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Ventura v. L. A. Howard Constr. Co.

United States District Court, D. Columbia

September 28, 2015

TOMAS ALCIDES VENTURA, Plaintiff,
v.
L. A. HOWARD CONSTRUCTION CO. et al., Defendants

Page 100

          For TOMAS ALCIDES VENTURA, Plaintiff: Mary Craine Lombardo, STEIN SPERLING BENNETT DE JONG DRISCOLL PC, Rockville, MD.

Page 101

         MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Tomas Alcides Ventura seeks to recover from a construction company and its owner unpaid overtime compensation for his work as a concrete installer. Despite having been served by first-class mail in accordance with the Court's Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Alternative Service, Defendants L. A. Howard Construction Company (" the Company" ) and Lazerrick A. Howard have not responded to the complaint or the Clerk's entry of default. Ventura now seeks entry of default judgment, monetary damages, and attorneys' fees. As Ventura has adequately demonstrated liability on the part of both defendants and established the amount of damages, the Court will grant Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Default Judgment and enter judgment against the Company and Howard.

         I. Background

         L. A. Howard Construction Company is a Washington, D.C. corporation that employed Tomas Alcides Ventura as a concrete installer from February 1, 2011 through July 30, 2013. Compl. ¶ ¶ 4, 17.

Page 102

Ventura alleges that he worked between forty-eight and fifty hours per week, but was never compensated at one and one-half times his regular hourly rate for the time he spent working over forty hours in a week. Compl. ¶ 19.

         L. A. Howard Construction Co. and Howard himself are employers as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), the District of Columbia Minimum Wage Revision Act (" DCMWRA" ), and the District of Columbia Wage Payment and Collection Law (" DCWPCL" ).[1] With this designation comes certain obligations. As Ventura correctly notes in his complaint, id. at 3, both the federal government and the District of Columbia require that employers compensate their employees for overtime at a rate of at least one and one-half times the employee's regular hourly rate. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a); D.C. Code § 32-1003(c). If the Company willfully failed to pay Ventura at least one and one-half times his regular hourly rate for his overtime, he is entitled to recover his unpaid compensation as well as liquidated damages. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); D.C. Code § § 32-1012, 32-1303. Ventura contends that the Company never paid him his statutorily mandated overtime wage and that he is owed approximately $19,995.30 as a result. Compl. ¶ 4. He seeks monetary damages in the amount of $59,985.90 under the DCWPCL's treble damages provision, or, alternatively, $39,990.60 under the FLSA's liquidated damages provision, as well as attorneys' fees and costs.[2]

         Ventura filed suit on November 7, 2014 against L. A. Howard Construction Co. and its owner, Lazerrick A. Howard, who controlled the day-to-day operations of the Company. Compl. ¶ 10. The Company and Howard were served on April 14, 2015 by first-class mail, in accordance with the Court's Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Alternative Service. Aff. Service of Process on L.A. Howard Construction Co.; Aff. Service of Process on Lazerrick A. Howard. Neither responded to the complaint. The Clerk of the Court entered default as to the Company on June 26, 2015, Clerk's Entry of Default, ECF No. 10, and as to Howard on September 4, 2015, Clerk's Entry of Default, ECF No. 12. Ventura now moves for entry of default judgment against both the Company and Howard.

         II. Standard of Review

         Default judgment is a two-step procedure. Lanny J. Davis & Assocs. LLC v. Republic of Equatorial Guinea, 962 F.Supp.2d 152, 161 (D.D.C. 2013). First, the plaintiff requests that the Clerk of the Court enter default against a party who has " failed to plead or otherwise defend."

Page 103

Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Second, the plaintiff must move for entry of a default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). Default judgment is available when " the adversary process has been halted because of an essentially unresponsive party." Boland v. Elite Terrazzo Flooring, Inc., 763 F.Supp.2d 64, 67 (D.D.C. 2011). " Default establishes the defaulting party's liability for the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint." Id.

         After establishing liability, the court must make an independent evaluation of the damages to be awarded and has " considerable latitude in determining the amount of damages." Id. The Court may conduct a hearing to set the amount of damages. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). The Court is not required to do so, however, " as long as it ensure[s] that there [i]s a basis for the damages specified in the default judgment." Transatlantic Marine Claims Agency, Inc. v. Ace Shipping Corp.,109 F.3d 105, 111 (2d Cir. 1997). To ensure that there is an adequate basis to determine damages, a plaintiff must " prove [his] entitlement" to the relief requested using " 'detailed affidavits or documentary evidence' on which the court may ...


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