United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT RE: DKT.
A. WESTMORE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
23, 2019, Plaintiff KKMI Sausalito, LLC filed this admiralty
and maritime action in rem against Defendant Vessel
“Self Inflicted, ” Documentation No. 1064308.
(Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that between June 29,
2017 and May 22, 2019, the Vessel incurred repairs, hull
maintenance, and storage charges at Plaintiff's boatyard
in Sausalito, California. (Compl. ¶¶ 6-9.)
Plaintiff now seeks to foreclose a maritime lien against the
Vessel, her engines, rigging, sails, boats, tackle, apparel,
and furniture pursuant to the Federal Maritime Lien Act
(“FMLA”), 46 U.S.C. § 31342, and seeks a
judgment condemning the Vessel and an order for its sale to
pay the outstanding amount owed.
October 4, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for default
judgment. (Mot., Dkt. No. 24.) On December 19, 2019, the
Court held a hearing on Plaintiff's motion for default
judgment, at which no potential claimants appeared. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's
motion for default judgment.
Vessel is a steel-hulled recreational sailing vessel,
approximately 48' in length. (Compl. ¶ 3.) On June
29, 2017, the Vessel's owner, Daniel A. Morgan, entered
into a Service Agreement with Plaintiff for repair and hull
maintenance work at Plaintiff's Sausalito boatyard.
(Compl. ¶ 5.)
June 29, 2017 and November 12, 2018, the Vessel incurred
repair charges for labor and parts in the amount of $15,
748.13. (Compl. ¶ 6; Kaplan Decl. ¶ 6, Dkt. No.
24-1.) Payments of $6, 590.00 were made, leaving a balance
due of $9, 158.13 as of November 12, 2018. (Compl. ¶ 6;
Kaplan Decl. ¶ 6.) No. further payments were made,
despite demands from Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 7; Kaplan
Decl. ¶ 7.) Pursuant to the Service Agreement, a vessel
storage charge was applied at the usual and customary daily
storage rate of $3.00 per foot of boat length, or $144.00 per
day. (Compl. ¶ 7; Kaplan Decl. ¶ 7.) Between
November 13, 2018 and May 22, 2019 - the date the complaint
was verified by Plaintiff - the Vessel incurred daily storage
charges of $144.00 for 191 days, for a total unpaid storage
charge of $27, 504.00. (Compl. ¶ 7; Kaplan Decl. ¶
then filed the instant in rem action, asserting a
maritime lien against the Vessel, her engines, rigging,
sails, boats, tackle, apparel, and furniture pursuant to 46
U.S.C. § 31341(a)(1) and general maritime law. (Compl.
31, 2017, the Court approved Plaintiff's proposed warrant
of arrest, ordering that the warrant be issued for the arrest
of the Vessel, which the Clerk of the Court issued. (Dkt.
Nos. 11, 12.) The Court also granted Plaintiff's
Application for Appointment of a Substitute Custodian,
appointing Paul Kaplan, Plaintiff's founding partner,
custodian of the Vessel and authorizing the U.S. Marshal to
surrender possession of the Vessel to him. (Dkt. No. 12.) The
Marshal arrested and served the Vessel on June 18, 2019 at
Plaintiff's boatyard in Sausalito, California. (Dkt. No.
15.) The Marshal filed the executed return of Arrest Warrant
on July 23, 2019, and the executed return of the Summons on
July 26, 2019. (Dkt. Nos. 15, 21.)
published a Notice of Action and Arrest in The Daily Journal,
in compliance with Admiralty Local Rule 4-2(a), and Plaintiff
filed the Proof of Publication pursuant to Admiralty Local
Rule 4-2(b). (Dkt. No. 20.)
24, 2019, Plaintiff requested entry of default. (Dkt. No.
18.) On July 26, 2019, the Clerk of the Court entered
default. (Dkt. No. 22.) No. one has appeared in this action
or filed a verified statement of right of possession or
ownership interest in the Vessel.
Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) permits a court to enter a
final judgment in a case following a defendant's default.
