The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOSEPH GREENAWAY, District Judge
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This case is unpublished as indicated by the issuing court.] OPINION
This matter comes before this Court on the motion of Defendant
Frungillo Catering Design ("Defendant") to vacate a default
entry, pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 55(c), and the cross-motion of
Plaintiff Linda Calhoun ("Plaintiff") for a default judgment,
pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 55(b). For the following reasons,
Defendant's motion to vacate the entry of default is granted and
Plaintiff's cross-motion is denied as moot.
Defendant was the caterer for a wedding at the Skylands Manor
in Ringwood, New Jersey on March 2, 2002. (Affidavit of Robert
Frungillo ("Frungillo Aff."), at ¶ 2.) Plaintiff, a florist and
floral designer, was hired to decorate the wedding cake and
provide flowers for the wedding and reception (Frungillo Aff. ¶
3). Varano was hired as the photographer for the wedding. (Affidavit of Linda Calhoun ("Pl. Aff."), at ¶ 4.) For the
wedding at Skylands-Manor, Defendant baked a four tiered cake
(Frungillo Aff. ¶ 2), Plaintiff decorated the wedding cake, and
Varano photographed the completed cake ("Work"). (Frungillo Aff.
¶ 3; Pl. Aff. ¶ 3.)
Subsequent to the wedding, Defendant placed an advertisement
("Ad") in one or more bridal magazines promoting the Skylands
Manor. (Frungillo Aff. ¶ 9.) The Ad contained a picture of the
outside of Skylands Manor as well as four other pictures, one of
which was a picture of a wedding cake that Plaintiff claims to be
her copyright protected Work. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 4.)
Plaintiff sent cease-and-desist letters to Defendant on or
about March 19, 2003 and August 22, 2003, in which she asked
Defendant to stop running all advertisements in any form
containing the Work. Defendant did not respond to the
cease-and-desist letters. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 5.) On August 22, 2003,
Plaintiff registered her Work with the United States Copyright
Office. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff registered her Work as a
Sculpture entitled "A Floral Design for a Wedding Cake." (Pl.
Aff. ¶ 6.)
On August 25, 2003, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court against
Defendant and Varano Photography seeking damages for copyright
infringement, pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 101, and unfair
competition, pursuant to N.J. STAT. ANN. § 56:4-1 (2001). (Pl.
Aff. ¶ 6.) On February 3, 2004, Defendant sent a letter to this
Court stating that: (1) he was representing himself; (2) denying
all allegations set forth in the complaint; and (3) seeking to
join in Varano's motion to dismiss, which was pending at that
time. Defendant did not appear for oral argument on February 27,
2004, when this Court granted in part and denied in part Varano's
motion to dismiss and directed Plaintiff to file an amended
pleading by March 26, 2004. Plaintiff and Varano Photography
settled, and on June 24, 2004, this Court dismissed Varano from
this action. Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on March 26, 2004.
Defendant failed to answer and Plaintiff requested an entry of
default, pursuant to Rule 55(a) on February 2, 2005. The Clerk of
the Court entered a default against Defendant on February 2,
2005. On March 22, 2005, Defendant moved to set aside the default
entry, pursuant to Rule 55(c), and Plaintiff cross-moved for
default judgment, pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2).
Defaults are disfavored, and where a party has moved to set
aside a default, doubtful cases should be resolved in favor of
the party moving to set aside a default entry "so that cases may
be decided on their merits." See United States v. $55,518.05
in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 194-95 (3d Cir. 1984). "Between
the extremes of repeated contumacious conduct and innocent
procedural error are the manifold instances of neglect and
inadvertence that require trial courts to weigh the equities of
the situation and the need for the efficacious resolution of
controversies." Feliciano v. Reliant Tooling Co., Ltd.,
691 F.2d 653, 656 (3d Cir. 1982). "The exercise of such judgment does
not lend itself to a rigid formula or to a per se rule." Hritz
v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1181 (3d Cir. 1984).
Rule 55(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides
that "[f]or good cause shown, the court may set aside an entry of
default and, if a judgment by default has been entered, may
likewise set it aside in accordance with Rule 60(b)." In
resolving a motion to set aside a default under Rule 55(c),
courts should consider: (1) whether the defendant has a
meritorious defense; (2) whether the default was the result of
the defendant's culpable conduct; and (3) whether the plaintiff
will be prejudiced. See $55,518.05 in U.S. Currency,
728 F.2d at 194-95. DISCUSSION
In deciding a motion to vacate a default entry, courts should
consider whether the party seeking to vacate the default has
demonstrated good cause. See FED. R. CIV. P. 55(c). Any doubts
should be resolved in favor of vacating a default entry so that
cases may be decided on their merits. See $55,518.05 in U.S.
Currency, 728 F.2d at 194-95. Courts should examine whether the
defendant may have a meritorious defense, assess the prejudice to
the plaintiff of vacating a default, and evaluate whether the
default resulted from the culpable conduct of the defendant.
This Court has considered these factors and the parties'
submissions. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion
to vacate the entry of default shall be granted and ...