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Hica Education Loan Corporation v. Daniel G.

August 10, 2011

HICA EDUCATION LOAN CORPORATION,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DANIEL G. LEPERA, AN INDIVIDUAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Walls, Senior District Judge

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION and ORDER

HICA Education Loan Corporation moves for default judgment against defendant Daniel Lepera. Pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the motion is decided without oral argument. HICA‟s motion for default judgment is granted.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 13, 1994, Chase Manhattan Bank made a loan to Daniel Lepera under the federal Health Education Assistance Loan ("HEAL") program in the amount of $19,970.00. As consideration for the loan, Lepera signed a promissory note payable to Chase Manhattan Bank for the original amount of the loan and future interest on that amount. (Pl. Ex. A.) On October 5, 1995, Chase Manhattan Bank made a second loan to Lepera under the HEAL program in the amount of $18,930.00. Again Lepera signed a promissory note payable to the Chase Manhattan Bank in the amount of the second loan and future interest on that amount. (Pl. Ex. B.) On September 4, 1996, Chase Manhattan Bank made a third loan to Lepera under the HEAL program in the amount of $20,000.00. Lepera signed a third promissory note payable to Chase Manhattan Bank for the original amount of the third loan and future interest on that amount. (Pl. Ex. C.) HICA is currently the owner and/or holder of all three promissory notes. (Compl. ¶¶ 7, 10, 13.) Lepera failed to make payments under the terms of each of the promissory notes. (Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.) HICA demanded payment, but Lepera refused. (Compl. ¶ 17.). HICA filed suit on February 21, 2011, alleging that Lepera defaulted on his loans. (ECF No. 1.) Lepera was served with process on April 11, 2011, but has not answered the complaint or appeared in this action. (ECF No. 4.) At HICA‟s request the Clerk of the Court entered default against Lepera on June 3, 2011. HICA now moves for the entry of a default judgment.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 governs the entry of default and default judgment. The power to grant default judgment "has generally been considered an "inherent power,‟ governed not by rule or statute but by the control necessarily vested in courts to manage their own affairs so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases." Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1181 (3d Cir. 1984). Because a default judgment prevents a plaintiff‟s claims from being decided on the merits, "this court does not favor entry of defaults or default judgments." United States v. $55,518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1984).

Several factors are to be considered by courts in determining "whether a default judgment should be granted: (1) prejudice to the plaintiff if default is denied, (2) whether the defendant appears to have a litigable defense, and (3) whether defendant‟s delay is due to culpable conduct." Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 164 (3d Cir. 2000).

"[T]he factual allegations in a complaint, other than those as to damages, are treated as conceded by the defendant." DIRECTV, Inc. v. Pepe, 431 F.3d 162, 165 (3d Cir. 2005). The Court, however, makes "an independent inquiry into "whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action‟" and "must make an independent determination" regarding questions of law. Days Inns Worldwide, Inc. v. Mayu & Roshan, L.L.C., No. 06-1581, 2007 WL 1674485, at *4 (D.N.J. June 8, 2007). "If it is necessary to determine the amount of damages or to establish the truth of any averment by evidence, the court may conduct a hearing." Rainey v. Diamond State Port Corp., 354 F. App‟x 722, 724 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Durant v. Husband, 28 F.3d 12, 15 (3d Cir.1994)).

DISCUSSION

Jurisdiction

Before entering a default judgment as to 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." Ramada Worldwide, Inc. v. Benton Harbor Hari Ohm, L.L.C., No. 08-3452, 2008 WL 2967067, at *9 (D.N.J. July 31, 2008). A default judgment entered without personal jurisdiction over the defendant is void. D‟Onofrio v. Il Mattino, 430 F. Supp. 2d 431, 436 (E.D. Pa. 2006).

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

"The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws or treatises of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Health Education Assistance Loan program is a federal program governed by the Code of Federal Regulations. Borrowers under the federal HEAL program are required to repay the loan in accordance with the agreed upon repayment schedule. 42 C.F.R. § 60.8(b)(4) (1992). HICA alleges that Lepera received loans through the HEAL program but has failed to repay them. (Compl. ¶ ...


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