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Genesis Marine, LLC v. Noil Petroleum Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 28, 2019

GENESIS MARINE, LLC
v.
NOIL PETROLEUM CORPORATION

         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is plaintiff Genesis Marine, LLC's (“Genesis”) motion[1] for a default judgment against defendant Noil Petroleum (“Noil”). Genesis requests that the Court enter a judgment in its favor and against Noil in the amount of $55, 423.94. Genesis also requests post-judgment interest at the statutory rate until the judgment is paid in full.[2] For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         I.

         Genesis alleges that on August 30, 2016, it entered into a business relationship with Noil whereby Genesis would provide vessel transportation services to Noil, at an agreed upon price, pursuant to the parties' Marine Transportation Services Agreement (“MTSA”).[3] According to the MTSA, Noil agreed to pay Genesis for its hire of the M/V RED RIVER EXPRESS and Barges GM 1004 and GM 1007, and other related services.[4]

         Genesis alleges that it issued Noil the following invoices: Invoice No. 36924, dated September 21, 2016, in the amount of $41, 118.00 for hire of the M/V RED RIVER EXPRESS and Barges GM 1004 and GM 1007; Invoice No. 36925, dated September 21, 2016, in the amount of $9, 410.96 for fuel expenses; and Invoice No. 37141, dated October 10, 2016, in the amount of $4, 894.98 for tankerman and fleeting expenses.[5] Genesis alleges that, according to the MTSA, Noil was obligated to remit payment to Genesis within ten (10) days of Noil's receipt of the invoices and that it has yet to be paid by Noil.[6] According to Genesis, Noil's failure to pay Genesis within ten days of receipt of the invoices constitutes a breach of contract.[7]

         II.

         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 several 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).

         III.

         Noil was served with a summons and the complaint on April 10, 2019, and its responsive pleadings were due May 1, 2019.[8] As of this date, Noil has yet to file responsive pleadings or appear in this case. On June 6, 2019, the Clerk of Court issued an entry of default against Noil for failure to plead or otherwise defend itself.[9]On June 21, 2019, Genesis moved for a default judgment;[10] to date Noil has not filed a response. The Court must therefore determine whether, accepting the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true, Genesis is entitled to ...


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