United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
Honorable Richard A. Jones, United States District Judge.
Richard A. Jones This matter comes before the court on
Plaintiff Northwest Pipeline LLC's
(“Northwest”) Motion for Default Judgment. Dkt. #
16. 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.
is a federally regulated company that operates, maintains,
and constructs natural gas pipelines. Dkt. # 1, ¶ 9.
Northwest currently operates an eight-inch natural gas
pipeline located in part on Defendant Jonathan Copeland's
property. Dkt. # 17, ¶ 2. In order to meet the
continually increasing demand for natural gas, Northwest
needs to remove portions of the existing line and replace it
with a new twenty-inch natural gas pipeline (the
“Project”) located in part on Copeland's
19, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
(“FERC”) issued Northwest a Certificate of Public
Convenience and Necessity (“FERC Certificate”)
authorizing Northwest to, among other things, construct the
Project on the Property. Dkt. # 1, ¶ 13, Ex. A.
October 2017, Northwest and Mr. Copeland entered into an
Option for Temporary Construction Easement Agreement
(“Option”) that granted Northwest the exclusive
right and option to procure the TCE from Copeland. Dkt. # 17,
¶ 3. The Temporary Construction Easement
(“TCE”) would grant Northwest temporary easement
rights for construction workspace necessary to replace the
portion of its pipeline on Mr. Copeland's property.
Id., Ex. A. At the time the Option was executed,
Northwest paid Mr. Copeland half of the purchase price for
the TCE ($5, 550.00) plus compensation for timber and an
access road ($900.00), for a total payment of $6, 450.00, to
secure the Option. Id. The Agreement further states
that Northwest may exercise the option by serving Mr.
Copeland with written notice of exercise any time during the
period between October 16, 2017, and December 15, 2018, after
which Mr. Copeland “then shall execute and deliver to
[Northwest] a Temporary Construction Easement
Agreement.” Id. Upon execution, Copeland would
be paid the balance of the full purchase price. Id.
December 3, 2018, Northwest sent Mr. Copeland a letter
exercising its option under the Agreement. Dkt. # 17, ¶
5, Ex. C. However, despite multiple attempts to secure the
TCE, Mr. Copeland did not deliver the TCE to Northwest.
Id.; see also Dkt. # 1 at 4-5.
filed its Complaint on January 31, 2019, alleging claims for
breach of the Option and condemnation of the TCE. Dkt. #1.
After Mr. Copeland failed to timely appear in or defend
against this matter, Northwest moved for an Order of Default
(Dkt. #13), which the Clerk entered on March 4, 2019. Dkt.
#15. Northwest now moves for entry of default judgment
against Defendant and for an order of condemnation of the
TCE. Dkt. # 16. There has been no response to this motion or
any other filing by Mr. Copeland.
Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) authorizes a district court to
grant default judgment after the Clerk enters default under
Rule 55(a). Upon entry of default, the defendant's
liability is established and the well-pleaded allegations in
the complaint are accepted as true. Televideo Sys., Inc.
v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987).
Where those facts establish a defendant's liability, the
court has discretion, not an obligation, to enter a default
judgment. Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th
Cir. 1980); Alan Neuman Productions, Inc. v.
Albright, 862 F.2d 1388, 1392 (9th Cir. 1988).
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. Wash LCR
55(b)(2)(A); Televideo Sys., Inc., 826 F.2d at 917.
However, in condemnation proceedings such as this, the
“failure to serve an answer constitutes consent to the
taking and to the court's authority to proceed with the
action and fix the compensation.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) establishes the framework
for the condemnation of property necessary for
Northwest's Project. The NGA provides, in pertinent part:
When any holder of a certificate of public convenience and
necessity cannot acquire by contract, or is unable to agree
with the owner of property to the compensation to be paid
for, the necessary right-of-way to construct, operate, and
maintain a pipe line or pipe lines for the transportation of
natural gas ... it may acquire the same by the exercise of
the right of eminent domain in the district court of the
United States for the district in which such property may be
located, or in the State courts.
15 U.S.C. § 717f(h); see also Transwestern Pipeline
Co. v. 17.19 Acres of Prop. Located in Maricopa Cty.,
550 F.3d 770, 776 (9th Cir. 2008); Nw. Pipeline G.P. v.
Francisco, C08-0601MJP, 2008 ...