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Beck v. Pike

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

February 9, 2017

JOHN BECK, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY PIKE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

          JAMES L. ROBART United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court is Plaintiff John Beck's motion for the entry of default judgment against Defendant Jeffrey Pike. (Mot. (Dkt. # 8).) The court has reviewed the motion, all submissions filed in support of the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, the court DENIES the motion without prejudice to filing a renewed the motion for default judgment as described more fully herein.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On January 4, 2016, Mr. Beck filed a complaint against Mr. Pike and Defendant F/V Fishalot for lost wages. (Compl. (Dkt. # 1).) Mr. Beck alleges that, on June 10, 2015, Mr. Pike left Mr. Beck a voicemail promising Mr. Beck “a job as deckhand aboard the F/V Fishalot for the 2015 Bristol Bay (Alaska) salmon gillnet season at a crewshare of 10%.” (Id. ¶ 6.) Mr. Beck also alleges that Mr. Pike asked Mr. Beck “not to accept any other jobs so he could be sure to work aboard the F/V Fishalot.” (Id.) Mr. Beck alleges that he passed up other jobs in the Bristol Bay salmon fishery in reliance on Mr. Pike's promise of employment aboard the F/V Fishalot. (Id. ¶ 7.) Mr. Beck asserts that Mr. Pike “reneged on his promise to employ [Mr. Beck] aboard the Fishalot.” (Id. ¶ 8.) Finally, Mr. Beck alleges that he lost approximately $15, 000.00 as a result of Mr. Pike's broken promise. (Id. ¶ 9.) Mr. Beck alleges that he is entitled to recover these “unearned wages for breach of contract.” (Id. ¶ 10.)

         On April 20, 2016, Mr. Beck filed a declaration of personal service upon Mr. Pike. (Decl. of Serv. (Dkt. # 5).) Mr. Pike has not appeared in this action. (See generally Dkt.) On May 20, 2016, Mr. Beck filed a motion for the entry of default against Mr. Pike “in personam.” (Mot. for Def (Dkt. # 6) at 1.) On May 23, 2016, the court granted Mr. Beck's motion and entered default against “the in personam defendant Jeffrey Pike.” (Order of Def. (Dkt. # 7) at 1.)

         On January 13, 2016, Mr. Beck filed a notice asking the court not to arrest the F/V Fishalot at this time. (Notice (Dkt. # 3).) Mr. Beck has not served F/V Fishalot, and F/V Fishalot has never appeared in this action. (See generally Dkt.)

         On September 15, 2016, Mr. Beck filed a motion for default judgment against Mr. Pike. (See Mot.) The court now considers that motion.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard for a Default Judgment

         When a defendant fails to respond to a complaint, the court presumes that all well-pleaded factual allegations supporting liability are true. See DIRECTV, Inc. v. Hoa Huynh, 503 F.3d 847, 854 (9th Cir. 2007); Televideo Sys., Inc. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987); Geddes v. United Fin. Grp., 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th Cir. 1977). “However, a defendant is not held to admit facts that are not well-pleaded or to admit conclusions of law.” DIRECTV, 503 F.3d at 854 (quoting Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975) (quotation marks omitted)). Further, a court may “examine a plaintiff's complaint to determine whether it alleges a cause of action.” Quirindongo Pacheco v. Rolon Morales, 953 F.2d 15, 16 (1st Cir. 1992). Finally, the court does not presume that any factual allegations regarding the amount of damages that the plaintiff allegedly suffered are true. Id. at 560; Televideo Sys., 826 F.2d at 917-18. Indeed, the court must ensure that the amount of damages the plaintiff claims is reasonable and supported by the evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6); Geddes, 559 F.2d at 560; Televideo Sys., 826 F.2d at 917-18.

         Ultimately, whether to grant or deny a motion for default judgment is within the discretion of the court. See Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980); Draper v. Coombs, 792 F.2d 915, 924-25 (9th Cir. 1986) (recognizing that the defendant's default does not automatically entitle the plaintiff to a court-ordered judgment). In exercising this discretion, the court considers several factors: (1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff is relief is denied; (2) the substantive merits of plaintiff's claims; (3) the sufficiency of the claims raised in the complaint; (4) the sum of money at stake; (5) the possibility of a dispute concerning material facts; (6) whether the default was due to excusable neglect; and (7) the strong policy favoring decisions on the merits when reasonably possible. See Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1986).

         B. The Eitel Factors

         In this instance, the Eitel factors weigh against granting Mr. Beck's motion for default judgment. Only one Eitel factor-the sixth-weighs in favor of the entry of default judgment; and two Eitel factors-the first and the fourth-are neutral. On the other hand, four of the Eitel factors-the second, third, fifth, and seventh-weigh against the entry of default judgment. On ...


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