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Ford v. Recovery Solutions Group, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 4, 2019

CARONDA FORD
v.
RECOVERY SOLUTIONS GROUP, LLC

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON, UNITED STATES-DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 12) filed by Plaintiff Caronda Ford, in which Plaintiff seeks a default judgment against Defendant Recovery Solutions Group, LLC. Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the following reasons, the Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 14) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action arises out of Defendant's attempted collection of a debt from Plaintiff. (Doc. 16 at p. 1). In July 2017, Plaintiff incurred an alleged debt for personal and household purposes with Service Master Advantage Disaster Services for the reparation of water damage to her home in Baton Rouge, LA. Plaintiff asserts that even though the debt was covered by her insurance company, Defendant attempted to collect the debt from her rather than the insurance company. In October 2017, Defendant sent Plaintiff a collection letter, which allegedly falsely stated that Plaintiff owed an outstanding balance of $1, 626.85 and threatened to place a lien on Plaintiffs property for the debt. (Doc. 16 at p. 2). The letter was sent by Amanda Walker, who held the title of "legal coordinator for Defendant." (Id. at p. 3). Plaintiff asserts that Defendant was not a registered debt collector in the State of Louisiana when the letter was sent. Plaintiff also alleges that Amanda Walker was not a licensed attorney. Plaintiff brings suit, alleging that Defendant violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The 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.; New York 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.

         After a party files for a default judgment, courts must apply a two-step 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 defendant. Id.

         Second, the Court must assess the merits of the plaintiffs claims and determine whether the plaintiff has a claim for relief. Nishimatsu Constr. Co. u. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975); Hamdan v. Tiger Bros. Food Mart, Inc., 2016 WL 1192679, at *2 (M.D. La. Mar. 22, 2016).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Default Judgment is Appropriate under the Lindsey Factors

         The 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 Defendant failed to file an Answer or motion under Rule 12. Second, it is undisputed that Defendant has not contacted Plaintiffs counsel or made an appearance in Court. (Doc. 16 at p. 7). Third, the grounds for granting a default judgment against Defendant are clearly established, as evidenced by the action's procedural history and the Clerk's entry of default. (Doc. 9). Fourth, the Court has no basis to find that Defendant's failure to respond was the result of a good faith mistake or excusable neglect because Defendant has failed to respond to Plaintiff or to the Court. Fifth, Defendant's 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 Defendant. The Court therefore finds that the six Lindsey factors weigh in favor of default.

         B. The Sufficiency of the Pleadings

         The Court must also determine whether Plaintiffs pleadings provide a sufficient basis for a default judgment. Plaintiff claims that Defendant violated the following sections of the FDCPA: (1) 15 U.S.C. § 1692e (2) 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(1), and (3) 15 U.S.C. § 1692g. The Court addresses each claim in turn.

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