United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
RAGEN A. MCCLUEY, Plaintiff,
SKAGIT COUNTY PUBLIC HOSPITAL DISTRICT No. 1, Defendant.
Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge
matter comes before the court on Plaintiff's motion for
default judgment. Dkt. # 10. The Court, having reviewed the
motion and the record herein, GRANTS the
motion and directs the clerk to enter default judgment as
directed at the conclusion of this order.
employed Plaintiff from October 13, 2015 to October 10, 2016
as a Remote Certified Professional Coder. Dkt. # 1 at 2.
Plaintiff suffers from epilepsy and sometimes experiences
seizures, but neither of these conditions prevented Plaintiff
from working as a coder. Id. at 2-3. On September
14, 2016, Plaintiff suffered nine grand mal seizures and
required hospitalization for forty-eight hours. Id.
Because of Plaintiff's tenuous medical condition,
Plaintiff's doctor restricted her from driving and
leaving her home state of Montana. Id. On September
22, 2016, Defendant instructed Plaintiff to report to
Defendant's office in Mount Vernon, Washington, on
October 10, 2016 for a minimum of six months. Id.
Plaintiff requested an accommodation from Defendant because
of her medical condition, but Defendant did not grant any
deviation from its instruction to report to the Mount Vernon
office. Id. On September 30, 2016, Plaintiff
requested information regarding the availability of time off
under the Family Medical Leave Act; Defendant responded by
informing Plaintiff that she was not eligible for family
medical leave. Id. at 4. On October 10, 2016, when
Plaintiff failed to report to Defendant's Mount Vernon
office as instructed, Defendant terminated her employment.
matter is the second of two suits filed by Plaintiff
regarding the circumstances of her termination. Plaintiff
filed her first complaint on August 16, 2017. McCluey v.
Skagit Valley Pub. Hosp. Dist. No. 1, No. 17-1243 (W.D.
Wash. filed Aug. 16, 2017) (McCluey I), Dkt. # 1.
Defendant's attorney responded to that complaint by
sending a letter to Plaintiff's attorneys on August 28,
2017, noting that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her
administrative remedies prior to filing suit. Dkt. # 7-1 at
24-25. Plaintiff moved to voluntarily dismiss the first suit,
and on October 2, 2017 the Court granted that dismissal
without prejudice. McCluey I, Dkt. ## 6, 7. On
November 29, 2017, Plaintiff commenced the current action.
Dkt. # 1. Plaintiff served Defendant with a copy of the new
complaint on December 21, 2017. Dkt. # 7-1 at 15. On February
1, 2018, Plaintiff petitioned the clerk for an entry of
default, and on February 6, 2018, the clerk entered the
default. Dkt. ## 7, 8. On February 8, 2018, Plaintiff moved
for default judgment. Dkt. # 10. Defendant filed an initial
notice of appearance on March, 26, 2018 but has not filed any
other pleadings or motions in this case. Dkt. # 11.
STANDARD FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
Procedural Requirements for Default Judgment
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) governs the
two-step process parties must follow to obtain a default
judgment. Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471 (9th
Cir. 1986); see also W.D. Wash. LCR 55(b)(1). First,
the party seeking relief must obtain an entry of default from
the clerk. To obtain a default, the moving party must show
that the defendant failed to plead or otherwise defend itself
against the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a); W.D. Wash. LCR
55(a). Second, if the clerk enters a default, the moving
party must then seek an entry of default judgment from either
the clerk or the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). The clerk is only
authorized to enter default judgment when the plaintiff's
claim is for a “sum certain” against a competent
defendant that has not appeared in the case. Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(b)(1); W.D. Wash. LCR 55(b)(3). In all other cases, the
court is the only entity authorized to enter a default
judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2); W.D. Wash. LCR 55(b)(4).
the party seeking default judgment does not need to serve or
give notice to the non-moving party if the non-moving party
did not enter an appearance in the case. W.D. Wash. LCR
55(b)(4); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2). The
defaulting party's appearance in the case need not be a
formal presentation to the court, but the defaulting party
must at least demonstrate some “clear purpose to defend
the suit.” Wilson v. Moore & Assocs.,
Inc., 564 F.2d 366, 369 (9th Cir. 1977) (holding that a
defendant's letter partially responding to a
plaintiff's complaint did not constitute an appearance).
Conversely, if the non-moving party entered an appearance in
the case, the moving party must serve and notify the
non-moving party of the motion. Id. Merely making an
appearance, though, does not immunize a defending party from
an entry of default judgment if that party fails to plead or
otherwise defend itself. See, e.g., Direct Mail
Specialists, Inc. v. Eclat Computerized Tech., 840 F.2d
685, 690 (9th Cir. 1988) (if a defendant fails to answer a
complaint within the time limits of FRCP 12, the court may
enter default judgment). The appearance merely entitles the
non-moving party to at least seven-days notice of the moving
party's motion for default judgment. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 55(b)(2); W.D. Wash. LCR 55(b)(4) (extending the
seven-day notice provision of the FRCP to at least twenty-one
Substantive Requirements for Default Judgment
court's decision to enter a default judgment is always
discretionary. Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092
(9th Cir. 1980). Default judgment is “ordinarily
disfavored, ” because courts prefer to decide
“cases on their merits whenever reasonably
possible.” Eitel, 782 F.2d at 1472. When
considering whether to exercise discretion in entering
default judgments, courts consider a variety of factors,
(1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff, (2) the
merits of a plaintiff's substantive claim, (3) the
sufficiency of the complaint, (4) the sum of money at stake
in the action; (5) the possibility of a dispute concerning
material facts; (6) whether the default was due to excusable
neglect, and (7) the strong policy underlying the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure.
Id. at 1471-72. Courts reviewing motions for default
judgment must accept the allegations in the complaint as
true, except facts related to the amount of damages.
Geddes v. United Fin. Grp.,559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th
Cir. 1977). Courts must conduct a hearing to analyze damages
if the moving party does not produce sufficient evidence
allowing the court to accurately calculate damages. See,
e.g., Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2)(B); W.D. ...