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Mack Financial Services v. Sugarland Express LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 1, 2019

MACK FINANCIAL SERVICES, ET AL.
v.
SUGARLAND EXPRESS LLC, ET AL.

         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is plaintiffs Mack Financial Services (“Mack Financial”) and VFS Leasing Company's (“VFS”) (collectively, the “plaintiffs”) motion for entry of a default judgment against defendants Sugarland Express, LLC (“Sugarland Express”), TAK, L.L.C. (“TAK”), Arabie Trucking Services, LLC (“Arabie Trucking”), Myrna Arabie, and Sandy Arabie (collectively, the “defendants”). The plaintiffs request that the Court enter a judgment in their favor and award contractual damages, injunctive relief, [1] pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest, attorneys' fees, and costs. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         I.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b), the Court may enter a default judgment against a party when it fails to plead or otherwise respond to the plaintiff's complaint within the required time period. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). A plaintiff who seeks a default judgment against an unresponsive defendant must proceed with a two-step process.

         First, the plaintiff must petition the clerk for an entry of default, which is simply “the placement of a notation of the party's default on the clerk's record of the case.” Dow Chem. Pac. Ltd. v. Rascator Mar. S.A., 782 F.2d 329, 335 (2d Cir. 1986); see also United States v. Hansen, 795 F.2d 35, 37 (7th Cir. 1986) (describing the entry of default as “an intermediate, ministerial, nonjudicial, virtually meaningless docket entry”). Before the clerk may enter the default, the plaintiff must show “by affidavit or otherwise” that the defendant “has failed to plead or otherwise defend.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Beyond that requirement, the entry of default is largely mechanical.

         After the defendant's default has been entered, the plaintiff may request the entry of a judgment on the default. In that context, the court deems the plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations admitted. See Nishimatsu Const. Co., Ltd. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975). At the same time, the court does not hold the defaulting defendant “to [have] admitt[ed] facts that are not well-pleaded or to [have] admitt[ed] conclusions of law.” Id. The default judgment should not be entered unless the judgment is “‘supported by well-pleaded allegations' and . . . ha[s] ‘a sufficient basis in the pleadings.'” Wooten v. McDonald Transit Assocs., Inc., 788 F.3d 490, 498 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Nishimatsu, 515 F.2d at 1206).

         If the plaintiff's claim is for a sum certain and the defendant has not made an appearance in court, the clerk may enter a default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(1). In all other cases, “the party must apply to the court for a default judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). No. party is entitled to a default judgment as a matter of right. Lewis v. Lynn, 236 F.3d 766, 767 (5th Cir. 2001) (per curiam). The disposition of a motion for the entry of a default judgment ultimately rests within the sound discretion of the court. Mason v. Lister, 562 F.2d 343, 345 (5th Cir. 1977).

         The Court is entitled to consider many factors when determining whether to enter a default judgment including, “whether material issues of fact are at issue, whether there has been substantial prejudice, whether the grounds for default are clearly established, whether the default was caused by a good faith mistake or excusable neglect, the harshness of a default judgment, and whether the court would think itself obliged to set aside the default on the defendant's motion.” Lindsey v. Prive Corp., 161 F.3d 886, 893 (5th Cir. 1998).

         II.

         The defendants were served on November 11, 2018, and their responsive pleadings were due November 23, 2018.[2] As of this date, the defendants have yet to file responsive pleadings or make an appearance. On November 28, 2018, the Clerk of Court entered a default against the defendants for failure to plead or otherwise defend themselves, [3] and on January 22, 2019, the plaintiffs moved for a default judgment.[4] The Court must determine whether, accepting the well-pleaded factual allegations in the plaintiffs' verified complaint as true, the plaintiffs are entitled to a judgment against the defendants for the amounts specified in their motion, in addition to an award of pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest, and attorneys' fees and costs.

         The plaintiffs assert breach of contract claims under Louisiana law.[5] In support of such claims, the plaintiffs have provided summary judgment-type evidence. Upon review of the verified complaint and its exhibits, the present motion, and the affidavits attached to the motion, the Court is satisfied that the plaintiffs are entitled to a default judgment against the defendants for their claims.

         With respect to damages, the Court cannot enter a default judgment without a hearing “unless the amount is liquidated or easily computable.” Richardson v. Salvation Army S. Territory, USA, No. 98-10151, 1998 WL 723820, at *1 (5th Cir. 1998). In support of their motion, the plaintiffs submitted an affidavit from Tara Disher Maxey, the plaintiffs' duly authorized agent with respect to the relevant contracts, which establishes the basis for the plaintiffs' demands.[6] Additionally, attached to the verified complaint are the contracts; addendums, assignments, and modifications; title certificates; and other relevant documents.

         The Court concludes that the amount demanded constitutes a sum certain in that it is the balance owed on several contracts entered into between the plaintiffs and the defendants. See Duncan v. Tangipahoa Parish Council, No. 08-3840, 2009 WL 2514150, at *1 (E.D. La. Aug. 12, 2009) (Engelhardt, J.) (explaining that “[a] sum is certain when the amount claimed is a liquidated one or is one that is capable of mathematical calculation as, for example, an action on a promissory note”). Furthermore, the ...


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