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Vasquez-Padilla v. Medco Properties, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 1, 2018

RUBEN VASQUEZ-PADILLA Plaintiff,
v.
MEDCO PROPERTIES, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Paula Xinis, United States District Judge

         This Memorandum Opinion and Order address the final phase of Plaintiff Ruben Vasquez-Padilla's Motion for Default Judgment, assessment of damages. ECF No. 19. On April 3, 2018, default judgment as to Defendants' liability was granted to Vasquez-Padilla, and a hearing on damages was held on May 15, 2018. For the reasons stated herein, Vasquez-Padilla is awarded $127, 138.10 in damages.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Ruben Vasquez-Padilla (“Vasquez-Padilla”) is a citizen of the State of Delaware employed in landscaping. ECF No. 12 at ¶ 4; Pl. Ex. 10. 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 ¶ 6.

         Vasquez-Padilla filed his Complaint with this Court on November 18, 2016, alleging that he suffered physical and emotional injuries as a result of slipping and falling on Defendants' property. 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. After several pleadings related to default judgment (and thus several additional opportunities for the Defendants to participate in this litigation), the Court entered default judgment as to Defendants' liability for negligence on April 3, 2018. ECF Nos. 19 & 20. A hearing to determine Vasquez-Padilla's damages was held on May 15, 2018. ECF No. 23.

         II. FACTS ESTABLISHED AT HEARING

         The following facts were established at the damages hearing. On 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. ECF No. 12 at ¶¶ 8-11. Vasquez-Padilla suffered a serious injury to his left knee, resulting in immediate and persistent intense pain and swelling. See Pl.'s Ex. 1. For well over a week, Vasquez-Padilla suffered swelling and pain in his left knee which did not subside. Accordingly, Vasquez-Padilla sought medical attention at Wilmington Hospital. Pl.'s Ex. 2. Vasquez-Padilla was given a brace to stabilize his knee, and referred to seek further treatment at Christiana Care, where x-rays were performed. Pl. Ex's 1 & 4. After reviewing Vasquez-Padilla's x-rays, Christiana Care recommended that Vasquez-Padilla consult with an orthopedic doctor “as soon as possible, ” and to “[r]eturn to the ER if symptoms worsen.” Pl. Ex. 4.

         After several weeks of persistent and acute pain that largely made his work in landscaping impossible, Vasquez-Padilla was seen by doctors at First State Orthopedics on April 1, 2014. Pl. Ex. 5. Vasquez-Padilla's knee was aspirated and injected with a local anesthetic and Kenalog, a corticosteroid used to treat inflammation in the body. Id. He was directed to refrain from work and rest his knee. Id. A follow-up appointment was scheduled for June to assess if surgery was necessary. Id. Around this time, Vasquez-Padilla was fired from his job as a landscaper at Forever Green Landscaping because his injury left him unable to work a full workweek. See Pl. Ex. 10. He was then hired by First Impressions Landscaping. Id.

         Several weeks passed, and Vasquez-Padilla's symptoms showed little to no improvement. First State Orthopedics ordered an MRI of Vasquez-Padilla's injury, which revealed a “tear of the medial meniscus” and “a tremendous amount of marrow edema on the weight bearing surface of the medial femoral condyle.” Pl. Ex. 5. An arthroscopy of the left knee was thus recommended and scheduled for the end of July. Id.

         Throughout June and July, Vasquez-Padilla attempted to work, but because of his knee injury, he could only perform the physical labor required of his job for twenty (20) hours per week. Consequently, First Impressions Landscaping terminated Vasquez-Padilla. See Pl. Ex. 10.

         On July 29, 2014, First State Orthopedics successfully completed an arthroscopic procedure on Vasquez-Padilla's left knee. Id.; see also Pl. Exhs. 8 & 9. He was ordered to rest for around three weeks following the surgery. On August 11, Vasquez-Padilla was permitted to return to work on “modified duty, ” and at or around August 24, Vasquez-Padilla returned to work full-time. Pl. Ex. 5. Even after returning to work and through today, Vasquez-Padilla continues to experience pain and stiffness while playing with his daughter and working.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Upon entry of default judgment, the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint regarding liability are deemed admitted, in contrast to the allegations regarding damages. SEC v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 422 (D. Md.2005); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6) (a defaulting party is deemed to admit factual allegations of the plaintiff's complaint “other than [those] relating to the amount of damages”). Before awarding damages, the court must consider evidence presented in support. “Where the amount ... is uncertain, the court is required to make an independent determination of the sum to be awarded.” J & J Sports Prods. v. Melgar, No. PJM 11-3339, 2012 WL 1852270 (D. Md. May 15, 2012) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         II. ...


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