United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Set
Aside Entry of Default, ECF No. 12, and Plaintiff's
Motion to Strike Defendants' Answer and Counterclaim, ECF
No. 15. For reasons set forth herein, Defendants' Motion
is GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion is
filed the present Complaint on February 6, 2018. ECF No. 1.
Electronic summons was issued to Defendants on February 7,
2018. ECF No. 2. Summons was then served on Defendants on
February 12, 2018. ECF Nos. 4, 5. Though Defendants'
responsive pleadings were due by March 5, 2018, no answers or
motions were filed on or before that deadline. Accordingly,
the Clerk entered default against Defendants on March 12,
2018. ECF No. 9.
March 16, 2018, Defendants filed both an Answer to
Plaintiff's Complaint and a Counterclaim against
Plaintiff. ECF No. 11. On the same day, Defendants filed the
present Motion to Set Aside Entry of Default. ECF No. 12. In
the Motion, Defendants argue that they have a meritorious
defense to the claims asserted against them, they responded
promptly to the entry of default, and there was good cause
for their failure to answer in a timely manner. ECF No. 13.
Defendants also assert that, even if the Court finds the
delay unwarranted, there are less drastic sanctions than
default judgment available. Id. Defendants therefore
ask this Court to vacate the entry of default. Id.
objects to the Motion, arguing that Defendants have no
meritorious defenses to Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendants
did not act with reasonable promptness in responding to the
present Complaint, Defendants are personally responsible for
the delay, there is substantial prejudice to Plaintiff as a
result of the delay, and no less drastic sanction can remedy
that prejudice. ECF No. 16. Accordingly, Plaintiff asks the
Court to sustain the entry of default. Id.
defendant is required to serve a responsive pleading within
21 days after being served with a summons and complaint.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(a)(1). Failure to do so will result in the
entry of default against the silent party. Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(a). After default has been entered, however, the Court may
set aside the entry of default for good cause shown.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c). The decision as to whether to set aside
the entry of default pursuant to Rule 55(c) “is a
matter which lies largely within the discretion of the trial
judge . . .” Consol. Masonry & Fireproofing,
Inc. v. Wagman Constr. Corp., 383 F.2d 249, 251 (4th
considering a motion to set aside entry of default, the court
should consider: “whether the moving party has a
meritorious defense, whether it acts with reasonable
promptness, the personal responsibility of the defaulting
party, the prejudice to the party, whether there is a history
of dilatory action, and the availability of sanctions less
drastic.” Payne ex rel. Estate of Calzada v.
Brake, 439 F.3d 198, 204-205 (4th Cir. 2006).
general matter, Rule 55(c) “must be liberally construed
in order to provide relief from the onerous consequences of
defaults and default judgments.” Lolatchy v. Arthur
Murray, Inc., 816 F.2d 951, 954 (4th Cir. 1987)
(internal quotation and citation omitted). The Fourth Circuit
has “repeatedly expressed a strong preference that . .
. 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).
considering Defendants' Motion, the Court addresses each
Payne factor in turn, noting that no one factor is
dispositive in the Court's analysis. See Colleton
Prep. Acad., Inc., 616 F.3d at 420 (finding that the
district court abused its discretion in denying motion to set
aside default because it focused too heavily on one
first Payne factor, whether the moving party has
presented a meritorious defense, weighs against setting aside
default. To find a meritorious defense, the Court must be
presented with evidence “which would permit a finding
for the defaulting party or which would establish a valid
counterclaim.” Augusta ...