United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge.
copyright-infringement case, plaintiff LHF Productions, Inc.,
alleged that defendants copied and distributed unauthorized
copies of the film London Has Fallen using a
file-sharing service known as BitTorrent. (Second Am. Compl.,
Dkt. No. 33.) The court granted LHF's motions for default
judgment against defendants Shady Oak Farm, Latoya Boykins,
and Sarah Hall. (Dkt. Nos. 76, 77.) The court awarded LHF
default judgment against Sarah Hall in the amount of $1, 550.
(Dkt. No. 77.) Sarah Hall, proceeding pro se, has
filed a letter in response. (Dkt. No. 78.)
document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally
construed.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 106 (1976)). In her letter, Hall references the case
number and recognizes that she “was recently accused of
downloading the movie London Has Fallen by LHF
Production” and ordered to pay $1, 550. She asks the
court to “please reconsider this” because she
only works weekend shifts at her job, has six children, and
states that it would be impossible for her to pay the ordered
amount. Hall also states that she is “honestly unaware
of this situation” and has tried talking to her
children to see if they or any of their friends could have
been responsible, “but no one know [sic].” (Dkt.
No. 78.) Given the substance of Hall's filing and her
pro se status, the court shall construe her response
as a motion to vacate default judgment.
addition, attached to Hall's letter is a letter addressed
to the court from Viola Jones, a nurse practitioner. The
letter from Jones states that Hall is a patient in her office
and “has multiple health issues” as well as
“cognitive delays.” Jones also believes, in her
professional opinion, that Hall “does not have the
ability to complete something like this, ” presumably
referring to the illegal downloading. (Dkt. No. 78-1.)
court “may set aside a final default judgment under
Rule 60(b).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c). “To bring
[herself] within Rule 60(b), the movant must make a showing
of timeliness, a meritorious defense, a lack of unfair
prejudice to the opposing party, and exceptional
circumstances.” Werner v. Carbo, 731 F.2d 204,
206-07 (4th Cir. 1984) (citing Compton v. Alton S.S.
Co., 608 F.2d 96, 102 (4th Cir. 1979)). Once the movant
has done so, under Rule 60(b),
On motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party . . .
from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following
reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable
neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable
diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for
a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously
called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or
misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void;
(5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged;
it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or
vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable;
or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). Rule 60(b) is an “extraordinary
remedy” that “is only to be granted in
exceptional circumstances.” In re A.H. Robins Co.,
Inc., No. 98-1893, 1998 WL 904717, at *1 (4th Cir. Dec.
29, 1998). “The disposition of motions under Rule 60(b)
ordinarily is a matter within the discretion of the district
court which will not be disturbed on appeal absent a showing
of abuse of that discretion.” Werner, 731 F.2d
does not identify the subsection of Rule 60(b) upon which she
relies, but, construing her motion liberally, it appears she
is moving to set aside the default judgment under subsections
one or six. The court may grant relief under Rule 60(b)(6) if
a party shows “extraordinary circumstances suggesting
that the party is faultless in the delay;” otherwise,
“[i]f a party is partly to blame for the delay, relief
must be sought within one year under subsection (1) and the
party's neglect must be excusable.” Pioneer
Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. P'ship,
507 U.S. 380, 393 (1993) (citations omitted).
60(b)(6) “has been described as the catch-all clause
because it provides the court with a grand reservoir of
equitable power to do justice in a particular case and vests
power in courts adequate to enable them to vacate judgments
whenever such action is appropriate to accomplish justice
where relief might not be available under any other clause in
60(b).” Compton, 608 F.2d at 106-07 (internal
quotations and citations omitted). This subsection “is
properly invoked only when there are extraordinary
circumstances justifying relief, when the judgment may work
an extreme and undue hardship, and when the asserted grounds
for relief are not recognized in clauses (1)-(5) of the
Rule.” Nemaizer v. Baker, 793 F.2d 58, 63 (2d
Cir. 1986) (internal citations omitted).
six does not apply here. Hall has not shown extraordinary
circumstances that suggest she was faultless in delaying her
response. When she states that she “was unaware of
this, ” she seems to be denying the allegations against
her rather than arguing that she was unaware of the
allegations. She also provides no explanation for her delayed
response. Additionally, the fact that she works weekend
shifts, has six children, and claims that it would be
impossible for her to pay the ordered amount does not rise to
the level of “extreme and undue hardship” or
“extraordinary circumstances” required to justify
relief under Rule 60(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 78.) Thus, she has not
established that she was faultless in her delay to respond or
that there are extraordinary circumstances justifying relief.
Rule 60(b)(1), “the movant ‘must demonstrate
inter alia that [she] was not at fault and that the
nonmoving party will not be prejudiced by the relief from
judgment.'” Wilson v. Thompson, 138
Fed.Appx. 556, 557 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Home Port
Rentals, Inc. v. Ruben, 957 F.2d 126, 132 (4th Cir.
1992)). “A party that fails to act with diligence will
be unable to establish that [her] conduct constituted
excusable neglect pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1).”
Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp. LLC, 599 F.3d 403,
413 (4th Cir. 2010). “When the party is at fault, the
[court's interest in finality and efficiency] dominate[s]
and the party must adequately defend its conduct in order to
show excusable neglect.” Heyman v. M.L. Mktg.
Co., 116 F.3d 91, 94 (4th Cir. 1997) (quoting
Augusta Fiberglass Coatings, Inc. v. Fodor Contracting
Corp., 843 F.2d 808, 811 (4th Cir. 1988)).
also is not entitled to relief under subsection one. She has
not shown, or even alleged, that she acted with diligence,
especially because she does not provide any explanation for
her failure to respond. Moreover, Hall has not even made the
preliminary showing that she has a meritorious defense such
that she may seek relief under Rule 60(b). Werner,
731 F.2d at 206. Simply stating that she is “unaware of
this situation” and that her children and their friends