United States District Court, D. Maryland
KYLE E. JAHN Plaintiff,
TIFFIN HOLDINGS, INC., TIFFIN ATHLETIC MATS, LLC, DANIEL TIFFIN, LINDA TIFFIN, and GERALD STRINGER Defendants.
Lipton Hollander United States District Judge
18, 2018, plaintiff Kyle E. Jahn filed suit against Tiffin
Holdings, Inc.; Tiffin Athletic Mats, LLC; Daniel Tiffin; and
Linda Tiffin. ECF 1 (“Complaint”). Plaintiff
alleges that defendants willfully and unlawfully failed to
compensate him properly for his earned wages. ECF 23, ¶
1. In particular, plaintiff alleges violations of the
following statutes in connection with unpaid minimum wages:
the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29
U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq.; the Maryland Wage
Payment and Collection Law (“MWPCL”), Md. Code
(2016 Repl. Vol., 2017 Supp.), §§ 3-501 et
seq. of the Labor and Employment Article
(“L.E.”); and the Maryland Wage and Hour Law
(“MWHL”), L.E. §§ 3-401 et
seq. ECF 23, ¶ 2. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and
treble damages. Id. at 12.
December 14, 2018, plaintiff filed, with leave of the Court
(ECF 22), an amended complaint (ECF 23, “Amended
Complaint”), adding Gerald Stringer as a defendant.
provided returns of service for all five defendants. ECF 6;
ECF 10; ECF 26. Kyle and Linda have responded to the suit.
Because Stringer was served on January 31, 2019, he may still
timely respond to the suit prior to February 21, 2019.
See ECF 26. However, defendants Tiffin Holdings,
Inc. and Tiffin Athletic Mats, LLC (together, the
“Corporate Defendants”) did not respond to the
suit. See Docket. Therefore, pursuant to a request
by plaintiff (ECF 14), the Clerk entered a default as to the
Corporate Defendants on September 22, 2018. ECF 15.
October 5, 2018, plaintiff filed a Motion for Entry of
Default Judgment (ECF 16, the “Motion”) as to the
Corporate Defendants, supported by an exhibit. ECF 16-1. The
Motion requests entry of judgment against the Corporate
Defendants in the amount of $14, 640. ECF 16 at 6. In
particular, plaintiff seeks the $4, 880 in damages for the
four weeks of unpaid wages, trebled because the Corporate
Defendants have not offered evidence of a bona fide dispute
and plaintiff has suffered consequential damages as a result
of the lost income. Id. at 4-5. In the alternative,
plaintiff seeks payment of at least $1, 202.50 for the
four-week period at the then-applicable minimum wage, trebled
to $3, 607.50. Id.
hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I will deny
the Motion as premature, and without prejudice.
55(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil procedure governs default
judgments. In particular, Rule 55(b)(1) provides that the
clerk may enter a default judgment if the plaintiff's
claim is “for a sum certain or a sum that can be made
certain by computation.” But, “[a] plaintiff's
assertion of a sum in a complaint does not make the sum
‘certain' unless the plaintiff claims liquidated
damages; otherwise the complaint must be supported by
affidavit or documentary evidence. Monge v. Portofino
Ristorante, 751 F.Supp.2d 789, 794 (D. Md. 2010) (Grimm,
sure, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit has a “strong policy that cases be decided on
the merits.” United States v. Shaffer Equip.
Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir. 1993); see Tazco,
Inc. v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation
Program, 895 F.2d 949, 950 (4th Cir. 1990). But, that
policy is not absolute. Default judgment “‘is
appropriate when the “adversary process has been halted
because of an essentially unresponsive party.'”
Entrepreneur Media, Inc. v. JMD Entertainment Group,
LLC, 958 F.Supp.2d 588, 593 (D. Md. 2013) (quoting
SEC v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md.
the entry of default against a party, the court must
determine whether the undisputed factual allegations
constitute a legitimate cause of action. Ryan v.
Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780-81 (4th Cir.
2001); see also 10A Wright, Miller & Kane,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 2688 (3d ed.,
2010 Supp.) (“[L]iability is not deemed established
simply because of the default . . . and the court, in its
discretion, may require some proof of the facts that must be
established in order to determine liability.”).
court is satisfied that liability has been established, it
must then determine the appropriate amount of damages.
Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780-81. Allegations
“relating to the amount of damages” are not
deemed admitted based on a defendant's failure to respond
to a suit. Fed R. Civ. P. 8(b)(6); see Ryan, 253
F.3d at 780 (“‘[D]efault is not treated as an
absolute confession by the defendant of his liability and of
the plaintiff's right to recover'”) (citation
omitted); Monge, 751 Supp. 2d at 794; Trs. of
the Elec. Welfare Trust Fund v. MH Passa Elec. Contracting,
Inc., DKC-08-2805, 2009 WL 2982951, at *1 (D. Md. Sept.
14, 2009) (“Upon default, the well-pled allegations in
a complaint as to liability are taken as true, although the
allegations as to damages are not.”); Pentech Fin.
Servs., Inc. v. Old Dominion Saw Works, Inc., No.
6:09cv00004, 2009 WL 1872535, at *1 (W.D. Va. June 30, 2009)
(“Upon default judgment, Plaintiff's factual
allegations are accepted as true for all purposes excluding
determination of damages.”).
the court must make an independent determination regarding
allegations as to damages. See Credit Lyonnais Sec.
(USA), Inc. v. Alcantara, 183 F.3d 151, 154 (2d Cir.
1999). In so doing, the court may conduct an evidentiary
hearing. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). However, the court may also
make a determination of damages without a hearing, so long as
there is an adequate evidentiary basis in the record to
support an award of the requested damages. See Adkins v.
Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001) (“[T]he
court may rely on detailed affidavits or documentary evidence
to determine the appropriate sum.”); see also
Trustees of the Nat'l Asbestos Workers Pension Fund v.
Ideal Insulation, Inc., ELH-11-832, 2011 WL 5151067, at
*4 (D. Md. Oct. 27, 2011) (determining that, in a case of
default judgment against an employer, “the Court may
award damages without a hearing if the record supports the
damages requested”); Monge, 751 F.Supp.2d at
795 (same); Pentech Fin. Servs., Inc., 2009 WL
1872535, at *2 (concluding that there was “no need to
convene a formal evidentiary hearing on the issue of
damages” after default judgment because plaintiff
submitted affidavits and records establishing the amount of
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c), “[a] default judgment must
not differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is
demanded in the pleadings.” See In re Genesys Data
Techs, Inc., 204 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2000)
(“When a Complaint demands a specific amount of
damages, courts have generally held that a default judgment
cannot award additional damages.”). This is meant to
enable the defendant to decide whether to expend the
resources to defend the action. Monge, 751 F.Supp.2d