United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
Richard L. Voorhees United States District Judge
MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT on Plaintiff's Motion for
Default Judgment as to Defendants Nathan Church and Jonathan
Harris (Doc. 22) (the “Motion”).
is a citizen and resident of Granite Falls, North Carolina,
and was formerly an employee of Defendant Camelot Manor
Nursing Care Facility, Inc. (“Camelot Manor”),
which is a registered North Carolina corporation with its
principal place of business in Granite Falls, North Carolina.
(Doc. 1) at 1-2. On June 25, 2015, Plaintiff filed a
Complaint (Doc. 1), which alleges violations of the Americans
with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. 12101 et
seq. (the “ADA”) and various North Carolina
tort law claims, and attached an Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) right to sue letter (Doc.
1-1). On September 21, 2015, Defendants Camelot Manor and
Danielle Church filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint.
(Doc. 9). The Clerk filed an Entry of Default as to Defendant
Jonathan Harris (Doc. 12) on December 3, 2015 and an Entry of
Default as to Defendant Nathan Church (Doc. 14) on January
13, 2016. On October 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Stipulation
of Dismissal as to all other Defendants. (Doc. 19). Plaintiff
filed the present Motion (Doc. 22) on March 17, 2017 and had
a hearing before the Court on the Motion on April 24, 2017.
Defendants Nathan Church and Jonathan Harris did not respond
to the Motion or appear before the Court.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
Complaint asserts federal question jurisdiction pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1331 for Plaintiff's claim under the
ADA. (Doc. 1) at 1. The Complaint does not assert but the
Court acknowledges supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1367 for Plaintiff's state tort law claims.
Therefore, the Court has jurisdiction over the case.
alleged unlawful employment practices were committed in
Granite Falls, North Carolina, which is within this
Court's district and division. Therefore, venue is
appropriate in the Statesville division.
Motion for default judgment is governed by Rule 55 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 55. Upon
a showing that a party against whom judgment is sought has
failed to plead or otherwise defend, the clerk must enter the
party's default. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). After the clerk has
entered a default, the plaintiff may seek a default judgment.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b). The entry of a default
judgment is left to the sound discretion of the court and no
party is entitled to a favorable entry of default judgment as
a matter of right. See Black v. F & S, LLC, 2008
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100577, at *6 n.6 (W.D. N.C. 2008)
(Voorhees, J.) (citing United States v. Ragin, 113
F.3d 1233, 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 11827, at *5 (4th Cir.1997));
Draper v. Coombs, 792 F.2d 915, 924 (9th Cir.1986))
see also Advantage Media Group v. Debnam, 2011 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 62678, at *3 (M.D. N.C. 2011); EMI April
Music, Inc. v. White, 618 F.Supp.2d 497, 505 (E.D. Va.
2009); S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421
(D. Md. 2005). Without question, because the American civil
litigation system is adversarial by nature, it is the
“strong policy” of the Fourth Circuit to decide
cases on their merits. See, e.g.,
Colleton Prep. Academy, Inc. v. Hoover Universal,
Inc., 616 F.3d 413, 417-21 (4th Cir. 2010). However,
default judgment serves as an appropriate remedy in certain
circumstances where the adversarial system breaks down.
See Silvers v. Iredell Cnty. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13865, at * 9-10 (W.D.
N.C. Feb. 3, 2016) (Voorhees, J.). A breakdown typically
occurs where a party, against whom affirmative relief is
sought, refuses to engage in adversarial litigation.
Id. Here, Defendants Nathan Church and Jonathan
Harris did not respond to the Complaint or appear before the
Court. As a result, default judgment is proper, and the Court
must only determine the amount of damages to be awarded to
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Nathan Church (1)
assaulted Plaintiff by locking him in a freezer, dosing his
drinks, and throwing water on him; (2) offensively or
harmfully made physical contact with Plaintiff without his
consent; (3) intentionally detained Plaintiff against his
will; (4) entered into a civil conspiracy with Defendants
Jonathan Harris and Danielle Church “to do unlawful
acts or to do lawful acts in a[n] unlawful way” to
Plaintiff; (5) engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct and
caused severe emotional distress to Plaintiff; and (6)
engaged in unauthorized interference with, and damage to,
Plaintiff's car “by rolling it with toilet paper
and writing on it with vulgar language.” (Doc. 1) at
The claims asserted against Defendant Nathan Church are (1)
assault; (2) battery; (3) false imprisonment; (4) civil
conspiracy; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress;
and (6) trespass to chattels and property damage.
also alleges that Defendant Jonathan Harris (1) entered into
a civil conspiracy with Defendants Nathan Church and Danielle
Church “to do unlawful acts or to do lawful acts in
a[n] unlawful way” to Plaintiff; (2) engaged in extreme
and outrageous conduct and caused severe emotional distress
to Plaintiff; and (3) engaged in unauthorized interference
with, and damage to, Plaintiff's car “by rolling it
with toilet paper and writing on it with vulgar
language.” (Doc. 1) at 5-9. The claims asserted against
Defendant Jonathan Harris are (1) civil conspiracy; (2)
intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (3)
trespass to chattels and property damage. Id. at
seeks nominal, actual, and/or compensatory damages for the
claims of assault, battery, false imprisonment, civil
conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
trespass and property damage. (Doc. 1) at 10. However,
Plaintiff did not allege actual damages, so the Court may
only consider an award of nominal and/or compensatory
damages. Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages for the
“willful, malicious, and intentional Assault, Battery,
False Imprisonment, Civil Conspiracy, Intentional Infliction
of Emotional Distress; and Trespass/Property Damage.”
Complaint and at the hearing, Plaintiff stated that he
endured several months of harassment from Defendant Nathan
Church, to include locking Plaintiff in a walk-in freezer for
at least fifteen minutes. (Doc. 1) at 4. At the hearing,
Plaintiff stated that Defendant Jonathan Harris was not
involved with freezer incident. In the Complaint, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants Nathan Church and Jonathan Harris
taped a vulgar sign to Plaintiff's car and conspired to
harass Plaintiff. (Doc. 1) at 2 and 7. The actions of
Defendants Nathan Church and Jonathan Harris caused Plaintiff
to experience severe emotional distress, physical pain, a
panic attack, and, during the freezer incident, fear for his
life. (Doc. 1) at 4. As a result of these actions, the Court
awards Plaintiff compensatory damages for Plaintiff's
pain and suffering, and apportions the awards according to
the relative severity of each Defendant's acts. The Court
finds it reasonable award Plaintiff eight thousand dollars
($8, 000) in compensatory damages from Defendant Nathan
Church and two thousand dollars ($2, 000) in compensatory
damages from Defendant Jonathan Harris.
Court also awards Plaintiff punitive damages for the acts of
Defendants Nathan Church and Jonathan Harris given the
relative egregiousness of their conduct toward Plaintiff, who
they knew to have the disability alleged in the Complaint.
The Court determines the amount of punitive damages by
approximating an amount, relative to each Defendant's
ability to pay, which will impose sufficient punishment on
each Defendant for their actions. Defendants Nathan Church
and Jonathan Harris held jobs similar to that of Plaintiff.
Plaintiff testified that he was paid seven dollars and
twenty-five cents ($7.25) per hour, and the Court assumes
that each employee worked forty (40) hours per week, which
equates to a total take-home pay of around twelve thousand
dollars ($12, 000) per year. ...