United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
Hearing SET for June 12, 2017
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
14, 2016, plaintiff Joanne Pearson sued defendant Bison's
of Alabama, Inc. for discrimination under the Americans with
Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq.
(Doc. 1). The Clerk of Court entered default on December 13,
2016 because Bison's failed to respond to Ms.
Pearson's complaint. (Doc. 9). Ms. Pearson now asks the
Court to enter default judgment against Bison's. (Doc.
12). For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants Ms.
Pearson's motion for default judgment.
Rule of Civil Procedure 55 establishes a two-step procedure
for obtaining a default judgment. First, when a defendant
fails to defend a lawsuit, as in this case, the Clerk of
Court may enter a clerk's default. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a).
Second, after entry of the clerk's default, if the
defendant is not an infant or an incompetent person, the
Court may enter a default judgment against the defendant
because of the defendant's failure to appear or defend.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). “A default judgment must not
differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in
the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c).
motion for default judgment is not granted as a matter of
right.” Pitts ex rel. Pitts v. Seneca Sports,
Inc., 321 F.Supp.2d 1353, 1356 (S.D. Ga. 2004) (internal
footnote omitted). After a clerk enters a default pursuant to
Rule 55(a), the Court must review the sufficiency of the
complaint and its underlying substantive merits to determine
whether a moving party is entitled to default judgment.
Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1370
n. 41 (11th Cir. 1997). The Court must ensure that the
well-pleaded allegations in the complaint state a substantive
cause of action and that a sufficient basis exists in the
pleadings for the relief sought. Cotton v. Mass. Mut.
Life Ins. Co., 402 F.3d 1267, 1278 (11th Cir. 2005). In
addition to the pleadings, the Court may consider evidence
presented in the form of an affidavit or declaration.
Frazier v. Absolute Collection Serv., Inc., 767
F.Supp.2d 1354, 1362 (N.D.Ga. 2011). A defaulting defendant
“admits the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of
fact” for purposes of liability. Buchanan v.
Bowman, 820 F.2d 359, 361 (11th Cir. 1987) (quoting
Nishimatsu Constr. Co., Ltd. v. Houston Nat'l
Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975) (internal
quotation marks omitted)).
FACTS & ALLEGATIONS
Pearson suffers from lupus, multiple sclerosis, and severe
nerve damage. (Doc. 12-1, ¶ 2). She relies upon a
wheelchair for mobility. (Doc. 12-1, ¶ 2). She drives a
van equipped with a wheelchair ramp, and she requires a
parking space of at least 16 feet in width. (Doc. 12-1,
¶ 3). Ms. Pearson alleges that shortly before she filed
this lawsuit, she visited Bison's Bar & Grill at 8020
Madison Boulevard in Madison, Alabama and “encountered
barriers to [her] full, safe and equal access” to the
restaurant. (Doc. 12-1, ¶ 3). Specifically, Ms. Pearson
alleges that Bison's lacks van-accessible parking spaces
with clear signage, that the ramp leading to the main
entrance of the restaurant is too steep for a wheelchair user
and is situated in such a manner that it could be blocked by
a parked vehicle, that the stalls in the restaurant's
bathroom are too small for a wheelchair user, and that the
soap dispensers and mirrors in the bathroom are positioned
too high for a wheelchair user. (Doc. 1, ¶ 11; Doc.
12-1, ¶¶ 3-6).
Pearson alleges that these conditions violate ADA and that
she is entitled to injunctive relief. She asks the Court to
enter an order directing Bison's to “alter [its]
facilities to make such facilities readily accessible to and
usable by individuals with disabilities.” (Doc. 1,
¶ 16); see also 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a)(2).
Ms. Pearson also asserts that she is entitled to costs and
attorney's fees. (Doc. 1, ¶ 15).
Pearson served Bison's with a copy of the summons and
complaint on December 12, 2016. (Doc. 7). Bison's has
not responded to the complaint or contested the Clerk's
entry of default. Ms. Pearson filed a motion for default
judgment on May 11, 2017. (Doc. 12). In support of her
motion, Ms. Pearson submitted her own affidavit, as well as
an affidavit and report by Gilbert Mobley, a retired
architect and ADA consultant who evaluated the Bison's
restaurant on Madison Boulevard for compliance with the ADA.
(Docs. 12-1, 12-2, 12-4; see also Doc. 12, ¶
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Court has federal subject matter jurisdiction in this case
under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In her complaint, Ms. Pearson
alleges that Bison's violated the ADA by failing to make
its restaurant accessible to disabled persons. (Doc. 1, pp.
3-5). Because a federal question is presented on the face of
the plaintiff's complaint, this Court has subject matter
jurisdiction. See, e.g., Kemp v. Int'l Bus.
Machines Corp., 109 F.3d 708, 712 (11th Cir. 1997).