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Ruggiero v. Grog

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 6, 2013

JOSEPH RUGGIERO,
v.
THE GROG, ET AL

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

THOMAS J. RUETER, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment Against Defendant Torrance Amos, Jr. (Doc. 77), filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) (the "Motion"). The court held a hearing on the Motion on November 27, 2013. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is GRANTED and default judgment in the amount of $386, 097.00 will be entered in favor of plaintiff and against defendant, Torrence Amos, Jr.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a complaint on September 22, 2011. Defendant, Torrence Amos, Jr., was served on June 18, 2012. See Doc. 28. To date, defendant Amos has failed to plead or otherwise defend himself in this action. On November 14, 2013, plaintiff moved for default judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, see Doc. 77, and the Clerk entered default on November 14, 2013. The court held a hearing on the Motion on November 27, 2013, but defendant Amos failed to appear. At the hearing, plaintiff presented evidence of the damages he sustained as the result of defendant Amos' conduct.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

According to the Complaint, The Grog is a tavern located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. See Doc. 1. Plaintiff alleges that defendants Douglas Shafer, Charles McHugh and Chand Patella were employees of The Grog. (Compl. ¶ 26). Plaintiff also alleges Torrence Amos, Jr. and others, committed an assault and battery upon him under Pennsylvania law. Id . ¶¶ 55-57.

According to plaintiff's deposition testimony, he and his companions went to The Grog on January 21, 2010. (N.T. 9/27/12 at 25-26 (hereinafter "Pl.'s Dep.").) After plaintiff entered the tavern, he noticed that one of his companions was denied entry because he was under the age of twenty-one. Id. at 51-52. Thereafter, words were exchanged between plaintiff and defendant, Douglas Shafer, who was employed as a bouncer at The Grog. Id. at 53-54. Plaintiff's three companions tried to convince Mr. Shafer to allow their underage friend into the bar. Id. at 52. Plaintiff testified that Mr. Shafer started "to yell and get very loud" and began cursing at them. Id. at 53. Plaintiff admits that he and his companions "started saying things back to the bouncer." Id.

According to defendant Shafer, plaintiff and his companions became aggressive when the underage individual was refused entry and raised their voices. (N.T. 10/2/12 at 50-52.) When plaintiff refused to leave the premises, Shafer pushed plaintiff out of the vestibule of The Grog and onto the outside pavement. Id. at 56-58. Shafer said that plaintiff was not hurt by the push and did not fall to the ground. Id. at 58. Shafer tried to close the door but plaintiff and his companions grabbed the door, preventing it from being closed. Id. at 59. Shafer pushed plaintiff a second time when plaintiff attempted to reenter the bar and throw a punch at Shafer. Id. at 61-66. Plaintiff testified, however, that in addition to pushing him, Shafer punched plaintiff in the face and plaintiff suffered an injury to his teeth. (Pl.'s Dep. at 56-59.)

After the physical altercation with Shafer, plaintiff walked away from The Grog with his friends. Id. at 60. However, plaintiff claims that several individuals followed him and taunted him. After plaintiff traveled one quarter of a block, one of these individuals punched plaintiff in the face "from behind, " causing serious injury to plaintiff's teeth and neck. Id. at 62, 66-67. Plaintiff identified the assailant as a black male. Id. at 66, 68, 73, 83. He was later identified as defendant Torrence Amos, Jr., a/k/a "Woo." Plaintiff does not allege that any individual other than Amos and Shafer struck him that day. (Pl.'s Dep. at 45-47, 83-84, 123-124.)

III. DISCUSSION

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) authorizes a district court to enter a default judgment against a properly served defendant who fails to file a timely responsive pleading. In the case at bar, plaintiff served defendant Amos on June 18, 2012. To date, Amos has not entered his appearance in this matter.

In his Complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant Amos assaulted him without justification, resulting in significant personal injuries. When considering a motion for a default judgment, the court must accept as true the factual allegations in the Complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages. Comdyne I, Inc., v. Corbin , 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990). In the Complaint, plaintiff requests an award of compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75, 000.00.

It is clear to the court that the injuries sustained by plaintiff as a result of the events of January 21, 2010, resulted almost entirely from the assault committed by defendant Amos, who punched plaintiff without justification, knocked out several of his teeth, and caused serious injuries to plaintiff's cervical spine. In his deposition, plaintiff testified that defendant Amos "wrapped me from behind really bad." (Pl.'s Dep. at 66.) Plaintiff stated that it "was a very devastating blow where I went completely black and I couldn't see for about 30 seconds." Id. at 67. Plaintiff explained that after Amos' "devastating punch, " plaintiff "felt all my teeth... shatter[] in my mouth and [I] spit them into my hand." Id.

At the hearing, plaintiff entered into evidence medical records relating to the treatment he received for his injuries. See Pl.'s Assessment of Damages Stmt. As a result of the injuries he suffered in the assault, plaintiff had several surgical procedures under anesthesia. According to plaintiff, "those treatments included manipulations, ...


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