United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
LYNN ARRINGTON, as Administratrix of the Estate of Luther Burton, Jr., Plaintiff,
TRENTON KYLE HENSLEY and TOWN OF SMITHFIELD, Defendants.
TERRENCE W. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause comes before the Court on plaintiffs motion for entry
of default judgment as against defendant Trenton Kyle
Hensley. A hearing was held on the motion before the
undersigned on November 29, 2017, at Raleigh, North Carolina.
Following the hearing, plaintiff submitted an affidavit
regarding defendant Hensley's military status and the
matter is now properly before the Court for adjudication.
is the administratrix of the Estate of Luther Burton, Jr. At
the time relevant to the allegations in the amended
complaint, Mr. Burton was employed as a security guard at a
private club and bar in Smithfield, North Carolina called the
Hookah House. During the early morning hours of February 2,
2013, defendant Trenton Hensley was a patron of the Hookah
House and was highly intoxicated. Hensley had been asked to
leave the Hookah House earlier that night due to his
behavior, and while Hensley did leave he returned and was
still highly intoxicated. Mr. Burton approached Hensley in
the parking in an attempt to request that Hensley again leave
the premises and, without provocation, Hensley punched Mr.
Burton in the head near his right eye. Mr. Burton was knocked
unconscious and fell to the pavement. Johnston County
Emergency Services were notified and three police officers
were the first to respond to the scene. Emergency medical
personnel arrived shortly thereafter. Mr. Burton was
ultimately transported to WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, North
Carolina where doctors determined that he had suffered an
un-survivable injury. After forty-eight hours of care, Mr.
Burton's examination was unchanged and his medical status
had declined. Mr. Burton's family withdrew life support
and Mr. Burton died on February 5, 2013.
Trenton Hensley failed to appear in this action after
personal service of the complaint and summons were made on
him on February 19, 2015. Clerk's default pursuant to
Rule 55(a) was entered against Hensley on August 18, 2015.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Plaintiff now seeks entry of default
judgment against defendant Hensley. Where, as here, a claim
is not for a sum certain, a party must apply to the court
rather than the clerk for entry of default judgment.
motion for entry of default sufficiently established that
Hensley is neither a minor nor incompetent [DE 12], and
plaintiff has filed an affidavit establishing that Hensley is
not in military service. [DE 68]. After the entry of default,
the well-pleaded factual allegations in plaintiffs amended
complaint are deemed admitted. Ryan v. Homecomings Fin.
Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001). The Court
must then "determine whether the well-pleaded
allegations in [plaintiffs] complaint support the relief
sought in this action." Id.
well-pleaded allegations in plaintiffs amended complaint
support that Hensley's actions were the proximate cause
of Mr. Burton's death and that Hensley is liable for the
wrongful death of Luther Burton under N.C. Gen. Stat. §
28A-18-2. See Hairston v. Alexander Tank & Equip.
Co., 310 N.C. 227, 233 (1984) (defining proximate
cause). The pleadings further sufficiently establish that
Hensley's actions were willful or wanton to support an
award of punitive damages pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat.
lD-25(b). The facts support that Hensley acted with more than
gross negligence and with the conscious and intentional
disregard for the safety of others, which he knew or should
have known was reasonably likely to result in injury. N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 1D-5.
plaintiff has established that Hensley is liable for the
wrongful death of Mr. Burton, plaintiff is entitled to
recover for Mr. Burton's medical bills, funeral expenses,
and for the costs of the administration of Mr. Burton's
Estate. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-18-2(b)(1);(3). The Court
finds plaintiffs claim for liquidated damages in the amount
of $106, 099.69 for medical bills, funeral expenses, and
administrative costs to be reasonable. Plaintiff has further
established through affidavits that she is entitled to
recover from Hensley for the loss of Mr. Burton's
society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices,
and advice. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-18-2(b)(4)(c). The
Court finds that an award of $1, 000, 000.00 in unliquidated
damages is appropriate for loss of society, comfort, and
companionship. Finally, the Court finds that punitive damages
in the amount of three times the amount of compensatory
damages is appropriate in this instance.
motion for entry of default judgment against defendant
Hensley [DE 59] is GRANTED. Default judgment against
defendant Hensley is hereby entered in the amount of $1, 106,
099.69 as actual damages and $3, 318, 299.07 as punitive
damages. Post-judgment interest shall accrue ...