Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Golden West Veg, Inc. v. Bartley

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

May 30, 2017

GOLDEN WEST VEG, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES M. BARTLEY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT Re: Dkt. No. 33

          LUCY H. KOH, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Golden West Veg Inc.'s (“Golden West”) renewed motion for default judgment against Defendants James M. Bartley (“Bartley”) and Greenfield Produce Sales (“Greenfield”). Having considered Plaintiff's motion, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Golden West brings this case for violation of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (“PACA”), 7 U.S.C. § 499a et seq., and for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Plaintiff is a California corporation engaged in the business of selling and shipping perishable agricultural commodities and has its principal place of business in Salinas, California. ECF No. 43 (“FAC”), ¶¶ 1-2. Plaintiff alleges that at all times relevant to this action, Plaintiff operated under a valid PACA license number 20140205. Id. ¶ 16. Defendant Greenfield is a sole proprietorship of Defendant Bartley with its principal place of business in Salinas, California. Id. ¶ 4. Plaintiff alleges that at all times relevant to this action, Bartley and Greenfield were “insiders” who were “in a position to control the PACA trust assets that are the subject of this lawsuit.” Id. ¶ 6.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were “engaged in the handling of produce in interstate and/or foreign commerce as a commission merchant, dealer and/or retailer in wholesale and jobbing quantities.” Id. ¶ 8. Therefore, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants are “subject to the provisions of the PACA and the regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Agriculture.” Id. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants operated under PACA license number 20061039. Id. ¶ 17.

         Plaintiff alleges that between January 4, 2016 and April 14, 2016, Plaintiff sold perishable agricultural commodities to Defendants. Id. ¶ 9. In exchange, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants agreed to pay Plaintiff $97, 430.40. Id. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that on or near the date of each transaction, Plaintiff forwarded to Defendants invoices for the transactions. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff has attached these invoices, of which there are 14 in total, to the FAC, and these invoices total $97, 430.40. Ex. 1 to FAC. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have paid “the partial sum of $44, 226.22” but have left an “outstanding principal sum due of $53, 203.78, no part of which has been paid.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that despite shipping the produce to Defendants, and despite repeated demands that Defendants pay the amount due, Defendants “have failed and refused” to pay the remaining amount due. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff therefore seeks damages in the amount of the overdue balance, as well as “reasonable attorney's fees and costs of suit” and “interest at the highest legal rate from the date the obligation became due.” Id. at 8-9.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed this PACA action against Defendants on July 1, 2016. ECF No. 1. On August 24, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for entry of default by the Clerk. ECF No. 15. On September 27, 2016, the Clerk entered default against Greenfield, ECF No. 20, but declined to enter default against Bartley, ECF No. 20. The same day, September 27, 2016, the Court ordered that Plaintiff file any motion for default judgment against Greenfield by October 18, 2018. ECF No. 21. The Court also ordered that if Plaintiff filed a renewed motion for entry of default and the Clerk entered default against Bartley, Plaintiff was required to file a motion for default judgment against Bartley within 21 days after the entry of default. Id.

         On October 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to continue the deadline to file a motion for default judgment. ECF No. 23. In the motion, Plaintiff stated that after the entry of default, Bartley had contacted Plaintiff and that Plaintiff and Bartley had begun settlement discussions. Id. at 2. Plaintiff therefore sought a continuance in order to facilitate these settlement discussions. Id. On October 13, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion and continued the deadline to file a motion for default judgment until November 1, 2016. ECF No. 24.

         Plaintiff then filed an amended motion for entry of default against Bartley on October 28, 2016.[1] ECF No. 25. Soon afterward, on November 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment against Greenfield. ECF No. 25. On November 2, 2016, the Clerk entered default against Bartley. ECF No. 32. On November 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended motion for default judgment against both Greenfield and Bartley. ECF No. 33. On January 27, 2017, the Court denied the motions for default judgment without prejudice because the Court found that the original complaint failed to allege all elements of a PACA claim. ECF No. 42.

         After the Court denied the motions for default judgment without prejudice, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (“FAC”) on February 10, 2017. ECF No. 43. On March 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion for entry of default against Bartley individually and doing business as Greenfield Produce Sales. ECF No. 46. On March 8, 2017, the Clerk entered default against Bartley individually and doing business as Greenfield Produce Sales. ECF No. 48. On March 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion for entry of default against Greenfield. ECF No. 49. On March 9, 2017, the Clerk entered default against Greenfield. ECF No. 51.

         Plaintiff then filed the instant motion for default judgment against Bartley and Greenfield on March 16, 2017. ECF No. 52.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2), the court may enter a default judgment when the clerk, under Rule 55(a), has previously entered the party's default. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). “The district court's decision whether to enter a default judgment is a discretionary one.” Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980). Once the Clerk of Court enters default, all well-pleaded allegations regarding liability are taken as true, except with respect to damages. See Fair Hous. of Marin v. Combs, 285 F.3d 899, 906 (9th Cir. 2002) (“With respect to the determination of liability and the default judgment itself, the general rule is that well-pled allegations in the complaint regarding liability are deemed true.”); TeleVideo Sys. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987) (“[U]pon default the factual allegations of the complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages, will be taken as true.”); Philip Morris USA v. Castworld Prods., 219 F.R.D. 494, 499 (C.D. Cal. 2003) (“[B]y defaulting, Defendant is deemed to have admitted the truth of Plaintiff's averments.”). “In applying this discretionary standard, default judgments are more often granted than denied.” Philip Morris, 219 F.R.D. at 498.

