United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm, United States District Judge
Juan Flores, Angel Castillo, and Fidel Mejia filed suit in
this Court against their former employer, Defendant
Environmental Trust Solutions, Inc. (“ETS”), and
it owners, husband and wife Bodger Johnson and Gbomai
Bestman-Johnson on October 8, 2015. Compl., ECF No. 1.
Plaintiffs sought to recover unpaid overtime wages through a
breach of contract claim and claims of violations of the
Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29
U.S.C. §§ 201 - 219; the Maryland Wage Payment and
Collection Law (“MWPCL”), Md. Code Ann, Lab.
& Empl. §§ 3-501 - 3-509; and the Maryland Wage
and Hour Law (“MWHL”), Lab. & Empl.
§§ 3-401 - 3-431. Id. The Clerk of the
Court entered defaults as to all Defendants at
Plaintiffs' request when they failed to answer or
otherwise defend, and I then entered a default judgment as to
all Defendants. Sixteen months later, while Plaintiffs were
applying for writs of garnishment and pursuing discovery in
aid of execution, Defendants moved to vacate the default
judgment, and Plaintiffs then moved to compel discovery
responses. ECF Nos. 23, 26. Because Plaintiffs have provided
insufficient evidence of service of process on ETS, I must
vacate the entry of default as to ETS and the default
judgment as to all Defendants, deny Plaintiffs' Motion to
Compel Discovery Responses in Aid of Execution, and order
service on ETS. Plaintiffs properly served the individual
defendants, however, and therefore the entries of default as
to Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Bestman-Johnson will not be vacated.
Accordingly, I will grant Defendants' motion in part and
deny it in part.
Johnson is the President of ETS, and Mrs. Bestman-Johnson is
the Resident Agent for ETS. Defs.' Mot. & Mem. 3, ECF
No. 23. They reside at 18682 Brooke Road, Sandy Springs, MD
20860 (the “Brooke Road address”). Id.
The docket reflects Proofs of Service as to ETS, Mrs.
Bestman-Johnson, and Mr. Johnson. ECF Nos. 4, 5, 6.
Defendants did not respond to the Complaint, Plaintiffs filed
a Request for Entry of Default and a Motion for Default
Judgment on June 7, 2016, ECF Nos. 10 and 11, which
Plaintiffs mailed to Defendants at the Brooke Road address,
ECF Nos. 10-1 and 11-1. Plaintiffs contended that personal
service on Mr. Johnson “was proper pursuant to Md. Rule
2-124(b).” Pls.' Req. for Entry ¶ 6. As for
service on ETS and Mrs. Bestman-Johnson, they argued that it
was proper under Md. Rule 2-124(b) for Mrs. Bestman-Johnson
and Md. Rule 2-124(d) for ETS because “the summons and
associated documents were handed to Defendant Bodger Johnson
personally, ” and he is Mrs. Bestman-Johnson's
husband and ETS's President, “and he simply refused
to physically grab them.” Id. ¶¶
7-9. The Clerk issued an Order of Default as to all
Defendants on September 7, 2016, based on Defendants'
failure to respond or otherwise defend in this proceeding.
ECF No. 12.
concluded that Plaintiffs established Defendants'
liability and some of the damages they sought, and
accordingly, I entered judgment in the amount of $55, 120.00
against Defendants on September 26, 2016. ECF Nos. 13, 14.
Plaintiffs sought attorneys' fees and costs on September
29, 2016, ECF No. 15, and mailed a copy of their fee petition
to Defendants at the Brooke Road address, ECF No. 15-4. The
fee petition memorialized the Court's entry of default
and entry of judgment. Fee Pet. ¶¶ 6-7. I granted
the petition on December 8, 2016. ECF No. 16.
recorded the judgment in the Circuit Court of Maryland for
Montgomery County on January 18, 2017. State Ct. Docket Nos.
1-3, ECF No. 24-7. The state court mailed a Notice of Entry
of Foreign Judgment to Defendants on January 25, 2017.
