United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JEFFREY M. THOMPSON and JUSTINA HAISLETT, individually and as Natural Parents of CARL M. THOMPSON and JEFFREY V. THOMPSON, Minors Plaintiffs,
AMAURY CHINEA and MESTRE TRANSPORT, INC., Defendants.
RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before me is Jeffrey M. Thompson's and Justina
Haislett's, individually and as Natural Parents of Carl
M. Thompson and Jeffrey V. Thompson, minors, (collectively
“Plaintiffs”) Motion for Entry of Default (Doc.
9) (construed as a Motion for Entry of Default Judgment)
against Amaury Chinea (“Chinea”) and Mestre
Transport, Inc. (“Mestre”) (collectively
hearing on the Motion, because Plaintiffs have complied with
the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, I
have determined the Motion will be granted in favor of
Jeffrey M. Thompson (“Thompson”) in the amount of
$124, 884.60; in favor of Justina Haislett
(“Haislett”) in the amount of $100, 000.00; in
favor of Carl M. Thompson in the amount of $255, 639.12; and
in favor of Jeffrey V. Thompson in the amount of $52, 703.92.
brought this negligence and vicarious liability action
against Defendants as a result of a tractor trailer accident
on February 17, 2017. (Doc. 1 at ¶11). It has been
alleged that the tractor trailer operated by Chinea forced
the Plaintiffs' vehicle off the road causing them to
swerve between the truck and the median before striking an
embankment causing severe damage to the vehicle and injuries
to the occupants, one of which was ejected. (Id. at
¶¶ 11-32). Defendant Mestre, a Florida corporation,
is alleged to be the employer of Chinea, and as such, is
alleged to be vicariously liable for Chinea's negligence.
(Id. at ¶¶ 4, 7-11).
complaint was filed on February 7, 2018 (Doc. 1) and service
was effected on May 15, 2018. (Docs. 4, 5). The Defendants
have failed to respond, file an Answer, or otherwise
participate in the action. The Clerk of Court entered a
default on October 29, 2018. (Doc. 8). On October 1, 2019, a
hearing was conducted on Plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of
Default (Doc. 9) (construed as a Motion for Entry of Default
Judgment), at which, evidence in the form of testimony of
Plaintiffs Jeffrey M. Thompson and Justina Haislett and
detailed statements of injuries sustained and medical bills
incurred (Plaintiffs' Exhibits 1 - 14) were received.
See Paradise v. Commonwealth Financial Systems,
Inc., 2013 WL 5638609, at *1 (M.D. Pa. 2013) (construing
motion for entry of default judgment as party intended);
U.S. v. $144, 650 in U.S. Currency, 2013 WL 6384646,
at *1 (D.N.J. 2013) (same). The Defendants did not appear.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2), I may enter a
default judgment against a party who has failed to plead or
otherwise defend an action. See Joe Hand Promotions, Inc.
v. Michelina Enterprises, Inc., 2017 WL 3581674, at *2
(M.D. Pa. 2017). Before ruling on a motion for default
judgment, however, I must determine that I have jurisdiction
over the action and that default was properly entered by the
Clerk of Court. Id. Once determined, I will consider
three factors before ultimately entering judgment: “(1)
prejudice to the plaintiff if default is denied; (2) whether
the defendant appears to have a litigable defense; and (3)
whether the defendant's delay was due to its own culpable
conduct.” Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d
154, 164 (3d Cir. 2000).
such finding, I will determine whether, taking all “
factual allegations of the complaint except those relating to
the amount of damages” as true, whether the prevailing
party sufficiently states a claim. Comdyne I, Inc. v.
Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990); see also
Joe Hand Promotions, Inc., 2017 WL 3581674, at *2.
Moreover, “‘when a plaintiff prevails by default,
he or she is not automatically entitled to the damages they
originally demanded.'” Barnes v.
Mahamadou, 2015 WL 2070208, at *3 (M.D. Pa. 2015)
(quoting Comdyne I, 908 F.2d at 1149). Therefore,
the default is considered as an admission of the facts
alleged, which then requires a plaintiff to “prove that
he or she is entitled to the damages sought.”
Id. “‘The district court has
considerable latitude in determining the amount of
damages.'” Id. (quoting Jones v.
Winnepesaukee Realty, 990 F.2d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 1993).
“‘It is familiar practice and an exercise of
judicial power for a court upon default, by taking evidence
when necessary or by computation from facts of record, to fix
the amount which the plainitiff is lawfully entitled to
recover and to give judgment accordingly.'”
Id. (quoting Pope v. United States, 323
U.S. 1, 12 (1944)).
DISCUSSION A. Plaintiff is Entitled to a Default
that the Plaintiffs are entitled to a default judgment.
First, the Complaint makes clear that I have subject matter
jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and
that I may exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendants as
they purposefully availed themselves of this forum, where the
injury occurred. See Richardson v. Deutsche Bank Trust
Co. Americas, 2008 WL 5225824, at *4 (M.D. Pa. 2008)
(discussing the exercise of personal jurisdiction over
non-resident parties). Second, the Clerk's entry of
default was proper, considering that Defendants were properly
served and failed to respond to the complaint or otherwise
participate in the action within the timelines set by the
further find that the Chamberlain default criteria weigh in
favor of the Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs were involved in this
accident nearly three years ago and have no other remedy than
against the Defendants. Further, the Defendants' lack of
an Answer indicates that there may be no meritorious or
litigable defense to the claims presented. Finally, there is
no evidence regarding whether or not Defendant's own
conduct caused the failure to respond to the complaint. Taken
together, the default criteria then weigh in favor of default
judgment. See Joe Hand Promotions, Inc., 2017 WL
3581674, at *2.
the allegations as true, that Chinea swerved into the
Plaintiffs' car and was working for Mestre in his role as
their driver at the time of the accident (See Doc. 1
at ¶¶ 11-32), the Plaintiffs successfully contend
that Defendant Chinea operated his tractor trailer
negligently and that Defendant Mestre, as his employer, was
vicariously liable for the Plaintiffs' injuries. See
Allen v. Fletcher, 2009 WL 1542767, at *3 (M.D. Pa.
2009) (discussing the standard for negligence and vicarious
liability in a tractor trailer accident in Pennsylvania); see
also Heinrich v. Davis, 2018 WL 6737417, at *2 (M.D.
Pa. 2018), report and recommendation adopted, 2018
WL 6737379 (M.D. Pa. 2018) (entering a default judgment on a
negligence claim involving a motor vehicle accident).
Further, the Plaintiffs successfully contend that Thompson
and Haislett suffered negligent infliction of emotional
distress as they witnessed their son, contemporaneously with
the accident, lay seriously injured following ejection from
the vehicle. See (Doc. 1 at ¶¶
57-64); Hanczyc v. Valley Distributing and
Storage Co., Inc., 2011 WL 1790093, at *4 (M.D. Pa.
2011) (discussing the elements of NIED in Pennsylvania).