United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
C. BURKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Motion for Default Judgment
As To Defendant Victory Police Motorcycles, LLC
(“VPM”) filed by the Plaintiff, Officer Laquinte
Louis (the “Plaintiff” or “Officer
Louis”). (Doc. 87). Having considered the record in
this matter and the testimony and exhibits presented by the
plaintiff, the Court enters judgment in favor of the
plaintiff and against the defendant for compensatory and
punitive damages as outlined herein below.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
matter was initially removed from the Circuit Court of
Jefferson County on June 23, 2016. (Doc. 1). On October 10,
2016, Defendant VPM appeared through counsel and answered the
initial complaint. (Doc. 22). On January 16, 2017, the
Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 27). On
August 21, 2017, before VPM had filed any answer to the First
Amended Complaint, counsel for VPM moved to withdraw. (Doc.
45). While that motion to withdraw was pending, the Plaintiff
filed his Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 49). The Second
Amended Complaint is the operative complaint in this
Court ordered counsel for VPM to certify that VPM had been
made aware that a limited liability company cannot proceed
pro se in federal court. (Doc. 52). VPM's
counsel certified that VPM was informed of this fact, in
addition to his earlier statement to the Court that VPM had
been served with notice of counsel's intent to withdraw
from representation. (Id.); see also (Doc.
45). VPM has never answered the First Amended Complaint or
the Second Amended Complaint. Other than the actions taken by
its counsel to withdraw, VPM has not taken any action at all
to respond or otherwise defend this matter since it answered
the initial complaint on October 10, 2016.
December 21, 2018 the Court directed the Clerk of Court to
make an entry of default as to VPM. (Doc. 83). The Clerk made
an Entry of Default as to VPM on December 26, 2018. (Doc.
84). On February 22, 2019, the Plaintiff filed a Motion For
Default Judgment as to VPM pursuant to Rule 55(b) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc.
On March 12, 2019, the Court reiterated its finding that VPM
had failed to respond or otherwise defend itself in this
matter and entered a judgment by default against it. (Doc.
88). The Court further ordered that the Plaintiff appear and
present evidence to assist the Court in determining the
appropriate amount of damages. (Id.).
in its Second Amended Compliant demanded a trial by struck
jury. (Doc. 49). Subsequently, plaintiff filed a motion to
withdraw this demand pursuant to Rule 38(d), Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure and moved for the Court to strike the demand
against Victory Police Motorcycles, LLC. (Doc. 94). The Court
granted this motion on May 30, 2019 and ordered the jury
demand stricken from the Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 95).
Although, Rule 38(d) provides both parties must consent to a
withdraw of jury demand, the Court finds that the Defendant
by failing to defend and appear in this matter has
effectively waived its right to object to plaintiff's
withdraw of his jury demand.
April 1, 2019, Plaintiff's counsel took testimony from
the Plaintiff, introduced exhibits and argument and requested
that the Court determine and award compensatory and punitive
damages in this matter. Based upon the evidence presented,
the Court makes the following findings of fact and law.
courts generally require some notice to be given to
defendants between the time of service of process and entry
of a default judgment, see, e.g., Capitol Records v.
Carmichael, 508 F.Supp.2d 1079, 1083, n.1 (S.D. Ala.
2007), Rule 55 explicitly provides for entry of default and
default judgment where a defendant “has failed to plead
or otherwise defend.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a).Furthermore,
“[w]hile modern courts do not favor default judgments,
they are certainly appropriate when the adversary process has
been halted because of an essentially unresponsive
party.” Flynn v. Angelucci Bros. & Sons,
Inc., 448 F.Supp.2d 193, 195 (D.D.C. 2006) (citation
omitted). The Court is satisfied that Defendant VPM is on
notice of the default proceedings against it. Before it
stopped responding or participating in this matter, VPM had
appeared and took the step of answering the initial
complaint. However, VPM has failed to pled or defend the
claims asserted against it in this lawsuit in any way since
August 10, 2016. Finally, there is evidence in the record
demonstrating that VPM is on notice of the continuing nature
of this lawsuit following the withdrawal of VPM's counsel
and subsequent failure to participate in these
proceedings. Accordingly, the Clerk of Court has made
entry of default as to VPM and the Court has entered a
judgment by default against that party as well.
Factual Allegations In Plaintiff's Complaint Are Admitted
Court notes that VPM's default in this matter is
“an admission of the facts cited in the
Complaint.” Capitol Records, 508 F.Supp.2d at
1082-83. Upon the entry of a default judgment, the
complaint's well pleaded allegations, but not those
pertaining to the amount of damages, are taken as true the
same as if they had been proven by evidence. See, e.g.,
Boswell v. GumBayTay, No. 2:07-CV-135-WKW, 2009 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 45954, *5 (M.D. Ala. Jun. 1, 2009) (citing
Comdyne I, Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d
Cir. 1990)). Once in default, a defendant cannot later seek
to contradict those allegations. See Nishimatsu Constr.
Co., Ltd. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206
(5th Cir. 1975).Accordingly, the Court will take a moment
to address the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint
before addressing the evidence as to damages.
Second Amended Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges that
“Defendant Victory was and is engaged in the business
of manufacturing, fabricating, designing, assembling,
distributing, selling, inspecting, servicing, repairing,
marketing, warranting, retailing, wholesaling and advertising
police motorcycles and, more specifically, a certain subject
2014 Victory Police Motorcycle, VIN 5VPDW30N9E3032008.”
(Doc. 49). The Plaintiff alleges the subject motorcycle's
design defects included an unsafe rear suspension system
which failed at high speeds, and a defective and unsafe
design that required consumers to determine appropriate
settings for the rear suspension system. (Id.). He
further alleges the Defendants, including VPM, “knew
or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known
that said motorcycle and all of its component parts would be
used without inspection for defects in its parts, mechanisms
or design, for use in the State of Alabama and elsewhere by
consumers.” (Id.). VPM did this without
issuing any warnings to the Plaintiff or the City of
Birmingham about the motorcycle. (Id.).
Plaintiff and his employer, the City of Birmingham, relied on
VPM's representations that the subject motorcycle was
safe when the City of Birmingham decided to purchase it and
others like it. (Id.). The subject motorcycle was
not safe, however -- a fact which VPM knew and concealed from
the Plaintiff and the City of Birmingham. (Id.). The
Plaintiff was riding the subject motorcycle when it wrecked
due to the defective design, and the Plaintiff was ejected
from the motorcycle. (Id.). He was taken to the
hospital and treated for his injuries. (Id.). The
Plaintiff states the following claims for relief against VPM:
(1) negligence and wantonness; (2) violation of the Alabama
Extended Manufacturers' Liability Doctrine
(“AEMLD”); (3) breach of implied warranty; (4)
fraudulent concealment and suppression; and (5) negligent
misrepresentation. (Doc. 49).
upon the complaint and admitted factual allegations coupled
with the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing on
damages, the Court hereby finds that the Defendant's
negligent and wanton design and manufacture of the motorcycle
in question along with the failure to warn proximately caused
the plaintiff's injuries.