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Headhunter, LLC v. Doe

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

June 27, 2018

DOE 1, et al., Defendants.




         Before the court are Plaintiff Headhunter LLC's (“Headhunter”) motion for default against Defendant Poulline-Jaun Castillo and motions for default judgment against Defendants Krystal Sawyer, Abram Zeliz, and LeRoy Mechkstroth (collectively, “Defaulting Defendants”). (Castillo Mot. (Dkt. # 66)); Sawyer Mot. (Dkt. # 69); Zeliz Mot. (Dkt. # 71); Mechkstroth Mot. (Dkt. # 73).) The court has considered the motions, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law.[1] Being fully advised, [2] the court denies the motion for entry of default without prejudice and grants in part and denies in part the motions for default judgment for the reasons set forth below.


         A. Factual Background

         Headhunter brought this copyright infringement case on June 30, 2017. (See Compl. (Dkt. # 1).) Headhunter originally asserted copyright infringement claims against 19 Doe defendants for unauthorized copying and distribution of Headhunter's film, A Family Man, by using “the BitTorrent file sharing protocol.”[3] (Id. ¶ 1; see also Am. Compl. (Dkt. # 12) ¶ 5 (alleging that Headhunter developed and produced A Family Man for theatrical release in July 2017).) Headhunter initially identified the defendants only by the IP address from which they shared the film. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) After Headhunter filed its initial complaint, the court granted Headhunter leave to conduct limited discovery to identify the defendants using their IP addresses. (7/10/17 Order (Dkt. # 8).) On August 31, 2017, Headhunter filed an amended complaint identifying 15 defendants by name. (See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18-32.)

         Taking into consideration the unique identifier associated with a particular digital copy of A Family Man and the timeframe when the IP address associated with a named defendant accessed that unique identifier, Headhunter alleges that the defendants were part of a “swarm” of users that reproduced, distributed, and/or displayed the copyrighted work. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 12, 18-19, 25, 32-35.) Headhunter also explains the forensic methods by which it identified Defendants' infringing activity. (Id. ¶¶ 36-38.)

         Ms. Castillo, who appears pro se, responded to Headhunter's complaint by filing a motion to dismiss (MTD (Dkt. # 36)), which the court denied (1/9/18 Order (Dkt. # 61)). Ms. Castillo has not subsequently answered Headhunter's amended complaint. (See Dkt.) On March 6, 2018, Headhunter gave Ms. Castillo written notice of its intention to move for default. (Lowe Decl. (Dkt. # 67) ¶ 2, Ex. A.)

         Defaulting Defendants did not respond to Headhunter's complaint. (See Dkt.) The court therefore entered default against Defaulting Defendants. (11/9/17 Order (Dkt. # 51).)

         Headhunter moves for entry of default against Ms. Castillo and for default judgment against Ms. Sawyer, Mr. Zeliz, and Mr. Mechkstroth. (See Castillo Mot.; Sawyer Mot.; Zeliz Mot.; Mechkstroth Mot.) The court now addresses those motions.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Motion for Entry of Default

         1. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a), “[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party's default.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Filing a motion to dismiss constitutes defending an action within the meaning of Rule 55(a). Fid. Mortg. Corp. v. Seattle Times Co., 213 F.R.D. 573, 574 (W.D. Wash. 2003). And, even where a defendant's responsive pleading is untimely after the court denies the motion to dismiss, courts have denied entry of default because the defendant intends to defend the suit. See, e.g., Dow v. Jones, 232 F.Supp.2d 491, 494-95 (D. Md. 2002).

         Local Civil Rule 55(a) further requires that “in the case of a defaulting party who has entered an appearance, the moving party must give the defaulting party written notice of the requesting party's intention to move for the entry of default at least fourteen days prior to filing its motion.” Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 55(a).

         2. Entry of Default Against Ms. Castillo

         Headhunter moves for entry of default against Ms. Castillo. (See Castillo Mot.) But by moving to dismiss, Ms. Castillo demonstrated her intent to defend against the suit. (See MTD); Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Thus, particularly in light of Ms. Castillo's pro se status, the court denies entry of default. See United States v. Edwards, No. 2:10-cv-098-EJL-CWL, 2011 WL 2441682, at *3 (D. Idaho June 14, 2011); cf. New Milani Grp., Inc. v. Aslani, No. CV 17-02791 SJO (PJWx), 2017 WL 8220225, at *2 (C.D. Cal. June 9, 2017) (stating that the court would set aside the entry of default because “in light of [the d]efendant's pro se status, there is no indication that [the d]efendant's failure to timely respond to the [c]omplaint was deliberate, willful, or made in bad faith”). However, in the interest of ensuring an expeditious resolution of the case, the court directs Ms. Castillo to file an answer to Headhunter's amended complaint within 21 days of the date of this order. If she does not do so, Headhunter may renew its motion for entry of default.

         B. Motions for Default Judgment

         1. Le ...

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