United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
UTILITY SERVICE CORPORATION OF HUNTSVILLE, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant,
GROUND SUPPORT, LLC, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.
RICHARDSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
2, 2019, the Court adopted the Magistrate Judge’s
Report and Recommendation granting default judgment and
holding Ground Support, LLC liable for Utility Service
Corporation of Huntsville’s (“USCH”)
claims. (Doc. No. 44). The Court herein reaffirms that
holding for the reasons set forth below and assesses the
amount of damages to be awarded in this matter. On July 8,
2019, the Court ordered USCH to file a brief, with supporting
documentation, regarding the appropriate amount of damages to
be awarded in this matter. (Doc. No. 45). On August 8, 2019,
USCH filed their brief, with supporting documentation,
demonstrating a contract balance of $103, 152.28 owed to
USCH. (Doc. Nos. 46, 46-1). Moreover, USCH asserts that it is
entitled to $26, 294.04 in interest pursuant to the Illinois
Contractor Prompt Payment Act (“ICPPA”), 815 Ill.
Comp. Stat. Ann. 603/15.
entry of default, only those well-pleaded allegations
relating to liability are taken as true.” In re
Family Resorts of Am., Inc., 972 F.2d 347, No. 91-4127,
1992 WL 174539, at *4 (6th Cir. July 24, 1992) (citation
omitted). Here, USCH’s Complaint asserts two bases for
liability against Ground Support, LLC: (1) a claim for breach
of contract; and (2) a claim for violation of the ICPPA
(predicated specifically on that alleged breach of contract).
(Doc. No. 1 at 2-3). Given the entry of default (Doc. No.
44), the Court will accept as true those allegations in the
Complaint asserting liability that are
“well-pleaded.” But that raises the question of
when allegations concerning liability are considered
“well-pleaded” and when they are not; it also
brings into focus the principle that not all allegations of
liability are sufficient to support a default judgment. On
these issues, one district court in this circuit has
“[a] defendant’s default does not itself warrant
the court in entering a default judgment. There must be a
sufficient basis in the pleading for the judgment
entered.” Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston
Nat’l Bank, 15 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975).
“[I]t follows from this that facts which are not
established by the pleadings of the prevailing party, or
claims which are not well-pleaded, are not binding and cannot
support the [default] judgment.” Alan Neuman
Productions, Inc. v. Albright, 862 F.2d 1388, 1392 (9th
Cir. 1988). See also Conetta v. Nat’l Hair Care
Centers, Inc., 236 F.3d 67, 76 (1st Cir. 2001) (noting
that a defaulted defendant “may still contest a claim
on the ground that the complaint does not add up to the
elements of a cause of action”).
Dalmayer v. Michigan, No. 08-12784, 2009 WL 1378322,
at *2 (E.D. Mich. May 14, 2009). This means that a claim, to
be “well-pleaded, ” must at least satisfy
“Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure[,
which] sets forth the basic federal pleading requirement that
a complaint ‘shall contain . . . a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.’” Id.
present case, the Court concludes that the allegations of
liability underlying Count One and Count Two are well pleaded
in that they satisfy Rule 8(a). Among other things, these
allegations comply with the pleading standards set forth in
the bellwether cases of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007). The Court therefore accepts that those
allegations are true and establish each of the two causes of
action. The Court therefore finds that Ground Support, LLC is
liable both for breach of contract and for the statutory
violations alleged in the Complaint.
damages are unliquidated a default admits only
defendant’s liability and the amount of damages must be
proved.” Antoine v. Atlas Turner, Inc., 66
F.3d 105, 110 (6th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted).
“Proof of damages ordinarily requires an evidentiary
hearing in which the defendant may contest the amount, but a
hearing is not necessarily required if the moving party
submits uncontested, sworn affidavits sufficient to establish
the amount of damages.” Broad. Music, Inc. v.
Marler, No. 1:09–CV–193, 2009 WL 3785878, at
*5 (E.D. Tenn. Nov. 12, 2009); see Fed. R. Civ. P.
55(b)(2) (A district court “may conduct
hearings . . . when, to enter or effectuate judgment, it
needs to: (A) conduct an accounting; (B) determine the amount
of damages; (C) establish the truth of any allegation by
evidence; or (D) investigate any other matter.”)
(emphasis added)); Vesligaj v. Peterson, 331 F.
App’x 351, 354 (6th Cir. 2009) (Rule 55(b)(2),
“by its terms, allows but does not require the district
court to conduct an evidentiary hearing.”).
Court concludes that an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary in
light of (1) the submission of USCH’s CEO’s sworn
affidavit and attached documentary proof, and (2) the fact
that Ground Support, LLC has failed to respond to prior Court
orders. See Vesligaj, 331 F. App’x at 355
(holding that the district court did not err when denying a
hearing and relying on an affidavit as the “evidentiary
basis for calculating the unpaid wages and the amount of
prejudgment interest on the unpaid wages[.]”);
Disney Enters. v. Farmer, 427 F.Supp.2d 807, 814
(E.D. Tenn. 2006) (granting default judgment and awarding
statutory damages when defendant failed to defend the action
and the district court concluded that no valid purpose would
be served by requiring an evidentiary hearing). Accordingly,
upon reviewing the evidentiary proof (Doc. No. 46-1), the
Court concludes that USCH is entitled to damages in the
contract balance of $103, 152.28.
the ICPPA provides that “[i]f a payment due pursuant to
the provisions of this Act is not made in a timely manner,
the delinquent party shall be liable for the amount of that
payment, plus interest at a rate equal to 10% per
annum.” 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 603/15. Plaintiff
seeks “interest [on the amount of breach-of-contract
damages] set out in the [ICPPA].” (See Doc.
No. 1 at ¶¶ 13-16). As USCH aptly states,
“[t]hat amount over two years and 215 days on the Dec.
5, 2016, invoice ($23, 728.63) and over two years and 211
days on the Dec. 8, 2016, invoice ($2, 965.41) totals $26,
694.04.” (Doc. No. 46 at 4). Accordingly, the Court
finds that USCH is entitled to statutory interest pursuant to
the ICPPA in the amount of $26, 694.04, to be awarded in
addition to the damages awardable on Count One.
on the foregoing reasons, and pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 55, the Court will AWARD
damages to Plaintiff USCH in the total amount of
$129, 846.32, ...