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Nyholm v. Pryce

August 20, 2009

ROBERT W. NYHOLM, 2ND PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER PRYCE, OFFICER STILLWELL, CORRECTIONAL MEDICAL SERVICES, INC. (CMS), SGT. JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bumb, United States District Judge

[Dkt. No. 12]

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon a motion by the plaintiff, Robert W. Nyholm, 2nd ("Plaintiff"), for default judgment against the defendants, Officer Pryce, Officer Stillwell, and Correctional Medical Services ("CMS") (collectively, "Defendants").

I. Background

On September 26, 2008, Plaintiff, an inmate at Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional facility, filed a Complaint in this Court against Officer Pryce, Officer Stillwell, CMS, and Sergeant John Doe (an unknown party). Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff brought this action in forma pauperis, alleging a constitutional claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as tort claims based on negligence, assault and battery.

On April 20, 2009, the Court granted Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered that the U.S. Marshal serve the Defendants with Summons and copies of the Complaint. [See Dkt. No. 5]. The Summonses for Officers Pryce and Stillwell were returned executed on June 11, 2009 [Dkt. No. 9] showing that service was effectuated on May 27, 2009. The Summons for CMS was returned executed on June 15, 2009 [Dkt. No. 10] showing that service was effectuated on May 21, 2009. However, despite the returned summonses, none of the Defendants filed an answer or otherwise moved before the Court within the 20 days following service, as required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a). Consequently, Plaintiff obtained a Clerk's entry of default against Defendants on June 25, 2009. Plaintiff then filed the present motion seeking default judgment against all three Defendants. Thereafter, on July 8, 2009, CMS filed a Brief in Opposition to Plaintiff's motion for default judgment, requesting that the Court set aside the clerk's entry of default [Dkt. No. 13]. Officers Pryce and Stillwell have not made an appearance or otherwise filed any response before the Court.

II. Standard of Review

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c), "[t]he court may set aside an entry of default for good cause...." While judgments based on default are not favored, the decision of whether to set aside an entry of default under Rule 55(c) is left to the discretion of the district court. United States v. $55,518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 194-95 (3d Cir. 1984). "[D]oubtful cases [are] to be resolved in favor of the party moving to set aside the default judgment 'so that cases may be decided on their merits.'" Id. (citing Tozer v. Charles A. Krause Milling Co., 189 F.2d 242, 244 (3d Cir. 1951)). In making a decision, the Court "must consider the following three factors: (1) whether the plaintiff will be prejudiced; (2) whether the defendant has a meritorious defense; and (3) whether the default was the result of the defendant's culpable conduct." Gold Kist, Inc., v. Laurinburg Oil Co., Inc., 756 F.2d 14, 19 (3d Cir. 1985).*fn1

III. Analysis

A. Default Judgment as to Officers Pryce and Stillwell

Plaintiff argues that the Court should grant default judgment as to Officers Pryce and Stillwell, who have yet to enter an appearance. He claims that Officers Pryce and Stillwell were properly served under Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(2)(B)(I) and yet they have failed to answer or otherwise defend within the time allotted under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1)(A)(I).

The Court questions whether service was properly effectuated upon Officers Pryce and Stillwell, as neither of them has entered an appearance. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e)*fn2, service of process may be accomplished by any of the following methods:

(1) following state law for serving a summons in an action brought in courts of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is ...


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