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Walker v. Thomas

United States District Court, D. Columbia

October 13, 2015


          For CHANEEL WALKER, GAIL ALSTON, Plaintiffs: Meredith M. Ralls, FIRST POINT LAW GROUP, PC, Fairfax, VA.

         LORRAINE THOMAS, Defendant, Pro se, Hyattsville, MD.

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         Chaneel Walker and Gail Alston (" Plaintiffs" ) filed the Complaint in the above-captioned action on March 27, 2014 against Defendant Lorraine Thomas (" Defendant" ). See Compl., ECF No. [1]. Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment (" Motion" ). See ECF No. [20]. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES WITHOUT PREJUDICE Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is the second action that Plaintiffs have filed against Defendant concerning the

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allegations raised in Plaintiffs' Complaint. In the first suit, Plaintiffs sued Defendant and Innovative Concept Solutions International, Inc. (" ISCI" ), which at the time was a commercial enterprise owned and operated by Defendant. Walker v. Innovative Concept Solutions International (" Walker I " ), 1:12cv02046, Compl. ¶ 15 (Dec. 12, 2012), ECF No. [1]. The Court dismissed without prejudice the claims against Defendant for failure to serve the summons and complaint upon Defendant. See Walker I, Order (May 29, 2013), ECF No. [13]. As to the claims against ISCI, the Court twice denied without prejudice Plaintiffs' motions for default judgment on the basis that Plaintiffs failed to include evidentiary support for its damages claims. See Walker I, Order (July 3, 2013), ECF No. [18], Order (Nov. 27, 2013), ECF No. [21]. When provided the opportunity to file a third motion for default judgment, Plaintiffs failed to do so, and the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims against ISCI for want of prosecution. See Walker I, Order (Jan. 13, 2014), ECF No. [23].

         Plaintiffs commenced the present action against Defendant on March 27, 2014, approximately two months after the Court's order dismissing Plaintiffs' claims against ISCI.[1] Plaintiffs allege that ISCI was as a corporation authorized to do business under the laws of Maryland, but forfeited its status in 2001 for failure to pay property taxes. Compl. ¶ 15. As such, ICSI operated as a sole proprietorship of Defendant, with Defendant remaining personally liable for the debts and actions of ICSI. Id. On September 2, 2014, Defendant filed for bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland in case number 1:1 4-bk-23662. Pls.' Mem. in Support of Pl.'s Mot. for Relief from Stay Exhibit 1 (Jan. 2, 2015), ECF No. [15]. Defendant's bankruptcy petition initially named Plaintiffs, along with the Department of Labor and this Court, as creditors; however, on September 16, 2014, Defendant amended her bankruptcy petition to exclude those parties from her list of creditors. Id. Exhibits 3-4. On December 22, 2014, Defendant received a discharge of indebtedness, and the Bankruptcy Court closed the case. Id. Exhibits 7, 8. At no time did Defendant seek to add Plaintiffs back to her list of creditors after filing her Amended Petition. Id. at 2. Accordingly, Defendant's alleged debts to Plaintiffs were not discharged. Id.

         On March 26, 2015, Plaintiffs filed affidavits supporting an entry of default against Defendant in this matter. ECF No. [17], [18]. On March 27, 2015, the Clerk of the Court entered a default against Defendant. ECF No. [19]. On April 21, 2015, Plaintiffs filed the present [20] Motion for Default Judgment.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) provides that the Clerk of the Court must enter a party's request for a default " [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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). After a default has been entered by the Clerk, a party may move the court for a default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). " The determination of whether default judgment is appropriate is committed to the discretion of the trial court." Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Auxier Drywall, LLC, 531 F.Supp.2d 56, 57 (D.D.C. 2008) (citing Jackson v. Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836, 205 U.S.App.D.C. 84 (D.C. Cir. 1980)).

         Upon entry of default by the clerk of the court, the " defaulting defendant is deemed to admit every well-pleaded allegation in the complaint." Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. R.W. Amrine Drywall Co. Inc., 239 F.Supp.2d 26, 30 (D.D.C. 2002) (internal citation omitted). " Although the default establishes a defendant's liability, the court is required to make an independent determination of the sum to be awarded unless the amount of damages is certain." Id. ( ...

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