United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF JUDGE
the Court is a motion to set aside the entry of default filed
by Defendants Crystal Gail Duckworth, BriAnna J. May, J.L.P.,
the minor child of Crystal Gail Duckworth, and Bayou Macon
Cemetery Association (hereinafter referred to as “the
Duckworth Defendants”). See Record Document 57.
For the following reasons, the Duckworth Defendants'
motion is GRANTED.
Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company (“Farm
Bureau”) is a stakeholder on a $100, 000 universal life
policy issued to Jimmy L. Duckworth
(“Duckworth”), now deceased. See Record
Document 1 at ¶ 1. Duckworth made a change of
beneficiary five days prior to his death. See id. at
¶ 14. Many of the previous beneficiaries assert lack of
intent by Duckworth and undue influence. See id.
Thus, Farm Bureau filed a statutory interpleader to have all
claimants make their claim before this Court with regard to
the funds. See id.
Jimmie Brown, Jr. answered Farm Bureau's complaint in
interpleader. See Record Document 11. Farm
Bureau timely served all defendants and requested that the
defendants waive service of summons. According to the
Duckworth Defendants, they were confused by the request for
waiver and asked for help from Farm Bureau's attorney,
who informed them that he could not advise them. Crystal
Duckworth signed the waivers for herself and her children
(her adult child, BriAnna May, and her minor child, J.L.P.).
See Record Document 13. However, she did not
indicate that she was signing in any capacity for her
children. As to the Bayou Macon Cemetery Association, service
was waived by Ms. Mary Bain. However, there is no indication
that Ms. Bain waived service on behalf of Bayou Macon
Cemetery Association. See Record Document 13.
August 17, 2018, Farm Bureau filed a “Request for Entry
of Default” with the Clerk of Court against all of the
defendants, except Jimmie Brown, Jr. See Record
Documents 17-28. On that same day, the Clerk of Court issued
a “Notice of Entry of Default” to each of these
defendants, once again except for Jimmie Brown, Jr.
See Record Documents 29-40. According to the
Duckworth Defendants, they “were not aware of the
gravity and nature of the waiver of summons, and upon
receiving the Request for Entry, ” they contacted an
attorney and attempted to file an answer to the complaint in
interpleader on August 29, 2018, twelve days after the
mailing of the notice of entry of default. Record Document 57
at 8. Their answer was stricken from the record because the
document was filed on behalf of parties against whom default
had been entered. See Record Documents 41-42.
Thereafter, on September 5, 2018, Farm Bureau filed motions
for default judgment against the defendants who had received
the notices of entry of default. See Record
Documents 48-56. On that same date, the Duckworth Defendants
filed the instant motion to set aside the entry of default.
See Record Document 57.
court may set aside an entry of default for good cause.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c). Good cause, for purposes of
Rule 55(c), “is not susceptible of precise definition,
and no fixed, rigid standard can anticipate all of the
situations that may occasion the failure of a party to answer
a complaint timely.” In re Dierschke, 975 F.2d
181, 183 (5th Cir. 1992). In determining whether good cause
exists to set aside an entry of default, the court considers
three factors: “(1) whether the failure to act was
willful; (2) whether setting the default aside would
prejudice the adversary; and (3) whether a meritorious claim
has been presented.” Effjohn Int'l Cruise
Holdings, Inc. v. A&L Sales, Inc., 346 F.3d 552, 563
(5th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). These factors are,
however, nonexclusive, and the court should consider all
relevant circumstances against the background principles that
cases should be resolved on the merits. See Lacy v. Sitel
Corp., 227 F.3d 290, 292 (5th Cir. 2000)
(“[F]ederal courts should not be agnostic with respect
to the entry of default judgments, which are generally
disfavored in the law and thus should not be granted on the
claim, without more, that the defendant had failed to meet a
procedural time requirement.”) (quotations and citation
omitted). The Fifth Circuit has noted that motions to set
aside entry of default are more commonly granted than motions
to set aside default judgments. See In re OCA, Inc.,
551 F.3d 359, 370 (5th Cir. 2008).
analysis of the three factors listed above leads to the
conclusion that the motion to set aside should be granted. In
light of the facts regarding service and the confusion
regarding the request for a waiver of service, this Court
does not find that the Duckworth Defendants intentionally
defaulted or willfully failed to file an answer. Furthermore,
allegations of a defense are meritorious if they contain even
a hint of a suggestion which, proven at trial, would
constitute a complete defense. See Pelican Renewables 2,
LLC v. DirectSun Solar Energy & Tech., LLC, 325
F.R.D. 570, 577 (E.D. La. 2016). The allegations of undue
influence contained in the motion to set aside the entry of
default are a sufficient presentation of a meritorious
defense to support a finding of good cause to set aside the
entry of default. Finally, the consequence of granting the
motion would be to require the parties to prove their case.
See Buckley v. Donohue Indus. Inc., 100 Fed.Appx.
275, 278 (5th Cir. 2004). “[M]ere delay does not alone
constitute prejudice. Rather, the plaintiff must show that
the delay will result in the loss of evidence, increased
difficulties in discovery, or greater opportunities for fraud
and collusion.” Lacy, 227 F.3d at 293
(quotations and citation omitted). Thus, this Court finds no
prejudice in setting aside the entry of default. Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED that the motion to set aside
the entry of default filed by the Duckworth Defendants
(Record Document 57) is GRANTED.
DONE AND SIGNED
Other defendants have been named in the
interpleader but have not joined in the instant motion to set
aside the entry of default. See Record Document
None of the remaining interpleader
defendants filed an answer.
A judgment by default was entered
against the remaining defendants who failed to answer and who
have not moved to set aside the entry of default.