United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
the Court is Plaintiff the United States of America
(“Plaintiff”)'s motion for default judgment
against Defendant Neil P. Sunday (“Defendant”).
(Doc. No. 12.) Given that Defendant has yet to appear or
defend in this action, no opposition to the motion has been
filed. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the
motion and enter default judgment in favor of Plaintiff and
March 13, 2018, Plaintiff initiated the instant action by
filing a complaint against Defendant to recover on
outstanding student loan debt. (Doc. No. 1.) The complaint
alleges that Defendant executed a promissory note to secure a
Federal Family Education Loan Program Consolidation loan in
December of 1995. (Doc. No. 1-2.) The loan, which was
disbursed on February 7, 1996, was guaranteed by the
Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and reinsured
by Plaintiff, acting through the Department of Education.
(Id.) Defendant defaulted on the loan in March of
2005, and the holder filed a claim on the loan guarantee.
(Id.) The guarantor paid a claim in the amount of
$30, 911.34 to the holder, and the Department of Education
reimbursed the guarantor for that amount pursuant to the
reinsurance agreement. (Id.) After the guarantor
failed to collect the full amount due from Defendant, it
assigned its right and title to the loan to the Department of
Education. (Id.) Since the assignment of the loan,
Defendant has not made any payment on the amount due to
Plaintiff. (Id.) By Plaintiff's calculation, the
amounts owed on the promissory note as of the date of the
complaint were $30, 899.92 in principal and interest on the
unpaid principal at a rate of 9.00% per annum through March
12, 2018 in the amount of $34, 990.47. (Doc. No. 1 at 1.) The
sum of those figures, plus interest on the unpaid principal
from March 13, 2018 through the date of the entry of default
in the amount of $502.92, brings the total amount owed to
$66, 393.31. (Doc. No. 12 at 2.)
review of the docket reveals that Defendant was served on
April 24, 2018, establishing a deadline for Defendant to file
an answer to the complaint by May 15, 2018. (Doc. No. 4.) As
of the date of this Memorandum, Defendant has not appeared,
answered, moved, or otherwise responded to Plaintiff's
complaint. On May 18, 2018, Plaintiff filed a request with
the Clerk to enter default against Defendant pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) (Doc. No. 5), and the
Clerk entered default against Defendant on that date (Doc.
No. 6). Plaintiff filed the instant motion for default
judgment (Doc. No. 12) and a brief in support thereof (Doc.
No. 13) on February 5, 2019, along with an affidavit of
non-military service (Doc. No. 14). Because Defendant has not
yet responded to the pending motion for default judgment, the
Court deems Plaintiff's motion for default judgment
unopposed. Accordingly, the motion is ripe for disposition.
judgments are governed by a two-step process set forth under
Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. An entry of
default by the Clerk of Court under Rule 55(a) is a
prerequisite to a later entry of a default judgment under
Rule 55(b). See 10A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur
R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure §
2682 (3d ed. 2007) (“Prior to obtaining a default
judgment under either Rule 55(b)(1) or Rule 55(b)(2), there
must be an entry of default as provided by Rule
55(a).”). Once the Clerk of Court has entered a
default, the party seeking the default may then move the
court to enter a default judgment under Rule 55(b)(2). Entry
of default does not entitle a claimant to default judgment as
a matter of right. See 10 James Wm. Moore et
al., Moore's Federal Practice § 55.31
(Matthew Bender ed. 2010). Indeed, it is well settled that
decisions relating to the entry of default judgments are
committed to the sound discretion of the district court.
See Emcasco Ins. Co. v. Sambrick, 834 F.2d 71, 74
(3d Cir. 1987).
factors control the exercise of the district court's
discretion in assessing whether default judgment should be
granted following the entry of default: “(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.” See 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)). “A finding that default judgment is
appropriate, however, is not the end of the inquiry.”
Martin v. Nat'l Check Recovery Servs., LLC, No.
12-1230, 2016 WL 3670849, at *1 (M.D. Pa. July 11, 2016).
