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Tryg Insurance v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 28, 2017

TRYG INSURANCE, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
C.H. ROBINSON WORLDWIDE, INC., and NATIONAL REFRIGERATED TRUCKING, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MICHAEL A. SHIPP, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs Tryg Insurance and Toms Confectionary Group's ("Toms") (collectively "Plaintiffs") Motion for Default Judgment against National Refrigerated Trucking ("Defendant" or "NRT"). (ECF No. 44.) NRT has not filed an Answer to the Complaint, any responsive motion, or opposition to the instant motion. The Court has carefully considered Plaintiffs's submission and decides the matter without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.1.

         I. Background

         On July 9, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against NRT and C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. ("CHRW") (collectively "Defendants") alleging that Defendants are liable for damage to goods that occurred during an interstate transport of cargo belonging to Toms. Plaintiffs allege that Toms hired CHRW as a motor carrier to transport the goods, which consisted of miniature chocolate liquor bottles, and CHRW sub-contracted the transportation to NRT. According to the Complaint, the refrigeration mechanism in NRT's truck malfunctioned during delivery, destroying the chocolate liquor bottles.

         Plaintiffs allege that NRT is a motor carrier and obligated under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706, and the terms of the Bill of Lading to properly and safely transport the goods. Plaintiffs allege NRT breached this duty by failing to deliver the Cargo in the same good order and condition as when NRT received the Cargo.

         NRT was served with the Complaint by personal delivery upon NRT's Registered Agent on August 10, 2015. (ECF No. 9; Pls.' Mot. For Default, Affidavit of John T. Lillis, Jr. ¶¶ 9-11, ECF No. 44-1.) NRT did not appear in this matter. The Court conducted a one-day bench trial on the issue of liability as to CHRW.[1] Plaintiffs move for default judgment against NRT.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 allows for the entry of default judgment against a party who has failed to plead or otherwise defend claims asserted against it. Default judgment is left "primarily to the discretion of the district court." Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180 (3d Cir. 1984) (citing Tozer v. Charles A. Krause Milling Co., 189 F.2d 242, 244 (3d Cir. 1951)) Before a Court can award default judgment, it must consider "whether the moving party's complaint establishes a legitimate cause of action." La. Counseling & Family Servs., Inc. v. Makrygialos, LLC, 543 F.Supp.2d 359, 365 (D.N J. 2008). "A consequence to the entry of a default judgment is that the factual allegations of the complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages, will be taken as true." Comdyne I, Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks omitted). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2)(B) specifies that "the court may conduct hearings . .. when ... it needs to . . . determine the amount of damages" owed to a party after entry of default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2)(B). Damages, however, may be determined without a hearing "as long as [the court] ensure[s] that there [is] a basis for the damages specified in the default judgment." Malik v. Hannah, 661 F.Supp.2d 485, 493 (D.N.J. 2009).

         Prior to entering default judgment, the Court must determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims asserted and personal jurisdiction over the parties. Mark IV Transp. & Logistics v. Lightning Logistics, Inc., No. 16-3572, 2017 WL 3668946, at *4 (3d Cir. Aug. 25, 2017) (citing Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. Bramlett, No. 08- 119, 2010 WL 2696459, at *1 (D.N.J. July 6, 2010)). Further, the Court must determine "whether the moving party's complaint establishes a legitimate cause of action." La. Counseling and Family Servs., Inc., 543 F.Supp.2d at 3 65. If these initial requirements are met, then the Court must consider three factors to determine whether entry of a default judgment is appropriate: "(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) (citing United States v. $55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 195 (3d Cir. 1984)).

         III. Analysis

         A. Jurisdiction

         Plaintiffs bring their claims under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706, for damage caused to goods during interstate transport. The Court, therefore, exercises subject matter jurisdiction over the federal claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331, In addition, the Court has personal jurisdiction over NRT. Plaintiffs personally served NRT's registered agent in the State of New Jersey. (ECF No. 9; Pls.' Mot. For Default, Affidavit of John T. Lillis, Jr. ¶¶ 9-11.)

         B. Legitimate Cause of Action

         Here, Plaintiffs allege one-count against NRT for "Breach of Contract of Motor Carriage." Plaintiffs assert liability under the Carmack Amendment and the terms of the Bill of Lading for "failing to deliver the Cargo in the same and good order and condition as when ...


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