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Schall v. Foods

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 27, 2019

SAMANTHA SCHALL, Plaintiff
v.
RONAK FOODS d/b/a PIZZA HUT, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          JOSHUA D. WOLSON, J.

         Plaintiff Samantha Schall seeks a default judgment against her former employer Ronak Foods. As explained below, the Court will award her a default judgment on her wrongful termination claim but not on her claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Schall has worked “on and off” for Ronak for eight years. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 11.) On June 14, 2018, Schall began her most recent term of employment as a General Manager at Ronak's Pizza Hut restaurant located at 6613 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19135. (Id. ¶ 12.)

         On January 21, 2019, Schall suffered a serious neck injury at work and arranged for someone to cover the rest of her shift while she tended to her injury. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) The next day, Schall reported back to work and filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits. (Id. ¶ 18.) She also filed an incident report with her supervisor, Mary Dietz. (Id.) Later that day, January 22, 2019, Schall went to Nazareth Hospital for treatment. (Id. ¶ 23.) The hospital physician recommended that Schall be on bedrest for 4-6 weeks and then return to work on light duty for ninety days until her neck injury healed. (Id. ¶ 24.)

         Following this hospital visit, Schall informed Dietz about the seriousness of her injury and told Dietz that she needed an accommodation. (Id. ¶ 25.) She asked for an accommodation consistent with her doctor's recommendations-a leave of absence of 4-6 weeks followed by light duty for ninety days. (Id.) Schall provided supporting documentation to Dietz upon request. (Id. ¶ 26.) Dietz denied Schall's requested accommodation and instead told her that she could take one week of medical leave only. (Id. ¶ 27.) Afraid of being fired, Schall returned to work one week later, on February 1, 2019. (Id. ¶ 28.) Ronak terminated her the following day, without explanation. (Id. ¶ 30.)

         On April 5, 2019, Schall filed the instant lawsuit, alleging that Ronak's conduct violates the ADA (Count I) and constitutes wrongful discharge under Pennsylvania common law (Count II). (ECF No. 1.) Schall served Ronak with the Complaint on May 14, 2019, (ECF No. 3), and Ronak's response was due by June 4, 2019. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1)(A)(i) (answer due within twenty-one days of service of summons and complaint). Ronak has not answered the Complaint or otherwise participated in this litigation. On June 26, 2019, the Clerk of Court entered default against Ronak for failure to appear or otherwise defend. Thereafter, Schall sought a default judgment against Ronak.

         On July 16, 2019, Schall filed a memorandum of law in support of her request for entry of a default judgment against Ronak. (ECF No. 9.) (As a technical matter, Schall never filed a formal motion for a default judgment. However, her memorandum seeks damages on the claims set forth in her Complaint, and the Court will construe her memorandum as a motion for a default judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 7(b), 55(b)(2).) Ronak has not responded to the motion, which is ripe for disposition.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         After a defendant has failed to plead or otherwise defend in an action, and the Clerk of Court has entered a default, the plaintiff may seek a default judgment. In cases where a plaintiff's claim is not for a sum certain, the plaintiff must seek a default judgment from the Court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). “[E]ven where a default is entered, the plaintiff is not automatically entitled to the damages she originally demanded.” Harris v. Bennett, 746 Fed. App'x 91, 93 (3d Cir. 2018) (citation omitted). Once a default has been entered, “the factual allegations of the complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages, will be taken as true.” Comdyne I, Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990) (quotation omitted). However, “[b]efore granting default judgment, a district court may consider whether ‘the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action, since a party in default does not admit mere conclusions of law.'” J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Ramsey, 757 Fed.Appx. 93, 95 (3d Cir. 2018) (quotation omitted). Likewise, “the plaintiff must prove that [she] is entitled to the damages sought.” Polidoro v. Saluti, 675 Fed. App'x 189, 190 (3d Cir. 2017) (citations omitted).

         After a court determines that a plaintiff is entitled to relief, “[t]hree factors control whether a default judgment should be granted: (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.” Abulkhair v. Office of Attorney Ethics, 753 Fed. App'x 132, 134 (3d Cir. 2018) (quoting Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 164 (3d Cir. 2000)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Schall's Entitlement To A Default Judgment

         1. ...


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