Prior to entering a default judgment, the Court must also
determine whether the “unchallenged facts constitute a
legitimate cause of action.” See Wright,
et al., supra, at § 2688; Broad.
Music, Inc. v. Spring Mount Area Bavarian Resort, Ltd.,
555 F.Supp.2d 537, 541 (E.D. Pa. 2008) (“Consequently,
before granting a default judgment, the Court must . . .
ascertain whether the unchallenged facts constitute a
legitimate cause of action, since a party in default does not
admit mere conclusions of law.” (citations omitted)).
In conducting this inquiry, “the well-pleaded, factual
allegations of the complaint . . . are accepted as true and
treated as though they were established by proof.”
See E. Elec. Corp. of N.J. v. Shoemaker Const. Co.,
652 F.Supp.2d 599, 605 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (citation omitted).
While the Court must accept as true the well-pleaded factual
allegations of the complaint, the Court need not accept the
moving party's factual allegations or legal conclusions
relating to the amount of damages. See Comdyne I, Inc. v.
Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990).
reviewed the record, including Plaintiff's complaint,
motion, supporting brief, exhibits, and accompanying
affidavits, the Court finds that the entry of default
judgment against Defendant and in favor of Plaintiff is
appropriate. As an initial matter, the Court observes that
Plaintiff's unchallenged allegations in the complaint,
taken as true, state a legitimate cause of action to recover
on a promissory note for student loans, as Plaintiff has
alleged that “(1) the defendant signed [a promissory
note for student loans], (2) the government is the present
owner or holder, and (3) the note is in default.”
See United States v. Considine, No. 06-cv-6118, 2008
WL 4723030, at *2 (D.N.J. Oct. 24, 2008) (internal quotation
marks omitted) (quoting United States v. Hargrove,
No. 06-cv-1059, 2007 WL 2811832, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 24,
2007)). In addition, Plaintiff has offered support for its
claim of a sum certain of $66, 393.31 in the affidavit,
certificate of indebtedness, and other relevant documents
accompanying its complaint and motion for default judgment.
(Doc. Nos. 1-2, 12).
the Court finds that the three Chamberlain factors
weigh in favor of entering default judgment against
Defendant. First, Plaintiff will be prejudiced if the Court
declines to enter default judgment because Plaintiff is
unable to proceed with the action due to Defendant's
failure to respond and has no other means of recovering
against Defendants. See Broad. Music, Inc. v. Kujo Long,
LLC, No. 14-449, 2014 WL 4059711, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Aug.
14, 2014) (“Plaintiffs will be prejudiced . . . by
their current inability to proceed with their action due to
[the] [d]efendants' failure to defend.”). Second,
Defendant has not asserted a meritorious defense to
Plaintiff's claims through the filing of an answer or
other response to the complaint, or through the filing of a
response to the instant motion. Consequently, the Court is
unable to conclude from Defendant's silence that
Defendant has a viable, litigable defense. See Laborers
Local Union 158 v. Fred Shaffer Concrete, No.10-1524,
2011 WL 1397107, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 13, 2011). Third, the
Court cannot discern from the record any excuse or
justification for Defendant's default apart from
Defendant's own culpability. Indeed, Defendant has failed
to enter an appearance or file a timely answer to the
complaint and has offered no reasons for his failure to do
so. “A defendant's default, or its decision not to
defend against allegations in a complaint, may be grounds for
concluding that the defendant's actions are
willful.” Innovative Office Prods., Inc. v.
Amazon.com, Inc., No. 10-4487, 2012 WL 1466512, at *3
(E.D. Pa. Apr. 26, 2012). In the absence of an excuse or
justification for Defendant's failure to participate in
this litigation, the Court must conclude that the delay is
the result of Defendant's culpable conduct. See
Laborers Local Union 158, 2011 WL 1397107, at *2.
Accordingly, the Court is satisfied that the
Chamberlain factors counsel in favor of entering
default judgment in favor of Plaintiff and, therefore, will
grant Plaintiff's motion for default judgment.
on the foregoing, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion
for default judgment. (Doc. No. ...