United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
GRANTING DEFAULT JUDGMENT AND REFORMING DEED OF
A. EIFERT UNITED STAGES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Matrix Financial Services Corporation (“Matrix”)
filed the instant action seeking an Order from the court
reforming a Deed of Trust. (ECF No. 1). Pending before the
Court is Matrix's Motion for Order Granting Default
Judgment Against Defendant James C. Hall III and Reforming
Deed of Trust, and its Memorandum of Law in support of its
request for entry of default judgment against defendant James
C. Hall, III, (“Hall”). Defendants United States
Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, and West
Virginia Department of Tax and Revenue do not oppose the
requested relief as indicated by the signatures of their
respective counsel to the Motion requesting relief. The
parties have consented to disposition of this action by a
United States Magistrate Judge. (ECF No. 17 at 3). Therefore,
for the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the Motion for
Default Judgment against James C. Hall, III, and further
GRANTS the relief sought by Matrix and consented to by the
United States Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue
Service, and the West Virginia Department of Tax and Revenue.
to the Complaint, on March 31, 2008, defendant Hall executed
a Deed of Trust, granting a security interest in real
property located at 2219 Jefferson Avenue, Point Pleasant,
West Virginia to secure repayment of a loan obtained by Hall
from Flagstar Bank. (ECF No. 1). The Deed of Trust explicitly
referenced a legal description of the real property, which
was supposed to be attached to the Deed of Trust, but when
the Deed of Trust was recorded with the Clerk of the County
Commission of Mason County, West Virginia, the legal
description was not attached. (Id.).
2011, Flagstar Bank became aware that the legal description
of the real property was inadvertently omitted when the Deed
of Trust was recorded. Therefore, a Corrective Deed of Trust
was recorded on June 10, 2011, which had the legal
description attached. However, Flagstar Bank failed to obtain
Hall's acknowledgment of the Corrective Deed before
recording it. (Id.).
December 2015, Matrix was assigned the Deed of Trust.
Recognizing that Hall's acknowledgment was missing from
the Corrective Deed of Trust, Matrix filed the present civil
action seeking to reform the original Deed of Trust recorded
in 2008 to attach the legal description that should have been
included at the time of recording. Matrix claims that
reformation of the original Deed of Trust will remove any
potential impediment to title and will allow Matrix to obtain
the contemplated benefits of the Deed of Trust.
(Id.). Matrix joined the United States Department of
Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, and the West Virginia
Department of Tax and Revenue as defendants, because each
entity has a recorded tax lien against Hall. (Id.).
was personally served with the summons and complaint in this
case on December 13, 2016. (ECF No. 14). On January 25, 2017,
Hall participated in a Rule 26(f) meeting, in which he and
the other parties consented to resolution of the case by a
United States Magistrate Judge. (ECF No. 17 at 3, 5). On
February 1, 2017, the parties stipulated that Hall would have
an extension through and including March 1, 2017 in which to
answer or otherwise respond to the complaint. Despite
receiving the extension, Hall never filed a responsive
pleading or motion.
30, 2017, Matrix filed an application for entry of default.
(ECF No. 26). A motion for entry of default judgment was
already pending. (ECF Nos. 23). On June 16, 2017, the Clerk
of Court entered a default as to defendant Hall and sent a
copy of the entry of default to Hall at the address on
record. (ECF No. 27). However, the entry was returned
undeliverable and with no forwarding address. (ECF No. 28).
More than five months have passed since entry of the
parties' stipulation of extension and more than three
months have passed since Matrix filed its motion seeking an
order of default judgment. Consequently, Matrix's motion
is ready for disposition.
Rule of Civil Procedure 55 sets forth a two-step process for
entry of a default judgment. First, the plaintiff, or party
seeking default judgment, must request that the Clerk of
Court enter a default “[w]hen a party against whom a
judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead
or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit
or otherwise.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Second, after entry
of default, the plaintiff must apply for a default judgment.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). When the relief sought is for a sum
certain or can be ascertained by computation, the request for
default judgment may be made to the Clerk. However,
“[a] plaintiff's assertion of a sum in a complaint
does not make the sum ‘certain' unless the
plaintiff claims liquidated damages.” Lopez v. XTEL
Const. Grp., LLC, No. CIV. PWG-08-1579, 2011 WL 6330053,
at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 16, 2011). In all other instances, the
party seeking default must apply to the court, Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(b)(2), and “the complaint must be supported by
affidavit or documentary evidence.” Lopez,
2011 WL 6330053, at *2. The court may conduct hearings on the
motion for default judgment when the court needs to
“conduct an accounting;” “determine the
amount of damages;” “establish the truth of any
allegation by evidence;” or “investigate any
other matter.” Id. If the party against whom a
default judgment is sought has appeared personally or by a
representative, the party or representative must be given
seven days' notice of any hearing.
the party against whom a default judgment is sought fails to
make an appearance or fails to respond to the motion for
default judgment, the court must determine if default
judgment is appropriate based upon the allegations of the
pleading. Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d
778, 780-81 (4th Cir. 2001). The court must accept
well-pleaded factual allegations as true and must evaluate
whether the allegations support the relief sought.
Id. Despite “a strong preference that, as a
general matter, defaults be avoided and that claims and
defenses be disposed of on their merits, ” Colleton
Preparatory Acad., Inc. v. Hoover Universal, Inc., 616
F.3d 413, 417 (4th Cir. 2010), “default judgment may be
appropriate when the adversary process has been halted
because of an essentially unresponsive party.”
S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md.
2005); Lopez, 2011 WL 6330053, at *2 (collecting
cases). The decision to enter a default judgment rests within
the sound discretion of the court. Id. (citing
Dow v. Jones, 232 F.Supp.2d 491, 494 (D. Md. 2002).
Matrix has provided an affidavit and documentary evidence in
support of its Complaint and Motion for Default Judgment.
Having reviewed the evidence, the undersigned finds that the
allegations of the Complaint are well supported, and a
hearing on the matter is not necessary. Furthermore, the
record establishes that defendant Hall was served with the
Complaint and was fully aware of his obligation to respond to
the Complaint no later than March 1, 2017, but failed to do
so. Moreover, Matrix served Hall with the Motion for an Order
Granting Default Judgment and Reforming Deed of Trust on
April 25, 2017, and Hall has made no effort to oppose the
motion. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS the motion for entry of
default judgment against defendant Hall.
Order Reforming Deed of Trust and ...