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Amazon Logistics, Inc. v. UN4Given Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

October 8, 2019

AMAZON LOGISTICS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
UN4GIVEN TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          Robert J. Conrad, Jr., United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment. (Doc. No. 8.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff 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.)

         Plaintiff 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.[1] (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.)

         On 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.)

         On June 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Default Judgment. (Doc. No. 8.) The motion is ripe for resolution.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 55 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.

         “After 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)).

         “If 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 omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The 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.

         Plaintiff 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 ...


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