United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
J. Conrad, Jr., United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's
Motion for Default Judgment. (Doc. No. 8.)
Amazon Logistics, Inc. (“Plaintiff”) is a
transportation logistics company and is the registered owner
of two trailers, identified as V210487 and V210650, and
related dolly converters (the “Trailers”). (Doc.
No. 1, ¶ 7.) Defendant Un4Given Transportation, Inc.
(“Defendant”) is a motor carrier registered with
the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as USDOT
2896549 and MC973531. (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 8.)
and Defendant are parties to a Linehaul Service Provider
Agreement (the “Agreement”) pursuant to which
Defendant agreed to provide Plaintiff truckload
transportation services, including receiving, loading,
storing, transporting, delivering, and unloading goods. (Doc.
No. 1, ¶ 9.) Defendant further agreed to use the
Trailers exclusively for the services contemplated in the
Agreement and to return the Trailers in substantially the
same condition. (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 18.) On or about July 4,
2017, Defendant possessed the Trailers to transport
Plaintiff's goods from Plaintiff's fulfillment center
in Baltimore, Maryland to Plaintiff's fulfillment center
in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 11.)
Defendant's driver checked the Trailers into the
Chattanooga facility using his cell phone. (Doc. No. 1,
¶ 11.) But, from July 2 through October 29, 2017, the
GPS units on the Trailers showed the Trailers were located at
Defendant's storage yard in Gastonia, North Carolina.
(Doc. No. 1, ¶ 12.) The GPS units stopped showing a
location on October 29, 2017, which Plaintiff presumes is due
to the batteries dying. (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 12.)
January 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against
Defendant asserting claims for breach of contract,
conversion, and a declaratory judgment. (Doc. No. 1, at 3-4.)
According to Plaintiff's Affidavit of Service, Defendant
was properly served with the summons and a copy of the
Complaint on January 25, 2019. (Doc. Nos. 4 to 4-2.) On
February 27, 2019, the Clerk of Court entered default against
Defendant. (Doc. No. 7.)
5, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Default
Judgment. (Doc. No. 8.) The motion is ripe for resolution.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs
Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment. “Rule 55
sets forth a two-step process for obtaining a default
judgment.” Brown v. Prime Star Grp., Inc., No.
3:12-cv-165, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141495, at *5 (W.D. N.C.
Sept. 30, 2012). A plaintiff must first seek an entry of
default under Rule 55(a). L & M Cos. v. Biggers III
Produce, Inc., No. 3:08-cv-309, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
46907, at *14 (W.D. N.C. Apr. 9, 2010). Rule 55(a) states
that “[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,
the clerk must enter the party's default.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). “Upon the entry of default, the
defaulted party is deemed to have admitted all well-pleaded
allegations of fact contained in the complaint.”
Brown, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141495, at *4.
the clerk has entered a default, the plaintiff may seek a
default judgment.” Silvers v. Iredell Cty.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., No. 5:15-cv-00083, 2016 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 13865, at *9 (W.D. N.C. Feb. 3, 2016). “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.” Dish
Network L.L.C. v. Hatley, No. 5:16-cv-00088, 2017 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 81390, at *6 (W.D. N.C. May 25, 2017).
“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.” Silvers, 2016 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 13865, at *9 (citing Colleton Prep. Academy,
Inc. v. Hoover Universal, Inc., 616 F.3d 413, 417-21
(4th Cir. 2010)). Default judgment is proper “only if
the well-pleaded factual allegations in a complaint both
establish a valid cause of action and entitle the plaintiff
to an award of damages or other relief.” i play.
Inc. v. D. Catton Enter., LLC, No. 1:12-cv-22, 2015 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 29870, at *6 (W.D. N.C. Mar. 10, 2015). In so
deciding, courts in this district apply the standard used to
evaluate a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, and “a
pleading that offers mere ‘labels and conclusions'
or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause
of action will not do.'” Silvers, 2016
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13865, at *18-19 (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).
the Court determines that liability is established, it must
then determine the appropriate amount of damages.”
Bogopa Serv. Corp. v. Shulga, No. 3:08-cv-365, 2011
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17408, at *4 (W.D. N.C. Feb. 8, 2011).
“The court must make an independent determination
regarding damages, and cannot accept as true factual
allegations of damages.” EEOC v. Carter Behavior
Health Servs., No. 4:09-cv-122, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
129493, at *9-10 (E.D. N.C. Oct. 7, 2011). “[A] court
may enter a default judgment as to damages with or without a
hearing. As long as there is an adequate evidentiary basis in
the record for an award of damages, the Court may make such a
determination without a hearing.” Bogopa Serv.
Corp., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17408, at *5 (citation
Court has entered default against Defendant. (Doc. No. 7.)
The Court thus proceeds to analyzing the propriety of default
judgment on Plaintiff's claims for breach of contract,
conversion, and a declaratory judgment.
alleges that Defendant breached the Agreement by
“converting the Trailers for its own use or benefit
and/or failing to timely return the Trailers.” (Doc.
No. 1, ¶ 19.) The Complaint, however, is devoid of
factual allegations that Defendant used the Trailers for its
own benefit; the Complaint merely asserts that the GPS units
showed the Trailers were located at Defendant's storage
yard from July 2 through October 29, 2017. The Complaint also
lacks any factual allegations as to Defendant's
obligation under the Agreement to return the Trailers at a
specified time and/or upon certain conditions. This is
especially problematic because the allegations regarding the
terms of the Agreement, although scant, tend to imply that
Defendant was to remain in possession of the Trailers for at
least some limited period of time in order to provide
truckload transportation services to Plaintiff. Therefore,
even taking the well-pleaded allegations of the Complaint as