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Eddie William Nieves v. Top Notch Granite & Marble LLC

July 19, 2011

EDDIE WILLIAM NIEVES
PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOP NOTCH GRANITE & MARBLE LLC, JOHN DOES 1-5 AND 6-10 DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph H. Rodriguez, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Presently before the Court is the motion [Dkt. Entry No. 8] of Plaintiff Eddie William Nieves ("Nieves") for default judgment against Defendant Top Notch Granite & Marble, LLC ("Top Notch") pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 55. For the reasons set forth below, Nieves' motion for default judgment will be granted, but the Court reserves decision on its determination of damages.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Nieves was employed by Top Notch as a driver and installer for approximately three months in the summer of 2009. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Top Notch is a corporation that sells and installs granite counter tops as well as other products. (Id.at ¶ 6.) Nieves was employed at an hourly rate of $10.00 per hour. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Nieves was "sometimes paid by check and sometimes paid by cash" and used time cards to record the time that he worked for Top Notch. (Id. at ¶ 11.)

The Complaint against Top Notch, filed on March 29, 2010, alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et. seq., and seeks damages and attorneys' fees pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) and injunctive relief pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 217. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-34.) In addition, the Complaint alleges violations of the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (NJWHL) and seeks damages pursuant to N.J. STAT. ANN. § 34:11- 56A25 (West 2005). (Id. at ¶¶ 35-46.) Top Notch was served with the Complaint on May 19, 2010, and has not filed an Answer or otherwise moved to defend itself. The Clerk's Office entered default on September 3, 2010. As of the date of this Order, Top Notch has failed to Answer or otherwise move.*fn1 Nieves now moves for default judgment against Top Notch.

II. JURISDICTION

Subject matter jurisdiction over Nieves's federal law claim is conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 1331, because the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et. seq., is a federal statute that arises under the laws of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This Court also possesses supplemental subject matter jurisdiction over Nieves's state law claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). This Court exercises personal jurisdiction over Top Notch because service of process on Top Notch was proper and its principal place of business is in New Jersey.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 governs a court's decision to enter default judgment against a defendant. See FED. R. CIV. P. 55. To obtain default judgment, the plaintiff must have properly served the defendant with the summons and complaint in the matter. Lampe v. Xouth, Inc., 952 F.2d 697, 700-701 (3d Cir. 1991). Pursuant to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a corporation may be served process "by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to an officer, a managing or general agent, or any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process." FED. R. CIV. P. 4(h)(1)(B).

Obtaining default judgment against a defendant is a two-step process. First, the Clerk of the Court must enter the defendant's default after the properly served defendant has failed to plead or otherwise defend himself. FED. R. CIV. P. 55(a).

Second, on the plaintiff's request, the Clerk may enter default judgment against the defendant for the amount and costs the plaintiff requests if the plaintiff's claim is for a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by computation. FED. R. CIV. P. 55(b)(1).

In all other cases, the plaintiff must apply to the court for a default judgment. FED. R. CIV. P. 55(b)(2).

The plaintiff's unchallenged facts set forth in the complaint must establish a legitimate cause of action before default judgment can be entered. DirecTV, Inc. v. Decroce, 332 F.Supp.2d 715, 717 (D.N.J. 2004), rev'd on other grounds sub. nom. DirecTV, Inc. v. Pepe, 431 F.3d 162 (3d Cir. 2005). A plaintiff is not entitled to entry of default judgment against a defendant as of right, because the entry of such judgment is to the discretion of the district court. Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180 (3d Cir. 1984). However, the Third Circuit prefers that "cases be disposed of on the merits whenever practicable." Id. at 1181.

Three criteria inform the Court's decision of whether default judgment is appropriate: (1) whether the plaintiff would suffer prejudice if the default judgment were denied, (2) whether the defendant has a meritorious defense, and (3) whether the defendant's own culpable conduct caused his delay in responding ...


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