         “Factors which may be considered by courts in exercising discretion as to the entry of a default judgment include: (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).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Jurisdiction

         “When entry of judgment is sought against a party who has failed to plead or otherwise defend, a district court has an affirmative duty to look into its jurisdiction over both the subject matter and the parties. A judgment entered without personal jurisdiction over the parties is void.” In re Tuli, 172 F.3d 707, 712 (9th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). The Court thus begins by evaluating subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction.

         1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         The Court finds that the exercise of subject matter jurisdiction over this case is proper. “[A] federal court may exercise federal-question jurisdiction if a federal right or immunity is an element, and an essential one, of the plaintiff's cause of action.” Provincial Gov't of Marinduque v Placer Dome, Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1086 (9th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff asserts claims under PACA and California contract law. See Compl. ¶¶ 7-34. As the PACA causes of action raise federal questions, the Court may properly exercise subject matter jurisdiction over the PACA causes of action. Because the state law claim arises out of the same factual allegations as the PACA causes of action, the Court exercises supplemental jurisdiction over that claim. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

         2. Personal Jurisdiction

         To determine the propriety of asserting personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, the Court examines whether such jurisdiction is permitted by the applicable state's long-arm statute and comports with the demands of federal due process. Harris Rutsky & Co. Ins. Servs., Inc. v. Bell & Clements, Ltd., 328 F.3d 1122, 1128-29 (9th Cir. 2003). Because California's long-arm statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 410.10, is coextensive with federal due process requirements, the jurisdictional analyses under state law and federal due process are the same. See Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 410.10 (“[A] court of this state may exercise jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or of the United States.”); Mavrix Photo, Inc. v. Brand Techs., Inc., 647 F.3d 1218, 1223 (9th Cir. 2011). For a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant consistent with due process, that defendant must have “certain minimum contacts” with the relevant forum “such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)). In addition, “the defendant's ‘conduct and connection with the forum State' must be such that the defendant ‘should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.'” Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990) (quoting World-Wide Volkwagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980)).

         A court may exercise either general or specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Ziegler v. Indian River Cnty., 64 F.3d 470, 473 (9th Cir. 1995). General jurisdiction exists where a nonresident defendant's activities in the state are “continuous and systematic” such that said contacts approximate physical presence in the forum state. See Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 801 (9th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). Where general jurisdiction is inappropriate, a court may still exercise specific jurisdiction where the nonresident defendant's “contacts with the forum give rise to the cause of action before the court.” Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 923 (9th Cir. 2001).

         Additionally, for the Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the defendant must have been served in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4. See Jackson v. Hayakawa, 682 F.2d 1344, 1347 (9th Cir. 1982) (“Defendants must be served in accordance with Rule 4(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or there is no personal jurisdiction.” (footnote omitted)).

         a. Greenfield

         As to Defendant Greenfield, the Court concludes that the exercise of general jurisdiction is appropriate. Plaintiff has alleged that Greenfield's principal place of business is in Salinas, California. FAC ¶ 2. Therefore, California is a state in which Greenfield “is fairly regarded as at home” and is therefore subject to general jurisdiction. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 760 (2014). Greenfield has “substantial” and “continuous and systematic” contacts with California as well as a “physical presence” in California that support the Court's exercise of general jurisdiction. See Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 801 (general jurisdiction exists where a defendant has “continuous and systematic general business contacts . . . that approximate physical presence in the forum state” (citations omitted)).

         Additionally, Plaintiff effected service of process upon Greenfield by serving the summons and complaint on Greenfield's sole proprietor and agent of service, Defendant Bartley. See ECF No. 45 (affidavit of service on Greenfield through its agent James M. Bartley). There is no indication in the record that this service was improper.

         b. James Bartley

         As to Defendant Bartley, the Court concludes that the exercise of personal jurisdiction is appropriate. In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Bartley was at all times relevant to the complaint the sole proprietor of Greenfield, which had its principal place of business in Salinas, California. FAC ¶ 2. Operating a sole proprietorship continuously in the state of California is sufficient to establish “continuous and systematic” contacts with California that can support an exercise of general jurisdiction. Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 801; see also Woodworkers Tool Works v. Byrne, 202 F.2d 530, 531 (9th Cir. 1953) (upholding a finding of personal jurisdiction based on continuous and systematic contacts with California through a sole proprietorship.”

         Additionally, service on Defendant Bartley was proper. The affidavit of service shows that Plaintiff effected service of process on Defendant Bartley personally on February 11, 2017. ECF No. 44. There ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.