United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
SHERMAN R. STEELE, Plaintiff,
EVGENY I. MARCHENKO, et al., Defendants.
Michael F. Urbanski United States District Judge
the court is Plaintiff Sherman Steele's
("Steele") motion for default judgment against
Evgeny I. Marchenko ("Marchenko") and Evgeny I.
Marchenko, doing business as M&J Transport (collectively
"Defendants"). ECF No. 8. Following a hearing on
February 19, 2016, the court ordered Steele to produce
evidence indicating whether Marchenko operated the tractor
trailer that struck plaintiff on June 12, 2014. Steele took
and submitted the deposition of Trooper Casey White, ECF No.
23, and this matter is now ripe for judgment. For the reasons
that follow, the court will enter judgment against Defendants
in the amount of Seven Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($750,
000) plus interest.
12, 2014, Steele, a resident of Columbia, Tennessee, suffered
injuries in a motor vehicle accident at a Wilco Hess truck
stop in Toms Brook, Virginia. ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 7, 13.
A tractor trailer backed up and pinned Steele in between the
tractor trailer and a Dodge pick-up truck Steele had just
parked. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13. Steele suffered
serious soft tissue and orthopedic injuries as a result of
the accident. Id. at ¶¶ 21-24, ECF Nos.
17, 18. Steele filed suit against Defendants on July 10,
2015. ECF No. 1. Defendants have made no appearance or
response in this lawsuit, despite receiving personal service
on September 12, 2015. ECF Nos. 4, 5. The Clerk entered
default against Defendants on October 29, 2015. ECF No. 10.
defendant's default does not in itself warrant the court
entry of judgment against the defendant. The court must
accept the plaintiffs well pled allegations of fact "as
true and deem them admitted by a defendant."
Berthiaume v. Doremus. 998 F.Supp.2d 465, 470-71
(W.D. Va. 2014); see also Ryan v. Homecomings Fin.
Network. 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th. Cir. 2001). The court
must still, however, determine whether plaintiffs' well
pled allegations support the relief sought. Morton v.
Johnson. 2015 WL 4470104, *4 (W.D. Va. 2015)(quoting
Ryan. 253 F.3d at 780- 81). Facts that are not well
pled are not deemed admitted. DirecTV v. Pernites.
200 Fed.Appx. 257, 258 (4th. Cir. 2006). "There must be
sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment
February 19, 2016, the court held an evidentiary hearing on
damages. ECF No. 14. At the conclusion of the hearing, the
court explained that additional evidence was needed to
determine whether Marchenko operated the tractor trailer that
struck and injured Steele. ECF No. 19. In response to the
court's concern, Steele, by counsel, conducted a
deposition of Trooper Casey White of the Virginia State
Police ("Trooper White"). Deposition of Trooper
Casey White, ECF No. 23-1 ("White Dep."). Trooper
White's testimony, described below, provides the court
with a sufficient basis to find Marchenko operated the
tractor trailer that injured Steele.
12, 2014, Trooper White responded to a motor vehicle crash at
the Wilco truck stop in Toms Brook, Virginia. White Dep.
6:7-16. As Trooper White arrived at the scene of the wreck,
an ambulance left the parking lot. Id at 6:18-23.
Trooper White later discovered this ambulance was carrying
Steele to a hospital in Winchester, Virginia. Id. at
6:20-23. Upon arriving at the scene, Trooper White recounted
the following: "I spoke to the driver of the tractor
trailer, Mr. Marchenko. He stated to me that he was in line
at the fuel pumps and had backed up and backed into the truck
pulling the trailer that was being operated by Mr.
Steele." Id. at 6:24-7:6. Trooper White stated
that it "was obvious ... that the truck being operated
by Mr. Marchenko was the one that caused the damage."
Id. at 9:16-22.
White reviewed a carbon copy of notes he took at
the. crash site. Id. at 10:10-16. These
notes include information provided by Marchenko and contained
on his license, registration card, and insurance information.
Id at 10:23-25, 11:11-15. The notes reflect that the
tractor trailer Mr. Marchenko operated belonged to M&J
Transport and indicate the USDOT number on the tractor
trailer that struck Steele was 01731265. Id. at
13:8-10, 14:5-11. This number aligns with a Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration document that lists USDOT
number 1731265 as a tractor trailer registered to Evgeny
Marchenko, doing business as M&J transport. ECF No. 23-4.
White's testimony sufficiently establishes that Evgeny
Marchenko operated the tractor trailer that struck Steele.
Further White's testimony and the FMCSA documents
indicate that Marchenko was operating as M&J Transport
when he struck Steele. Accordingly, the court finds that
Defendants negligently caused Steele's injuries.
seeking damages of $750, 000 plus interest in his complaint,
Steele now requests judgment in the amount of $1, 8000, 000.
Compare ECF No. 1 with ECF No. 23. However,
"[a] default judgment must not differ in kind from, or
exceed in amount, what is demanded in the pleadings."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c). Therefore, Steele cannot seek damages
beyond the $750, 000 plus interest requested in his
damages hearing on February 19, 2016, Steele produced
evidence that he incurred $145, 056.08 in medical expenses as
of April 17, 2015. ECF No. 18. These medical expenses relate
to injuries sustained in the motor vehicle accident
with Marchenko on June 12, 2014. Id. Steele
testified that he has continued and will continue to incur
medical costs related to the accident with Marchenko. Indeed,
Steele stated that his injuries prevent him from continuing
the workload he maintained as a truck driver prior to June
12, 2014, ...