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Gillespie v. Capitol Reprographics

August 29, 2008

ROBERT GILLESPIE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAPITOL REPROGRAPHICS, LLC, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Defendants Capitol Reprographics, LLC ("Capitol Reprographics") and Lucas Mageno have moved to vacate the default judgment entered on behalf of plaintiff Robert Gillespie and to dismiss this case for lack of jurisdiction. Because the Court finds that it has both subject matter and personal jurisdiction, it will deny defendants' motion to dismiss. The Court also finds that defendants are not entitled to vacate the default under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1), but that the record regarding the extent of plaintiff's damages is insufficient to sustain the Court's judgment. Therefore, the Court will set aside the default judgment entered on July 17, 2007, and hold a hearing limited to the issue of damages.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed his complaint on December 20, 2006, alleging that he had entered into an Employment Agreement on November 1, 2003, with Mageno, trading as Capitol Digital Document Solutions, LLC ("Capitol Digital"), an unformed entity that "appears to be" a subsidiary of Capitol Reprographics (Compl. ¶ 4), and that defendants breached the terms of the Agreement by failing to pay him 5% of the net profits of Capitol Digital for calendar years 2004 and 2005 pursuant to a profit sharing program provided for in the Agreement.*fn1 (Compl. ¶¶ 14-16; see also Compl. Ex. 1 ["Employment Agreement"] ¶¶ 4, 9.)

On April 5, 2007, the Court ordered plaintiff to file proof of service by April 20, 2007. When plaintiff failed to comply with the Order, the Court dismissed the case without prejudice on April 24, 2007. Three days later, on April 27, 2007, plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the dismissal on the grounds that both defendants had been personally served at the same address in Sacramento, California. The Court granted the motion and reinstated the case by Order dated May 14, 2007. In that same Order, the Court directed defendants to respond to the complaint by June 1, 2007. Defendants were sent copies of this Order at the Sacramento address. Defendants failed to file a response. Therefore, on June 11, 2007, the Court issued a Show Cause Order directing plaintiff to cause default to be entered. The Court also mailed a copy of that Order to defendants. Thereafter, on June 27, 2007, plaintiff moved for default, which was entered the following day.*fn2 By Order dated July 9, 2007, which Order was mailed to defendants, the Court directed plaintiff to move for default judgment. Plaintiff so moved on July 11, 2007, certifying service on defendants at the Sacramento address. The motion was granted and an Order was entered on July 17, 2007, awarding plaintiff $106,775.62 in damages plus attorneys fees and costs of $3,996.47. As of that date, defendants had not entered an appearance. In fact, defendants did not enter their appearance until July 16, 2008, almost one year to the day after entry of the default judgment. On that date, defendants filed their joint motion to vacate the default judgment and to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

ANALYSIS

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), a court may relieve a party from a final judgment for a number of reasons, including "mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect" or if "the judgment is void." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1), (4).*fn3

A motion to set aside a default judgment [for mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect] pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1) is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court and any ruling thereon will be reversed on appeal only if that discretion is abused. In contrast, there is no question of discretion on the part of the court when a motion is under Rule 60(b)(4); if the judgment is void, relief is mandatory.

Combs v. Nick Garin Trucking, 825 F.2d 437, 441 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (internal quotation marks and footnotes omitted). The factors to consider under Rule 60(b)(1) are whether: (1) the default was willful, (2) a set-aside would prejudice plaintiff, and (3) the alleged defense is meritorious. Id. Moreover, the motion to vacate must be made no more than one year after entry of the judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(1). By contrast, "[a] party attacking a judgment as void need show no meritorious claim or defense or other equities on his behalf; he is entitled to have the judgment treated for what it is, a legal nullity." Combs, 825 F.2d at 441-42 (quoting 7 J. Moore & J. Lucas, Moore's Federal Practice ¶ 60.25[2], at 60-224 (1985)).

I. Rule 60(b)(4)

Defendants raise two claims that, if meritorious, would render the judgment void. First, defendants claim that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the complaint fails to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1332.*fn4

Second, defendants claim that the judgment is void vis-à-vis Mageno because the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over him.*fn5 The Court rejects both of these claims.

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

When reviewing a motion challenging the sufficiency of the allegations of subject matter jurisdiction, the court must accept all the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in plaintiff's favor. Watkins v. Pepco Energy Servs., Inc., No. 04-2062, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16930, at *5 (D.D.C. July 20, 2005) (citing Gov't of Rwanda v. Rwanda Working Group, 150 F. Supp. 2d 1, 4 (D.D.C. 2001)). ...


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