United States District Court, C.D. California
Attorneys for Plaintiffs: Not Present.
Attorneys for Defendants: Not Present.
Honorable PERCY ANDERSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Proceedings: IN CHAMBERS
Before the Court is a Motion for Default Judgment filed by plaintiff Charles Williams (" Plaintiff") (Docket No. 14). Pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rule 7-15, the Court finds that this matter is appropriate for decision without oral argument. The hearing calendared for November 10, 2014, is vacated, and the matter taken off calendar.
Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that defendant S.O.S. Associates, Inc. (" S.O.S. Associates") owns and operates a retail electronics store at 1500 South Central Avenue, Los Angeles, California, in a property owned by defendant 1500 South Central LLC (" 1500 South Central") (S.O.S. Associates and 1500 South Central will be referred to collectively as " Defendants"). The Complaint alleges that Defendants fail to comply with the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the store aisles within the retail location operated by S.O.S. Associates provide insufficient paths of travel for a person with disabilities and that the parking lot owned by 1500 South Central does not provide the disabled parking spaces required by the ADA. Pursuant to the ADA, the Complaint seeks injunctive relief requiring Defendants to alter their premises to make them accessible to the extent required by the ADA. The Complaint also contains state law claims for violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § § 51-53, the California Disabled Persons Act, Cal. Civ. Code § § 54-54.8, and for negligence.
S.O.S. Associates was served with the Complaint on April 17, 2014, and 1500 South Central was served with the Complaint on May 5, 2014. Defendants attempted to file Answers to the Complaint on May 2, 2014. Because Defendants, as a corporation and a limited liability company, could not appear pro se, but are required to be represented by counsel pursuant to Local Rule 83-2.2.2, the Court ordered that the Defendants' Answers not be filed, but instead rejected and returned to Defendants. Defendants have not attempted to file any additional pleadings, contacted the Court, or otherwise appeared in this action. The clerk entered Defendants' defaults on August 8, 2014. Plaintiff then filed the current Motion for Default Judgment on October 14, 2014. To date, Defendants have not filed any Opposition. Nor did Defendants appear on the date on which the hearing was noticed.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) grants the Court the power to enter a default judgment. The Court need not make detailed findings of fact in the event of a default judgment. Adriana Int'l Corp. v. Thoeren, 913 F.2d 1406, 1414 (9th Cir. 1990). The general rule is that upon entry of a default, well-pleaded allegations in the complaint regarding liability are deemed true. Geddes v. United Financial Group, 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th Cir. 1977). Factors the Court should consider in evaluating a motion for entry of default judgment include: " (1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff; (2) the merits of the plaintiff's substantive claim; (3) the sufficiency of the complaint; (4) the sum of money at stake in the action; (5) the possibility of a dispute concerning material facts; (6) whether the default was due to excusable neglect; and (7) the strong policy underlying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure favoring decisions on the merits." Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1986).
Here, the Court finds that these factors weigh in favor of granting Plaintiff's Motion with respect to liability. In light of the well-pleaded allegations in the Complaint and Defendants' failure to answer or otherwise participate in the action, Plaintiff's interest in an efficient resolution of the case outweighs Defendant's interest in adjudication on the merits.
See PepsiCo v. Cal. Sec. Cans, 238 F.Supp.2d 1172, 1177 (C.D. Cal. 2002) (" Defendant's failure to answer Plaintiffs' Complaint makes a decision on the merits impractical, if not impossible. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a), termination of a case before hearing the merits is allowed whenever a defendant fails to defend an action.").
However, while allegations as to liability are deemed admitted in a Motion for Default Judgment, allegations in the Complaint regarding damages are not.
Geddes, 559 F.2d at 560. Plaintiff seeks the minimum statutory damages of $4, 000.00 from Defendants pursuant to the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Cal. Civ. Code § 52(a). According to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, anyone who commits an act of discrimination under the Act " is liable for each and every offense for the actual damages, and any amount that may be determined . . . up to a maximum of three times the amount of actual damage but in no case less than four thousand dollars ($4, 000), and any attorney's fees that may be determined by the court in addition thereto . . . ." Id. " [P]roof of actual damages is not a prerequisite to the recovery of statutory minimum damages." Botosan v. Paul McNally Realty, 216 F.3d 827, 835 (9th Cir. 2000). The Court will therefore award Plaintiff the statutory minimum $4, 000.00.
Plaintiff also seeks an award of attorneys' fees in the amount of $3, 315.00. According to Plaintiff's counsel, his hourly billable rate of $425 is reasonable in this community for someone with his level of experience in this area of law in the community. Plaintiff's counsel claims that he " spent a total of 7.8 hours of time" working on this matter, but does not provide evidence of how much time he spent on any particular one of the six categories of work he claims to have undertaken. Nor has Plaintiff's counsel supplied the Court with time records from which the Court could assess the reasonableness of the amount of time he spent on any particular task. As a result of these omissions, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to establish his entitlement to fees in excess of those provided in Local Rule 55-3. Van Gerwen v. Guar. Mut. Life. Co., 214 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2000) (" The party seeking an award of fees must submit evidence supporting the hours worked and the rates claimed."). Consistent with the schedule set in Local Rule 55-3, the Court therefore awards attorneys' fees to Plaintiff of $600.00 against Defendants ($300 plus 10% of the amount over $1, 000). Plaintiffs have also requested an award of costs in the amount of $440.00 to compensate them for the filing fee and costs for service of process. The Court will award Plaintiff his costs of $440.00.
Plaintiff's Application seeks an injunction under the ADA requiring Defendants to install the number accessible parking spaces and accessible paths of travel within the retail store operated by S.O.S. Associates. The Court will grant Plaintiff his requested injunctive relief.
For all of the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment is granted. Plaintiff is are awarded $4, 000.00 in statutory damages, $600.00 in attorneys' fees, and $440.00 in costs. The Court will also grant Plaintiff the injunctive relief he seeks. The Court ...