Shanghai Automation Instrument Co. v. Kuei, 194
F.Supp.2d 995, 999 (N.D. Cal 2001). Whether to enter a
judgment lies within the court's discretion. Id.
(citing Draper v. Coombs, 792 F.2d 915, 924-925 (9th
assessing the merits of a default judgment, a court must
confirm that it has subject matter jurisdiction over the case
and personal jurisdiction over the parties, as well as ensure
the adequacy of service on the defendant. See In re
Tuli, 172 F.3d 707, 712 (9th Cir. 1999). If the court
finds these elements satisfied, it turns to the following
factors (“the Eitel factors”) to determine
whether it should grant a default judgment:
(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 a decision on the
Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72
(9th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted).
entry of default, all factual allegations in the complaint
are accepted as true, except allegations relating to the
amount of damages. TeleVideo Sys., Inc. v.
Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987). Where
a default judgment is granted, the scope of relief
“must not differ in kind from, or exceed in amount,
what is demanded in the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c).
Magistrate Judge Jurisdiction to Enter Default
636(c) confers magistrate judges the authority to enter
judgment in a civil action “upon consent of the
parties.” Generally, the consent of all of the parties,
including unserved defendants, is required for a valid
judgment to be entered. Williams v. King, 875 F.3d
500, 504 (9th Cir. 2017). Here, however, the action is in
rem against the Vessel. In in rem forfeiture
proceedings, the Ninth Circuit has held that a putative
claimant's failure to comply with the applicable filing
requirements precludes standing as a party to the action,
such that the property owner's consent to magistrate
judge jurisdiction is not a prerequisite to the entry of
default judgment against his interest in the subject
property. United States v. Real Property, 135 F.3d
1312, 1316-17 (9th Cir. 1998). In Williams, the
Ninth Circuit affirmed this narrow exception, such that the
undersigned is vested with jurisdiction to enter judgment
against the Vessel even absent the consent of the property
owner. See 875 F.3d at 504. Accordingly, since the
undersigned has obtained consent from the only party to the
action - Plaintiff - the Court may enter default judgment.
Jurisdiction and Service of Process
considering whether to enter default judgment, a district
court must first determine whether it has jurisdiction over
the subject matter and the parties to the case. In re
Tuli, 172 F.3d 707, 712 (9th Cir. 1999) (“When the
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.”)
Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1333, which vests district courts with original
jurisdiction over “any civil case of admiralty or
maritime jurisdiction.” An in rem action may
be brought to enforce any maritime lien, or whenever a
statute of the United States provides for a maritime action
to be brought in rem. Fed.R.Civ.P. Supp. C(1). Here,
Plaintiff seeks to enforce a maritime lien under the Federal
Maritime Lien Act (“FMLA”), 46 U.S.C. §
31342. Accordingly, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction
over this action. See Ventura Packers, Inc. v. F/V
Jeanine Kathleen, 305 F.3d 913, 918-23 (9th Cir. 2002)
(holding that the Maritime Lien Act provides a statutory
basis for the exercise of a district court's admiralty
jurisdiction). The Court also has in rem
jurisdiction over the Vessel because the Vessel is located
within the Northern District of California, was
“arrested pursuant to maritime process, ” and
“the warrant w[as] successfully served.”
Ventura Packers, Inc. v. F/V Jeanine Kathleen, 424
F.3d 852, 858 (9th Cir. 2005); accord Fed. R. Civ.
P. Supp. C(2)-(3).
is proper because the Court has jurisdiction over the
parties, and the Vessel is located in the district. (Compl.
Service of Process
Court finds that Plaintiff has complied with the service
requirements set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
Supplemental Rule C(3)(b)(i). This rule provides: “If
the property that is the subject of the action is a vessel or
tangible property on board a vessel, the warrant and any
supplemental process must be delivered to the marshal for
service.” Fed.R.Civ.P. Suppl. R. C(3)(b)(i). The
Marshal's Process Receipt and Return shows that the
Vessel's custodian was served when the Vessel was
arrested on June 18, 2019. (Dkt. No. 16.)
has also complied with the notice requirements in Admiralty
Local Rule 4-2(a) when it published notice in The Daily