Id. at 7-8. Plaintiffs requested writs of
garnishment in state court, id., and filed an
Application for Writs of Garnishment and Proposed Writs on
October 2 and 9, 2017 in this Court, ECF Nos. 19, 21.
December 7, 2017, Defendants responded to the legal
proceedings for the first time, filing in state court an
Answer and Motion to Quash/Dismiss Writ of Garnishment, as
well as a Response to the state court's Show Cause Order.
State Ct. Docket Nos. 39-40. Then, on February 8, 2018, more
than two years after Plaintiffs filed suit, twenty months
after Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Default Judgment,
sixteen months after I granted it, almost a year after
Plaintiffs recorded the judgment in state court, and two
months after Defendants filed responses in state court,
Defendants filed a Motion to Vacate Default Judgment in this
action. ECF No. 23. They move to vacate the default judgment
as to all Defendants and seek leave to respond to the
Complaint, which I construe as a request to strike the
entries of default as well. See id.; Fed.R.Civ.P. 1.
filed their Motion to Vacate Default Judgment pursuant to
Rule 55(c), arguing that there is good cause to set aside the
default. Defs.' Mot. & Mem. 6, 8-9. Yet, Rule 55(c)
provides that “[t]he court may set aside an entry of
default for good cause, and it may set aside a final
default judgment under Rule 60(b).” Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(c) (emphasis added). Because there is “an interest
in ‘finality and repose'” when a court has
entered a final judgment, relief from a default judgment, as
opposed to relief simply from entry of default,
“involves a more exacting standard to vacate.”
Hawkins v. MV Transp., Inc., No. PJM-15-2169, 2017
WL 5716757, at *3 (D. Md. Nov. 27, 2017) (quoting United
States v. Moradi, 673 F.2d 725, 727-28 (4th Cir. 1982)).
Thus, for relief from a default judgment, a
defendant typically must demonstrate not simply good cause
but rather that “its motion is timely, that it has a
meritorious defense to the action, that the opposing party
would not be unfairly prejudiced by having the judgment set
aside, and that one or more of the six grounds set forth in
Rule 60(b) is satisfied.” Id. (citing Park
Corp v. Lexington Ins. Co., 812 F.2d 894, 896 (4th Cir.
1986)). The grounds stated in Rule 60(b) are:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable
diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for
a new trial under Rule 59(b);
(3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic),
misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party;
(4) the judgment is void;
(5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged;
it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or
vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable;
(6) any other reason that justifies relief.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). Here, the Court entered a final
default judgment, ECF No. 14, and therefore the Rule 60(b)
standard applies. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c);
Hawkins, 2017 WL 5716757, at *3 (“Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 60(b) addresses the circumstances under
which a Default Judgment may be vacated by a court.”).
support of their argument that there is good cause to set
aside the default judgment, Defendants contend that service
was improper. Defs.' Mot. & Mem. 18-21. Thus, the
issue is whether Defendants are entitled to relief under Rule
60(b)(4) based on the premise that, as a result of the
allegedly improper service, the judgment is void. See
Koehler v. Dodwell, 152 F.3d 304, 306-07 (4th Cir. 1998)
(“Absent waiver or consent, a failure to obtain proper
service on the defendant deprives the court of personal
jurisdiction over the defendant. Moreover, any judgment
entered against a defendant over whom the court does not have
personal jurisdiction is void.” (citing Armco, Inc.
v. Penrod-Stauffer Bldg. Sys., Inc., 733 F.2d 1087, 1089
(4th Cir. 1984))); e.g., Hawkins, 2017 WL
5716757, at *4 (“MV argues that it is entitled to
relief under Rule 60(b)(4), alleging that Hawkins did not
properly effectuate service of process on MV because she
failed to provide a copy of both the Summons and the
Complaint to CT Corporation.”). Because I construe
Defendants' Motion to rely on Rule 60(b)(4), timeliness
is not an issue, and Defendants do not have to show that they
have a meritorious defense. See Hawkins, 2017 WL
5716757, at *4 (noting that a “Rule 60(b)(4) Motion may
be brought to set aside a void judgment at any time”
and a “movant claiming relief under Rule 60(b)(4) need