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Branch Banking and Trust Co. v. Logan Oncology Care Associates, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

August 19, 2019

BRANCH BANKING AND TRUST COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
LOGAN ONCOLOGY CARE ASSOCIATES, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Branch Banking and Trust Company's (“Plaintiff”) Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant Logan Oncology Care Associates, LLC (“Logan Oncology”). (ECF No. 9.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action on January 28, 2019, alleging breach of contract against Logan Oncology for its default on a promissory note dated February 17, 2012, payable to Plaintiff in the principal amount of Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250, 000.00) (the “Note”). (ECF No. 1 at 3 ¶ 11.) Under the terms of the Note, as modified, Logan Oncology promised to pay Plaintiff the principal and interest due in fifty-nine (59) regular monthly installments of $4, 696.50, commencing on July 24, 2015, with a final payment of all remaining principal and interest amounts on June 24, 2020. (Id.; see also ECF No. 1-1 at 9.) The Complaint alleges that Logan Oncology has failed to make such payments when due and as required under the Note. (ECF No. 1 at 3, ¶ 13.) Therefore, Plaintiff seeks a money judgment for the unpaid principal in the amount of $117, 033.77, accrued interest, unpaid charges and fees, prejudgment and post-judgment interest, and attorneys' fees associated with recovering the amounts due under the Note. (Id. at ¶ 21.)

         On March 12, 2019, service of process was effectuated upon Logan Oncology by certified mail in accordance with Rule 4(h)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 6.) The Summons notified Logan Oncology that this lawsuit has been filed, that it had twenty-one (21) days to file a responsive pleading, and that its responsive pleading was to be filed with the Court and served on Plaintiff's counsel at the address provided. The Summons expressly notified Logan Oncology that if it failed to respond, “judgement by default will be entered” against it for the relief requested in the Complaint. (Id.) Logan Oncology was required to file an answer or motion under Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on or before April 2, 2019. As of this date, Logan Oncology has failed to file an answer to the Complaint or otherwise appear and defend this civil action.

         Accordingly, on May 14, 2019, the Clerk entered default against Logan Oncology pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a). (ECF No. 8.) On July 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed the present motion for default judgment. In its motion, Plaintiff represents that the indebtedness under the Note remains unpaid. (ECF No. 9 at 2.) Logan Oncology has not responded to the motion. As such, the Court will consider the motion as unopposed.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         District courts may enter default judgment against a properly served defendant under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55. Rule 55(a) provides for entry of default where “a party against whom a judgment or affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). After the clerk enters default, a party may move the court for default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b).

         When reviewing a motion for default judgment, courts should review the complaint to determine if the “face of the pleadings supports the default judgment and the causes of action therein.” Anderson v. Found. for Advancement, Educ. & Emp't of Am. Indians, 187 F.3d 628 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975)). The court should accept as true the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint, but default does not establish the amount of damages claimed. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(6); Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001). When a default judgment has been awarded, a plaintiff must prove damages to a reasonable certainty and when a defendant has failed to respond, the court must make an independent determination-by relying on affidavits, documentation, or an evidentiary hearing-of the sum to be awarded as damages. See Ventura v. L. A. Howard Constr. Co., 134 F.Supp.3d 99, 104 (D.C.C. 2015.) The court, however, must not enter default judgment that “differ[s] in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c).

         While the court may conduct a hearing to determine the amount of damages pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2), it may also award damages without a hearing where the amount claimed is “capable of mathematical calculation.” James v. Frame, 6 F.3d 307, 310 (5th Cir. 1993). The court may calculate damages based on affidavits and documentary evidence. Masco Corp. v. Bennett, No. 3:08-cv-161-RJC-DCK, 2010 WL 1405136, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Mar. 31, 2010); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2) (providing that a court may hold a hearing before entering default judgment as necessary to “conduct an accounting; determine the amount of damages; establish the truth of any allegation by evidence; or investigate any other matter.”). Courts are afforded significant discretion when determining the need for a hearing on damages. Pope v. United States, 323 U.S. 1, 12 (1944) (“It is a familiar practice and an exercise of judicial power for a court upon default, by taking evidence when necessary or computation from facts of record, to fix the amount which the plaintiff is lawfully entitled to recover and give judgment accordingly.”).

         III. DISCUSSION

         More than three months have passed since Logan Oncology was served with the Summons and Complaint, yet it has failed to respond or otherwise appear or defend against this action. As a result, the factual allegations in the Complaint are deemed admitted, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(6), and default judgment against Logan Oncology for breach of contract is proper.

         Under West Virginia law, a breach of contract claim includes the following three elements: “formation of a contract, a breach of the terms of that contract, and resulting damages.” Fifth Third Bank v. Revelation Energy, LLC, No. 3:18-0270, 2018 WL 6681196, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Dec. 19, 2018) (quoting Sneberger v. Morrison, 776 S.E.2d 156, 171 ( W.Va. 2015)). Accepting the factual allegations in the Complaint as true, the parties entered into a valid, enforceable contract on February 17, 2012, wherein Plaintiff loaned monies pursuant to the terms of the Note and Logan Oncology promised to pay Plaintiff the principal and interest due on the Note. (ECF No. 1 at 3 ¶¶ 11, 17.) Plaintiff fulfilled its obligations under the Note, but Logan Oncology breached the contract when it failed to make timely and required payments under the terms of the Note, leaving an unpaid principal balance of $117, 033.77. (Id. at 4 ¶¶ 18-19, 21.) These allegations are legally sufficient to entitle Plaintiff to judgment against Logan Oncology on the breach of contract claim.

         A. ...


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