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BMO Harris Bank N.A. v. Basnight

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

August 21, 2019

BMO HARRIS BANK N.A., Plaintiff,
v.
TED BASNIGHT, d/b/a, BASNIGHT HAULING, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          MARK S. DAVIS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on an unopposed motion for default judgment filed by plaintiff BMO Harris Bank N.A. ("Plaintiff") against defendant Ted Basnight, doing business as Basnight Hauling ("Defendant"). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for default judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a national banking association located in Chicago, Illinois. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. Defendant is an individual resident and citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and he has registered the trade name "Basnight Hauling" with the Circuit Court Clerk for the City of Chesapeake, Virginia. Id. ¶ 2. The parties entered into a loan and security agreement on June 2, 2017 (''Agreement"), in which Plaintiff agreed to finance Defendant's purchase of a 2018 Kenworth T880 Tractor ("Collateral") and Defendant agreed to pay Plaintiff $224, 630.70, including interest. Id. ¶ 8. In consideration for entering into the Agreement, Defendant also granted Plaintiff a first-priority security interest in the Collateral. Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff perfected its security interest by recording its lien on the Certificate of Title. Id.

         The terms of the Agreement provide that, if Defendant failed to make a payment, such failure would result in default. Id. ¶ 10. Defendant failed to make the payment due on March 1, 2018, and all subsequent payments. Id. ¶ 12. On October 5, 2018, Plaintiff notified Defendant of his default and demanded Defendant pay the amount due and surrender the Collateral. Id. ¶ 19. Defendant has neither paid nor surrendered possession of the Collateral. Id. ¶ 20-21.

         Plaintiff filed a Verified Complaint stating the above allegations on January 9, 2019. Compl., ECF No. 1. Defendant was personally served on February 1, 2019. Returned Summons, ECF No. 5. Defendant failed to respond within the twenty-one-day deadline. Plaintiff requested entry of default on February 26, 2019, and the clerk entered default that day. Pl.'s Req., ECF No. 7; Clerk Entry, ECF No. 8. Plaintiff then filed the instant motion for default judgment on March 28, 2019, ECF No. 9. Defendant has yet to respond in any way.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 provides that entry of default is appropriate when "a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). After securing entry of default, a plaintiff may then move for entry of default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). “A court confronted with a motion for default judgment is required to exercise sound judicial discretion in determining whether the judgment should be entered, and the moving party is not entitled to default judgment as a matter of right." EMI April Music, Inc. v. White, 618 F.Supp.2d 497, 505 (E.D. Va. 2009) (citation omitted).

         When a defendant defaults, he or she "admits the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact." Ryan v. Homecomings Financial Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). To present well-pleaded allegations of fact, a complaint must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Accordingly, in resolving a motion seeking default judgment, the court must "determine whether the well-pleaded allegations in [the plaintiff's] complaint support the relief sought in th[e] action." Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780 (citation omitted).

         Although well-pleaded factual allegations must be accepted as true, a party in default does not admit allegations as to the amount of damages. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6) ("An allegation-other than one relating to the amount of damages-is admitted if a responsive pleading is required and the allegation is not denied."). For this reason, after a district court concludes that liability is established in the default judgment context, it must then independently calculate damages. To assess the extent of a plaintiff's damages, a district court may conduct an evidentiary hearing under Rule 55(b)(2), but it "need not do so . . .if the damages can be ascertained based on detailed affidavits or documents attached to the plaintiff's motion." Anderson & Strudwick, Inc. v. IBD-Placement & Recruiting Services, LLC, No. 3:11cv818, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65914, at *10-11 (E.D. Va. May 10, 2012) (citing Anderson v. Found, for Advancement, Educ. & Emp't of Am. Indians, 155 F.3d 500, 507 (4th Cir. 1998)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Jurisdiction, Venue, and Service of Process

         As a preliminary matter, the Court finds that jurisdiction, venue, and service of process are proper. The Court clearly has subject matter jurisdiction because there is complete diversity and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332; Compl. ¶¶ 1-5. Personal jurisdiction exists because Defendant is a resident and citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia. See Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 924 (2011) ("For an individual, the paradigm forum for the exercise of general jurisdiction is the individual's domicile"); Compl. ¶ 2. Venue is appropriate because Defendant resides in the Eastern District of Virginia and the events that gave rise to the cause of action occurred in this district as well because the Collateral is located here. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b); Compl. ¶¶ 6-7.

         Additionally, for the Court to enter default judgment, Defendant must have been properly served with process. Service of process was proper in this case because Defendant was personally served at his residence: 1911 Peartree Street, Chesapeake, ...


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