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Tonge v. The Arantee Group, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 11, 2015

KIA TONGE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE ARANTEE GROUP, LLC, Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS OR FOR RELIEF FROM DEFAULT JUDGMENT

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

Presently pending before the Court is Defendant The Arantee Group, LLC's ("Arantee") Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction or for Relief from Default Judgment. [Filing No. 63.] On February 15, 2013, this Court entered Default Judgment against Arantee on Plaintiff Kia Tonge's employment discrimination claims. [Filing No. 22]. After a damages hearing, the Court entered Final Judgment in Ms. Tonge's favor and against Arantee in the amount of $200, 664.20. [Filing No. 28.] Arantee now asks this Court for relief from that judgment, arguing that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Ms. Tonge was allegedly never an Arantee employee and, alternatively, that it was never served in this action. [Filing No. 64.] For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Arantee's motion for relief. [Filing No. 63.]

I.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60 "regulates the procedure for obtaining relief from final judgments." Arrieta v. Battaglia, 461 F.3d 861, 864 (7th Cir. 2006). Relief under Rule 60 "is an extraordinary remedy granted only in exceptional circumstances." Nelson v. Napolitano, 657 F.3d 586, 589 (7th Cir. 2011). Rule 60 "squarely places the burden on the moving party." Jones v. Phipps, 39 F.3d 158, 162 (7th Cir. 1994).

A party seeking to vacate a default judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) must show good cause, quick action to correct it, and a meritorious defense to the complaint. Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 630-31 (7th Cir. 2009). Motions for relief "premised upon mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect (Rule 60(b)(1)); newly discovered evidence (Rule 60(b)(2)); or fraud (Rule 60(b)(3)) must be brought not more than one year after the judgment, order, or proceeding was entered or taken." Arrieta, 461 F.3d at 864. That time limit "is jurisdictional and cannot be extended." Id. After one year, the Court can only grant relief if the judgment is void; has been satisfied, released, or discharged; or for any other reason that justifies relief. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b)(4)-(b)(6). All motions for relief pursuant to Rule 60(b) "must be made within a reasonable time." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(c).

II.

RELEVANT BACKGROUND

On April 30, 2012, Ms. Tonge filed a Complaint against Defendants Arantee and Ravi Chopra, alleging employment discrimination claims.[1] [Filing No. 1.] Ms. Tonge moved for default judgment three times between June 1, 2012, and July 2, 2012, but the Court denied those motions for various reasons. [Filing No. 10; Filing No. 12; Filing No. 14.]

On August 27, 2012, Ms. Tonge filed the Return of Service that later served as the basis for the Court's judgment. [Filing No. 15.] In the Proof of Service, Thomas Dycus, a process server, attests that he personally served Mr. Chopra, Arantee's registered agent, on August 23, 2012, at "247 S. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN 46225." [Filing No. 15 at 2.]

On October 5, 2012, Ms. Tonge filed a Motion for Leave to Amend/Correct Pleadings to correct the spelling of both Defendants' names, amend the jurisdiction section, and to amend the section describing the Defendants to "give more clear description." [Filing No. 16 at 1.] She attached a copy of the proposed Second Amended Complaint to her motion, [Filing No. 16-1], and the Certificate of Service certifies that it was mailed to "The Arantee Group, LLC d/b/a 6 Lounge, Ravi Chopra, 247 South Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN 46225." [Filing No. 16 at 3.]

The Court granted Ms. Tonge's Motion to Amend on October 12, 2012, [Filing No. 17], and Ms. Tonge's Second Amended Complaint was docketed, [Filing No. 18]. The Court mailed Arantee a copy of the Order granting Ms. Tonge leave to amend. [Filing No. 17.]

On November 1, 2012, Ms. Tonge filed a Motion for Clerk's Entry of Default. [Filing No. 19.] Attached to her motion was an affidavit from her attorney, attesting that Arantee was served on August 23, 2012. [Filing No. 19-1 (referencing Filing No. 15).] The Court entered Clerk's Entry of Default on December 3, 2012 because Arantee "failed to plead or otherwise defend itself." [Filing No. 20.]

On January 22, 2013, Ms. Tonge filed a Motion for Default Judgment. [Filing No. 21.] The Court granted that motion on February 15, 2013, [Filing No. 22], and set a damages hearing for March 27, 2013, [Filing No. 24]. After the damages hearing, the Court entered Final Judgment in favor of Ms. Tonge and against Arantee in the amount of $200, 664.20. [Filing No. 28.]

On January 15, 2014, Ms. Tonge filed a Motion for Proceedings Supplemental. [Filing No. 30.] The Court granted the motion on January 17, 2014, and ordered Arantee, by its authorized agent Mr. Chopra, to appear for a hearing in person on February 26, 2014. [Filing No. 32.] The Court further ordered Ms. Tonge to serve relevant documents on Arantee within seven days and file proof of such service. [Filing No. 32 at 3.]

On February 19, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Affidavit of Service by Captain Donald VanCleave of the Marion County Sheriff's Office. [Filing No. 38.] Captain VanCleave attested that he was "familiar with Club 6 or the Arantee Group and Ravi Chopra" and that "Ravi Chopra and the Arantee Group were served by copy and personally on February 4, 5, and 6, 2014." [Filing No. 38 at 1.] Captain VanCleave further attested that "on February 10, 2014 I talked to with [sic] Ravi Chopra by phone and informed him of the importance of appearing at Court at the required time." [Filing No. 38 at 1.]

On February 26, 2014, Mr. Chopra failed to appear at the proceeding supplemental hearing on behalf of Arantee. [Filing No. 39.] The assigned magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation on March 10, 2014, finding that Mr. Chopra had failed to appear "despite having received actual notice of the hearing" and recommending that the Court issue a body attachment pursuant to Local Rule 69-4. [Filing No. 40 at 2.] The Court accepted that recommendation and issued a Writ of Body Attachment with regard to Mr. Chopra on March 18, 2014. [Filing No. 41; Filing No. 42; Filing No. 44.]

On April 4, 2014, counsel entered an appearance on behalf of Mr. Chopra. [Filing No. 46; Filing No. 47.] That same day, he filed a Notice of Bankruptcy regarding Mr. Chopra, informing the Court that Mr. Chopra had filed for bankruptcy two days prior. [Filing No. 47.] Counsel also filed an Emergency Motion to Recall the Body Attachment. [Filing No. 48.] The Court held a hearing on April 16, 2014, for which Mr. Chopra appeared in person and by counsel, and agreed to be sworn and ...


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