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Chudley v. Matossian

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 21, 2019

MARY JO CHUDLEY, Plaintiff
v.
CYNTHIA MATOSSIAN, ET AL., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          JOHN MILTON YOUNGE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Mary Jo Chudley's (“Plaintiff”) Motion for Default Judgment (“Motion, ” ECF No. 5) against Defendants Cynthia Matossian, MD, PA and Matossian Eye Associates (collectively, “Defendants”). The Court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L.R. 7.1(f). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion will be denied without prejudice.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 26, 2019, Plaintiff filed her Complaint against Defendants, seeking to recover damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981a; the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.; and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq. (“Compl., ” ECF No. 1.) In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges she was an employee of Matossian Eye Associates, and that she began work as an Ophthalmic Associate on January 10, 2016. (Id. ¶ 7.) When Plaintiff “started [working for Matossian Eye Associates] she told Cynthia Matossian that she had a bad right knee and degenerative disc disease.” (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff also suffered from obesity. (Id. ¶ 10.)

         “In or about June 2017[, Plaintiff] requested the opportunity to scribe.” (Id. ¶ 12.) “Cynthia Matossian initially told [Plaintiff] that she didn't think [Plaintiff] would be able to scribe due to her weight and knee.” (Id. ¶ 13.) “Nevertheless, at [Plaintiff's] insistence she was given the opportunity to scribe and then assigned to the most demanding doctor.” (Id. ¶ 14.)

         Plaintiff told the office manager, Jodi Nini, “that she was getting shots in her right knee every three months” and “also discussed her plan to have a gastric bypass [surgery.]” (Id. ¶¶ 15-17.) Bypass surgery was scheduled for February 14, 2018, and “Nini initially told [Plaintiff] that she could not have off for the surgery and it wasn't until two weeks prior to the surgery that [Plaintiff] found out her request for time off for the surgery was approved.” (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) After the surgery, Plaintiff kept in touch with Nini. (Id. ¶ 24.)

         “On April 12, 2018[, Plaintiff] received an email from Nini informing her, for the first time, that she would need a note indicating that she was able to return to work without any restrictions, before she would be allowed to return to work.” (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff responded to the email asking for clarification. (Id. ¶ 26.) In response, Plaintiff “received an email from Nini on May 18, 2018 alleging that [Plaintiff] did not respond to Nini's April 12, 2018 and May 1, 2018 emails and that Defendants were treating it as a voluntary resignation.” (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff then responded to Nini asserting that she did in fact respond to the April 12, 2018 email, and did not see the May 1, 2018 email. (Id. ¶ 28.)

         “On May 21, 2018[, Plaintiff] received [medical] clearance to return to work” and Plaintiff “immediately informed Nini.” (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) On May 28, 2018, Nini responded to Plaintiff, “stating that Defendants no longer have a position for her.” (Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff, however, alleges that “there were open position[s] for which [Plaintiff] was qualified.” (Id. ¶ 32.)

         Plaintiff maintains in her Complaint that the conduct of Defendants, including their refusal to allow Plaintiff to return to work with or without restrictions, their refusal to allow Plaintiff to return to work after medical leave, and their informing Plaintiff that there were no open positions for her when open positions existed, constitutes unlawful discrimination in violation of the ADA, PHRA, and FMLA. (Id. ¶¶ 40, 45, 51.) Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies, and the EEOC issued a probable cause determination on or about April 17, 2019. (Id. ¶¶ 34-35.)

         On September 10, 2019, Defendants were both personally served at 501 Hyde Park, Doylestown, Pennsylvania (ECF No. 2 at 1, 4), Defendants' principal place of business (Compl. ¶¶ 2-3). Thereafter, neither Defendant filed an Answer to the Complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1)(A)(i) (“A defendant must serve an answer [] within 21 days after being served with the summons and complaint[.]”). On October 2, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Request for Entry of Default, asking the Clerk of Court to enter default against Defendants pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a). (ECF No. 4.) The Clerk entered default on October 2, 2019. On October 16, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Default Judgment. The Court notes that no opposition has been filed, and that the time within which to file an opposition has expired. See L.R. 7.1(c) ([A]ny party opposing the motion shall serve a brief in opposition . . . within fourteen (14) days after service of the motion[.]”).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party's default.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Upon the party's request, the clerk of court may then enter default judgment, but only if the claim is for a sum certain or one that can be made certain by computation, the defendant has made no appearance, and the defendant is not a minor or incompetent. Id. at 55(b)(1). In all other cases, the party seeking a default judgment must make an application to the court. Id. at 55(b)(2).

         Although the entry of default judgment is “left primarily to the discretion of the district court, ” this discretion is not limitless given that cases should “be disposed of on the merits whenever practicable.” Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180-81 (3d Cir. 1984); see also Hill v. Williamsport Police Dep't, 69 Fed.Appx. 49, 51 (3d Cir. 2003) (“Our Court does not favor entry of defaults or default judgments . . . as it prefers adjudication on the merits.”). “Where a court enters a default judgment, ‘the factual allegations of the complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages, will be taken as true.'” DIRECTV, Inc. v. Pepe, 431 F.3d 162, 165 n.6 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Comdyne I, Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990)). “The court's initial inquiry is ‘whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action[.]'” Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Yakubets, 3 F.Supp.3d 261, 270 (E.D. Pa. 2014) (quoting 10A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2688 (3d ed. 2013)); accord Pope v. United States, 323 U.S. 1, 12 (1944) (“[U]pon default, . . . the court determines that the unchallenged facts shown of record establish a legally binding obligation; it adjudicates the plaintiff's right of recovery and the extent of it, both of which are essential elements of judgment.”); see also, e.g., Schall v. Ronak Foods, No. 19-1463, 2019 WL 4034765, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 27, 2019) (denying default judgment because plaintiff failed to allege facts in complaint to support ADA claim); Liberty Bell Equipment Corp. v. Coastal Tool Supply, LLC, No. 18-3019, 2018 WL 5885455, at *2-3 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 9, 2018) (denying default judgment because plaintiff failed to allege facts in complaint to support breach of contract claim); Tri-State Training & Safety Consulting, LLC v. Markawicz, No. 15-876, 2015 WL 5116754, at *3-4 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 28, 2015) (denying default judgment in part because plaintiff failed to allege facts in complaint to support claims for copyright infringement, tortious interference, and unfair trade practices); Frenkel v. Baker, No. 13-5880, 2014 WL 5697449, at *5-7 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 4, 2014) (denying default judgment because plaintiff failed to allege facts in complaint to support claims for conversion and fraud); Jimenez v. Rosenbaum-Cunningham, Inc., No. 7-1066, 2010 WL 1303449, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2010) (“Before awarding a default judgment, the [c]ourt must determine whether the moving party's complaint establishes a legitimate cause of action.”).

         If the court determines that the plaintiff has sufficiently stated a cause of action, it must then assess damages. As noted above, unless damages are “liquidated or computable, ” they “cannot be awarded simply on the basis of the pleadings, but must instead be established at an evidentiary hearing[, ]” Comdyne I, 908 F.2d at 1152, or ...


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