United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
the Court are three Motions for Default
Judgment filed by Plaintiff in Interpleader
Metropolitan Life Insurance (“MetLife”)
against Sebastian Hill (Doc. 61), Jonathan Hill (Doc.
62) and Alexis Hill (Doc. 63). Jurisdiction is
proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the following
reasons, the Motions for Default Judgement (Docs. 61,
62, and 63) are GRANTED.
an insurance provider, provided a group life insurance plan
(the “Plan”) to the City of Baton Rouge,
Louisiana, in which John Jackson (the “Insured”)
was a participant. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 7). Willie Lee Jackson
Sr. (“Jackson”) is the Insured's son. The
Insured's Plan stated that if no beneficiary for monies
payable at the Insured's death was designated, MetLife
may decide that certain surviving family members are to be
designated to be the beneficiaries of the life insurance
payment. (Id. at ¶ 8). MetLife claims that the
Insured executed a form designating his wife, Anna M. Jackson
(“Ms. Jackson”) as beneficiary under the Plan.
(Doc. 1 at ¶ 9). Plaintiff further alleges that on March
16, 2017, a power of attorney previously executed on behalf
of the Insured by Alexis Hill, Ms. Jackson's nephew, was
used to sign a Beneficiary Designation Form, removing Ms.
Jackson and designating Alexis Hill as primary beneficiary,
and Alexis Hill's sons Jonathan Hill and Sebastian Hill
as contingent beneficiaries. (Id. at ¶ 13). This
new Beneficiary Designation Form stated that the Insured
revoked any previous designations of primary and contingent
beneficiaries. MetLife avers that Ms. Jackson died on August
10, 2015, predeceasing the Insured. (Id. at ¶
15). The Insured died on November 20, 2015. (Id. at
¶ 16). Upon the Insured's death, MetLife wrote to
Jackson requesting him to submit a claimant's affidavit
for the value of the death benefits. (Id. at ¶
18). Jackson returned the claim form on January 8, 2016.
(Id. at ¶ 19). On December 21, 2015, MetLife
wrote to Alexis Hill to inform him that the power of attorney
that he used to change the Beneficiary Designation Form did
not give him the authority to do so. (Id. at ¶
20). On March 1, 2016 MetLife wrote to counsel for Jackson,
Alexis Hill, Sebastian Hill, and Jonathan Hill indicating
that their claims were adverse to each other, and that
MetLife, by law, was required to file an interpleader action.
However, MetLife urged the parties to amicably settle the
matter before the interpleader action was filed.
(Id. at ¶ 24). The interpleader action was
filed on March 6, 2017. (Doc. 5). The Court entered an
injunction on April 5, 2017 enjoining Defendants from
instituting any other suit against MetLife relating to the
death benefits of the Insured, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2361 (Doc. 5 at p. 1).
avers that despite numerous attempts to serve Non-Responsive
Defendants, it has been unable to do so. (Doc. 61 at p. 1).
Plaintiff asserts that it attempted service via publication
in the Chicago Tribune and the (Baton Rouge) Advocate,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1655, to no avail. (Id.)
Plaintiff's notices stated “If you fail to appear
or plead by April 19, 2018, the court will proceed as if you
have been served with process.” (Id.). As of
this date, Non-Responsive Defendants have not participated in
any aspect of this matter. The Clerk of Court entered default
against Non-Responsive Defendants on June 4, 2018. (Doc. 56).
MetLife then filed the pending Motions for Default Judgment.
(Docs. 61, 62, and 63).
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has
adopted a three step process to obtain a default judgment.
See New York Life Ins. Co. v. Brown, 84 F.3d 137,
141 (5th Cir. 1996). First, a default occurs when a party
“has failed to plead or otherwise defend” against
an action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Next, an entry of default must
be entered by the clerk when the default is shown “by
affidavit or otherwise.” See id.; NewYork
Life, 84 F.3d at 141. Third, a party may apply to the
court for a default judgment after an entry of default.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b); New York Life, 84 F.3d at 141.
party files for a default judgment, courts must apply a
two-part process to determine whether a default judgment
should be entered. First, a court must consider whether the
entry of default judgment is appropriate under the
circumstances. Lindsey v. Prive Corp., 161 F.3d 886,
893 (5th Cir. 1998). Several factors are relevant to this
inquiry, including: (1) whether there are material issues of
fact at issue, (2) whether there has been substantial
prejudice, (3) whether the grounds for default have been
clearly established, (4) whether the default was caused by
excusable neglect or good faith mistake, (5) the harshness of
the default judgment, and (6) whether the court would think
itself obliged to set aside the default on a motion by
the court must assess the merits of the plaintiff's
claims and determine whether the plaintiff has a claim for
relief. Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l
Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975); Hamdan v.
Tiger Bros. Food Mart, Inc., No. CV 15-00412, 2016 WL
1192679, at *2 (M.D. La. Mar. 22, 2016).
Default Judgment is Appropriate under the Lindsey
Court must first decide whether the entry of default judgment
is appropriate under the circumstances, by considering the
Lindsey factors. First, there are no material facts
in dispute because Non-Responsive Defendants failed to file
an Answer or motion under Rule 12. Second, it is undisputed
that Non-Responsive Defendants have not responded to any of
MetLife's attempts to contact them. Third, the grounds
for granting a default judgment against Non-Responsive
Defendants are clearly established, as evidenced by the
action's procedural history and the Clerk's entry of
default. Fourth, the Court has no basis to find that
Non-Responsive Defendants' failure to respond was the
result of a good faith mistake or excusable neglect because
they have failed to respond to MetLife or to the Court.
Fifth, Non-Responsive Defendants' failure to file any
responsive pleading or motion mitigates the harshness of a
default judgment. Finally, the Court is not aware of any
facts that would lead it to set aside the default judgment if
challenged by Non-Responsive Defendants. The Court therefore
finds that the six Lindsey factors weigh in favor of
entry of default against Non-Responsive Defendants.
The Sufficiency of the Pleadings
Court must also determine whether MetLife's pleadings
provide a sufficient basis for a default judgement. MetLife
filed the interpleader complaint against ...