporations with their principal place of business in
Maryland. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 14-15. Ako is a resident
of Maryland and the sole proprietor and owner of all
corporate Defendants. Id. at ¶¶ 16-17.
around April 3 through July 18, 2017, Sankoh worked for
Defendants in Silver Spring, Maryland. Id. at ¶
21-23. As part of his duties, Sakoh performed a wide variety
of tasks for corporate Defendants, including entering client
information, amending tax forms, fixing computers, and
drafting abstracts of stock-market related analysis.
Id. Defendant Ako hired Sankoh, and supervised his
work for all corporate Defendants. Id. at
promised Sankoh an annual salary of $50, 000, paid biweekly.
Id. at ¶¶ 26- 28. However, throughout
Sankoh's employment, he was not been paid timely, nor did
he receive all owed wages. Id. at ¶ 32. On or
about June 23, June 26, June 27, and July 14, 2017, Sankoh
complained to Defendant Ako that it was illegal to withhold
earned wages. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34, 38, 42. On
June 26, 2017, Ako gave Sankoh a check for $1, 000, written
on a Money Back Taxx, LLC check, and did not provide Sankoh a
paystub. Id. at ¶¶35-37. When Sankoh again
complained on July 14, 2017, that Ako's failure to pay
employees was illegal, Ako stated that he did not want to pay
Sankoh his owed wages. Sankoh was then escorted out of
Ako's office, immediately suspended, and then terminated
for complaining about unpaid wages on July 18, 2017.
Id. at 47-48. In total, Sankoh received only $1, 000
during his employment. Id. at ¶¶ 29- 31.
August 9, 2017, Sankoh filed claims for unpaid wages and
retaliation in violation of the Maryland Wage Payment and
Collection Law (“MWPCL”) and the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”), asserting federal
question jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. All Defendants were served
on August 28, 2017. ECF Nos. 2-6. Defendants failed to enter
their appearance or otherwise respond, and an Order of
Default was entered on October 18, 2017. ECF No. 8. Sankoh
moved for default judgment on December 5, 2017.
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)).
“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.”). In this Circuit,
district courts analyzing default judgments apply the
pleading standards announced 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
filed suit against Defendants for violations of the FLSA and
MWPCL, alleging that Defendants failed to pay promptly the
wages owed to him, and when he complained, Defendants fired
him. The Complaint sets forth an adequate factual basis to
necessary precondition to establishing liability under the
FLSA and MPCWL is showing that an employment relationship
existed between the parties. See Falaiye v. CCA Academic
Resources, LLC, No. PX-16-2887, 2017 WL 2537026, at *2
(D. Md. June 12, 2017)); Coles v. Von Paris Enterprises,
Inc., No. PJM-14-450, 2014 WL 6893861, at *3 (D. Md.
Dec. 3, 2014); Butler v. PP & G, Inc., No.
WMN-13-43, 2013 WL 4026983, at *4 (D. Md. Aug. 6, 2013).
Whether an individual or entity is an “employer”
under the FLSA and MPCWL is determined by applying the
“economic reality” test. See Schultz v.
Capital Int'l Sec., Inc., 466 F.3d 298, 304 (4th
Cir. 2006); Rollins v. Rollins Trucking, LLC, No.
JKB-15-3312, 2016 WL 81510, at *4 (D. Md. Jan. 7, 2016)
(“[C]ourts in Maryland and in this District have
applied the economic-reality test to claims arising under the
MWPCL.”) (citing cases). An “employer” is
one who (1) has the authority to hire and fire employees; (2)
supervises and controls work schedules or employment