United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on the Motion for Default
Judgment, filed by Plaintiff Benton & Centeno, LLP,
(“Plaintiff”) on November 8, 2019, against
Defendants Thomas M. Clarke and Ana M. Clarke (collectively
“Defendants”). (Doc. # 11). On October 31, 2019,
the Clerk recorded an Entry of Default against Defendants.
(Doc. # 210). Plaintiff now seeks a Rule 55(b) default
judgment for the monetary relief sought in the Complaint
(Doc. # 1), an award totaling $105, 627.36. (Doc. # 11). For
the reasons discussed below, the Motion (Doc. # 11) is due to
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)). Plaintiff has
alleged the following facts in its complaint, and these facts
are deemed admitted based upon Defendants' default in
this case. Benton & Centeno, LLP is a law firm based in
Birmingham, Alabama. (Doc. # 1 at 1). Defendants Thomas M.
Clarke and Ana M. Clarke are a married couple who live in
Roanoke, Virginia. (Id.). On November 16, 2018,
Defendants retained Plaintiff to perform legal services on
their behalf with respect to the Mission Coal bankruptcy
case, then pending in the United States Bankruptcy Court for
the Northern District of Alabama. (Id. at 2). The
agreement was memorialized in an engagement letter. (Doc. #
11, Exh. B at 46-49). In the engagement letter, the parties
agreed that Plaintiff would be paid an agreed-upon hourly
rate and would be reimbursed for litigation expenses. (Doc. #
1 at 2). Additionally, the engagement letter specified that
Defendants would pay interest on invoices if they were not
paid in full within thirty days. (Id; Doc. # 11,
Exh. B at 48).
the engagement letter was executed, the representation of
Defendants was subsequently enlarged to include handling
matters for numerous entities owned in whole or in part by
Thomas Clarke and/or Ana Clarke, all related to the pending
Mission Coal bankruptcy case. (Doc. # 1 at 2). Plaintiff
performed the agreed upon legal services on behalf of
filed its Complaint on August 15, 2019. (Doc. # 1). On
October 3, 2019, the Summons and Complaint were served on
Defendants. As reflected in the proof of service submitted on
October 9, 2019. (Docs. # 4, 5). Both Defendants failed to
submit an Answer by October 27, 2019. Not only have
Defendants failed to answer, they have not sought additional
time to respond or made an appearance in the case. Plaintiff
moved for Entry of Default against both Defendants on October
29, 2019. (Docs. # 6, 7). The Clerk of Court entered default
against Defendants on October 31, 2019. (Doc. # 10).
Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Default Judgment
and is seeking $105, 627.36 in damages (Doc. # 11 at 4).
According to Plaintiff, Defendants owe $50, 631.80 in fees,
$51, 971.88 in litigation expenses,  and $3, 023.68 for interest
through July 2019.
55(b) states in relevant part:
(b) Entering a Default Judgment.
(1) By the Clerk. If the
plaintiff's claim is for a sum certain or a sum that can
be made certain by computation, the clerk--on the
plaintiff's request, with an affidavit showing the amount
due--must enter judgment for that amount and costs against a
defendant who has been defaulted for not appearing and who is
neither a minor nor an incompetent person.
(2) By the Court. In all other
cases, the party must apply to the court for a default
judgment. A default judgment may be entered against a minor
or incompetent person only if represented by a general
guardian, conservator, or other like fiduciary who has
appeared. If the party against whom a default judgment is
sought has appeared personally or by a representative, that
party or its representative must be served with written
notice of the application at least 7 days before the hearing.
The court may conduct hearings or make referrals--preserving
any federal statutory right to a jury trial--when, to enter
or effectuate judgment, it needs to:
(A) conduct an accounting;
(B) determine the amount of damages;
(C) establish the truth of any allegation by