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Johnson v. Waterloo Enterprises, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 21, 2017

SCOTT JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
WATERLOO ENTERPRISES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Presently pending before the court is plaintiff Scott Johnson's motion for default judgment against defendant Waterloo Enterprises, Inc., which is the only named defendant in this action. (ECF No. 8.)[1] After defendant twice failed to file an opposition to the motion, the motion was submitted on the record and written briefing pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). (ECF No. 10.) For the reasons discussed below, plaintiff's motion is GRANTED IN PART on the terms outlined below.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action on April 4, 2016, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. (“ADA”) and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code §§ 51 et seq. (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 defendant owns a business establishment and place of public accommodation known as Clarion Inn and Suites and the Sutter Street Bar and Grill, located at 4219 E. Waterloo Road, Stockton, California. (Compl. ¶¶ 1-13, 18.) According to plaintiff, he patronized the establishment in March 2014, April 2014, August 2014, September 2014, and January 2015; and encountered several specific architectural barriers to access at the establishment in violation of the ADA and the ADA Accessibility Guidelines pertaining to disabled parking spaces, guestrooms, registration counters, and restrooms. (Id. ¶¶ 19-103, 104-108.) Plaintiff further alleged that removal of the identified barriers is readily achievable, because they could be removed without much difficulty or expense. (Id. ¶ 112.) Plaintiff's complaint sought injunctive relief; monetary damages; and attorneys' fees, litigation expenses, and costs of suit. (Id. at 16.)

         After defendant was properly served with process, defendant failed to appear, and the Clerk of Court ultimately entered defendant's default on February 16, 2017, pursuant to plaintiff's request. (ECF Nos. 4-6.) The instant motion for default judgment followed. (ECF No. 8.)

         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.

         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).

         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 law); Abney v. Alameida, 334 F.Supp.2d 1221, 1235 (S.D. Cal. 2004) (“[A] default judgment may not be entered on a legally insufficient claim”). A party's default does not establish the amount of damages. Geddes, 559 F.2d at 560.

         DISCUSSION

         Appropriateness of the Entry of Default Judgment Under the Eitel Factors

         1. Factor One: Possibility of ...


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