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Camden Vicinage Eastern Construction & Electric, Inc v. Universe Technologies

January 6, 2011


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



Plaintiff Eastern Construction & Electric, Inc. ("Eastern") sued Defendant Universe Technologies, Inc. ("Universe") for amounts due under two contracts between the parties. Although Eastern properly served Universe with the Summons and Complaint, Universe failed to respond. The clerk entered default against Universe, and Eastern now moves for default judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the Court enters default judgment for the amount due under the contracts ($318,310.00) and for Eastern's costs in this litigation ($491.86). The Court denies Eastern's motion for default judgment regarding prejudgment interest and attorneys' fees because Eastern did not provide adequate support for those amounts. The Court grants Eastern fourteen days to submit substantiated prejudgment interest calculations and a legal basis for awarding attorneys' fees.


Universe has various contracts with the United States to perform work at McGuire Air Force Base in Burlington County, New Jersey. Universe entered into two subcontractor agreements with Eastern for work at the base. Under the agreements, Eastern was to invoice Universe as it completed portions of the work. Universe agreed to pay Eastern's invoices within fifteen days from when the U.S. Government paid Universe. To that end, Subcontractor Agreement Number SP0500-01-D-0175/0410 ("the '410 Agreement") provides:

[Universe] agrees to pay [Eastern] progress payments that reflect the percentage of the task satisfactorily completed. Invoices shall be submitted by [Eastern] to [Universe] with appropriate documentation for approval . . . . The sum total of all progress payments to [Eastern] will not exceed Four Hundred Sixty-Six, Four Hundred Sixty-Two Dollars ($466,462.00), unless a change in the scope of work occurs during the completion of the project.

(Ex. A.2 to Cert. of Vick Luis Bolanos dated July 12, 2010 ("Bolanos Cert."), at 53). Subcontractor Agreement Number SP0500-01-D-0175/0216 ("the '216 Agreement") contains substantially the same payment provision except that it caps payment under the contract at $2,376,050.00. (Ex. A.1 to Bolanos Cert. at 21). The '410 Agreement also provides that "[a]ny amounts that are not paid when due shall bear interest at a rate of 1 1/2 % per month until paid or the maximum rate permitted by law, whichever is higher." (Ex. A.2 to Bolanos Cert. at 3). The '216 Agreement does not address interest on unpaid invoices.

Eastern claims that Universe has not paid for work invoiced under the agreements. Specifically, Eastern claims that Universe received final payment from the U.S. Government regarding the '216 Agreement in April 2009 and the '410 Agreement in October 2007. According to a Certification from Eastern's President, Universe owes Eastern $309,010.00 under the'217 Agreement and $9,300.00 under the '410 Agreement. (See Bolanos Cert. ¶ 7).

Eastern filed its Complaint in March 2010 and served Universe at its office in Jefferson, Maryland on May 18, 2010. The Complaint asserts claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Universe did not respond to Eastern's Complaint. On June 15, 2010, Eastern filed a request for entry of default. The clerk entered default on June 17, 2010. Eastern now moves for entry of default judgment. Eastern seeks judgment for the $318,310.00 due under the two agreements, as well as $4,097.50 in attorneys' fees, $491.86 in litigation costs, and an unspecified amount of prejudgment interest.


"Before entering a default judgment against a party that has not filed responsive pleadings, 'the district court has an affirmative duty to look into its jurisdiction both over the subject matter and the parties.'" Bank of Am., N .A. v. Hewitt, No. 07-4536, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90719, at *5 (D.N.J. Nov. 7, 2008) (quoting Williams v. Life Sav. & Loan, 802 F.2d 1200, 1203 (10th Cir. 1986)).

Here, the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because the case involves citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00. Eastern is a New Jersey corporation with its principal place of business in New Jersey. Universe is a Maryland Corporation with its principal place of business in Maryland. Regarding the jurisdictional amount, Eastern seeks more than $300,000.00 in damages. Thus, the parties are completely diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum.

Regarding personal jurisdiction over Universe, Rule 4(k) provides that "a federal district court may assert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident of the state in which the court sits to the extent authorized by the law of that state." Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k); see Provident Nat'l Bank v. California Fed. Sav. & Loan Assoc., 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir. 1987). New Jersey law "confers jurisdiction over nonresidents to the extent allowed under the United States Constitution." Horton v. Martin, 133 Fed. App'x. 859, 860 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing N.J. Ct. R. 4:4-4). Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a court may exercise specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if: (1) the defendant "'purposefully directed' his 'activities' at the forum, Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 296 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985)); (2) the plaintiff's claims "'arise out of or relate to'" at least one of those specific activities, id. (quoting Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 (1984)); and (3) the court's exercise of jurisdiction "otherwise 'comport[s] with fair play and substantial justice,'" id. (quoting Burger King, 471 U.S. at 476).

Those three jurisdictional factors are satisfied in this case. First, Universe purposefully directed its activities at New Jersey because it contracted with a New Jersey company to provide services at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Second, Eastern's claims are based entirely on its service contracts with Universe. Third, because Universe contracted with Eastern for services within New Jersey, subjecting Eastern to suit in New Jersey does not offend basic notions of "fair play and substantial ...

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