United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER VACATING DEFAULT AND DEFAULT JUDGMENT
S. Lasnik United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on a motion to vacate entries
of default and default judgment entered against defendants
Seok Bae “Mike” Seo, Lee Ok Mi, and Hanna &
Dooree Corporation (“H&D Corp.”). Dkt. # 114.
The Court has considered the parties' memoranda, filings,
and exhibits. For the reasons explained below,
defendants' motion is GRANTED.
matter stems from a lawsuit brought by Allstate Insurance
Company and several of its associated corporate
entities (together, “Allstate”)
alleging a scheme of false insurance claims submitted through
a sham law firm. The three defendants who bring this motion
were not defendants in Allstate's original complaint,
Dkt. # 1, but during discovery Allstate contacted and
corresponded with Mr. Seo, obtained documents from him via
subpoena, and deposed him July 12, 2016. At that deposition,
Mr. Seo was represented by attorney Shawn McCully.
Court dismissed the original complaint, but granted Allstate
leave to amend. Dkt. # 47. On August 17, 2016, Allstate filed
an amended complaint that newly named as defendants Mr. Seo,
his wife Ms. Mi, and H&D Corp., a company Mr. Seo
apparently used to do business with the law firm at the
center of the lawsuit's allegations. Dkt. # 52. The day
Allstate filed its amended complaint, Allstate's counsel
emailed copies of the amended complaint to various parties,
including Mr. McCully. Dkt. # 119-1 at 1. Mr. McCully
responded by notifying plaintiff's counsel that it was
unlikely he would continue to represent Mr. Seo and that he
would not accept service on Mr. Seo's behalf. Dkt. #
119-1 at 2. The morning of October 19, 2016, Allstate served
the amended complaint and summons on Mr. Seo and on Ms. Mi,
who accepted service on her own behalf and on behalf of
H&D Corp. Dkt. ## 79, 80, 81.
and Ms. Mi did not answer the amended complaint or otherwise
defend the suit, but Mr. Seo continued to cooperate and
correspond with plaintiff's counsel. Dkt. # 114-1 at 13.
For example, hours after Mr. Seo was served with the amended
complaint, he sent the following email to the offices of
Please reschedule my deposition which scheduled on October
24, 2016 9:30 a.m due to attorney withdraw from my case. I
need to find new attorney for this matter. Beside that, I am
not going to be available on November because I will be with
my father to get his lung cancer treatment and surgery plane
with doctors in CA.
Dkt. # 119-1 at 9 (mistakes in original). Two days later, he
followed up with another message:
I got noticed the deposition form my priviou attorney
yesterday's email. I don't want to be in the
deposition by myself. I will find attorney for my deposition
asap. I am not available in first two weeks of November. I am
back to Seattle on 13th of November. I would like to
reschedule after that and let me know.
Dkt. # 119-1 at 9 (mistakes in original).
continued to correspond with Mr. Seo about testifying against
the original defendants and other topics, but simultaneously
pursued judgment by default, the mechanism in the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure for pursuing judgment against an
unresponsive party whose failures to respond have brought the
process of a lawsuit to a halt. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55.
Obtaining a default judgment begins by seeking an entry of
default if a defendant fails to responsively plead or
otherwise defend a suit within twenty-one days of service.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(a)(1)(A)(ii); Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(a). Mr. Seo failed to file a responsive pleading with the
Court within twenty-one days of service, and on November 10,
2016-twenty-two days after service-Allstate sought a default