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Johnson v. Mateo Development, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 8, 2015

SCOTT JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MATEO DEVELOPMENT, LLC, et al., Defendants

For Scott Johnson, Plaintiff: Mark D. Potter, LEAD ATTORNEY, Center for Disability Access, San Diego, CA; Phyl Grace, LEAD ATTORNEY, Potter Handy LLP, San Diego, CA.

ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

KENDALL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

INTRODUCTION

Presently pending before the court is plaintiff Scott Johnson's motion for default judgment against defendants Mateo Development, LLC (" Mateo") and PKT Market, Inc. (" PKT"), who are the only named defendants in this action. (ECF No. 11.) After defendants failed to file an opposition to the motion in accordance with Local Rule 230(c), the motion was submitted on the record and written briefing pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). (ECF No. 14.)

For the reasons discussed below, the court now recommends that plaintiff's motion for default judgment be GRANTED IN PART on the terms outlined below.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff initiated this action on August 21, 2014, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § § 12101 et seq. (" ADA"); California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § § 51 et seq.; the California Disabled Persons Act, Cal. Civ. Code § § 54 et seq.; as well as a negligence claim. (See generally Complaint, ECF No. 1 [" Compl." ].) Plaintiff, a level C-5 quadriplegic who cannot walk, has significant manual dexterity impairments, and uses a wheelchair and a specially-equipped van, alleged that defendants own, operate, and/or lease a business establishment and place of public accommodation known as Skyway Market, which is located at 3141 N Wilson Way in Stockton, California. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 1-3, 7.) According to plaintiff, he visited, and made purchases at, the Skyway Market on three different occasions in 2014, and encountered the following architectural barriers to access at the establishment in violation of the ADA and the ADA Accessibility Guidelines: no accessible handicap parking space (handicap parking spaces/signage and access aisle signage were allegedly faded to oblivion) and no accessible transaction counter (transaction counter was allegedly 50 inches in height with no lowered, 36 inch portion of the counter for use by persons in wheelchairs). (Id. ¶ ¶ 8-12, 15-17.) Plaintiff alleged that he frequently visits the Stockton area, and that he had been deterred from patronizing the Skyway Market on several other occasions in 2014 because of his knowledge of the above-mentioned barriers. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff further alleged that defendants had the means and ability to remove the barriers. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff's complaint sought inter alia injunctive relief; statutory damages; and attorneys' fees, litigation expenses, and costs of suit. (Id. at 7-8.)

Proofs of service filed in the record reflect that plaintiff, through a process server, effectuated service of process on PKT by serving PKT's agent for service of process on August 22, 2014, and on Mateo by serving Mateo's agent for service of process on August 24, 2014. (ECF Nos. 4, 5.) See Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(h); Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 416.10.

On September 30, 2014, plaintiff requested that the Clerk of Court enter default against defendants Mateo and PKT, and on October 1, 2014, the Clerk of Court entered their default. (ECF No. 6, 7, 8.) The instant motion for default judgment followed. (ECF No. 11.)

Plaintiff's motion for default judgment seeks injunctive relief for removal of unlawful architectural barriers pursuant to the ADA; statutory damages pursuant to California's Unruh Civil Rights Act; and attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to the ADA and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act.[1]

LEGAL STANDARDS

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, default may be entered against a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought who fails to plead or otherwise defend against the action. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). However, " [a] defendant's default does not automatically entitle the plaintiff to a court-ordered judgment." PepsiCo, Inc. v. Cal. Sec. Cans, 238 F.Supp.2d 1172, 1174 (C.D. Cal. 2002) (citing Draper v. Coombs, 792 F.2d 915, 924-25 (9th Cir. 1986)). Instead, the decision to grant or deny an application for default judgment lies within the district court's sound discretion. Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980). In making this determination, the court considers the following factors:

(1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff, (2) the merits of 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). Default judgments are ordinarily disfavored. Id. at 1472.

As a general rule, once default is entered, well-pleaded factual allegations in the operative complaint are taken as true, except for those allegations relating to damages. TeleVideo Sys., Inc. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (citing Geddes v. United Fin. Group, 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th Cir. 1977) (per curiam)); accord Fair Housing of Marin v. Combs, 285 F.3d 899, 906 (9th Cir. 2002). In addition, although well-pleaded allegations in the complaint are admitted by a defendant's failure to respond, " necessary facts not contained in the pleadings, and claims which are legally insufficient, are not established by default." Cripps v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 980 F.2d 1261, 1267 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Danning v. Lavine, 572 F.2d 1386, 1388 (9th Cir. 1978)); accord DIRECTV, Inc. v. Hoa Huynh, 503 F.3d 847, 854 (9th Cir. 2007) (stating that a defendant does not admit facts that are not well-pled or conclusions of ...


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