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Santangelo v. Cantrell

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

May 21, 2015

MICHELE SANTANGELO, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM D. CANTRELL, JR., INTERVEST CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, LLC, and DRAGON FUND, L.P., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

PHILIP P. SIMON, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Michele Santangelo has filed her Second Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant William D. Cantrell, Jr. Because Cantrell has failed to defend against Santangelo's amended and supplemental pleadings despite effective service of process, the Second Motion for Default Judgment is GRANTED, and Santangelo is awarded default judgment in the total amount of $2, 695, 951.35.

BACKGROUND

Determination of the default judgment motion warrants a detailed review of the proceedings to-date. On August 26, 2013, Santangelo filed a complaint alleging misappropriations of her money by defendants Cantrell, Intervest Capital Management, LLC, and Dragon Fund, L.P. [DE 1.] This complaint was served on all three defendants on September 5, 2013 at 3903 Goodrich Court in Valparaiso, Indiana, [DE 22, 23, 24], and an amended complaint was similarly served on September 20, 2013 [DE 30]. The Goodrich Court address is Cantrell's home, and also his address as the registered agent of Intervest and the Dragon Fund.

On September 18, 2013, Cantrell filed a copy of Santangelo's original complaint with his handwritten responses that the court construed as his answer, [DE 16], and a letter requesting that the court deny a motion by Santangelo for a temporary restraining order. [DE 17.] Cantrell did not answer the amended complaint. On September 19, Cantrell attended a motion hearing and indicated he would retain counsel. [DE 19.] On September 27, he moved to reschedule an October 2 preliminary injunction hearing so he would have more time to retain counsel. [DE 27.] The hearing was reset for October 17, [ id. ], but Cantrell failed to appear. [DE 28.]

On December 2, 2013, the court received a letter from Cantrell that was stricken as "impertinent and scandalous" and procedurally defective. [DE 33.] Another letter from Cantrell was received on January 15, 2014 that requested procedural guidance and indicated he was seeking counsel for Intervest. [DE 37.] On January 28, Cantrell filed a Rule 26(f) proposed discovery plan. [DE 38.]

On January 31, 2014, Cantrell moved for a two-week continuance of a February 6 pretrial conference, citing a personal matter. [DE 40.] The court reset the conference for March 6, 2014, [ id. ], but again Cantrell failed to appear. [DE 44.] Finally, on March 13, 2014 Cantrell filed a letter opposing Santangelo's filing of a supplemental complaint. [DE 43.] That letter more than a year ago was Cantrell's last action in this case.

Shortly thereafter, matters took a surprising turn when Cantrell was arrested outside Santangelo's residence in California on March 19, 2014, in possession of a drywall saw and a crowbar. Cantrell was then charged in this court with mail fraud and interstate stalking. [ECF 2:14CR40-JVB, DE 21.] On May 18, 2015, Cantrell entered a plea of guilty to the mail fraud count charging that Cantrell defrauded Santangelo of the money he induced her to invest in the Dragon Fund. [ Id. at DE 47.] Cantrell remains incarcerated at Porter County Jail, [ id. at DE 20], and has taken no further action in this civil case since he filed the letter in March 2014.

Santangelo previously moved for the entry of default and for default judgment against all three defendants. [DE 55-60.] I granted the entry of default against Intervest and the Dragon Fund on February 6, but denied the entry of default against Cantrell. [DE 61.] My concerns at that time included that Santangelo, in arguing for a default, had not effectively addressed the entire course of Cantrell's participation in the litigation, that the supplemental complaint adding two new claims had not been properly served on Cantrell, and that it was unclear whether Santangelo's service of her default judgment motion on the Hammond U.S. Marshal's Office and Porter County Jail would be forwarded to Cantrell. [ Id. ]

On April 16, 2015, Santangelo filed her voluntary dismissal of the supplemental claims [DE 68], and filed a Second Motion for Default Judgment against Cantrell [DE 66, 67]. The motion was served via U.S. mail at the Goodrich address and at the Porter County Jail where Cantrell is incarcerated. [DE 67 at 19.]

DISCUSSION

A. Cantrell is in Default

Default entry is appropriate when "a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Courts are to exercise sound judicial discretion when ruling on default entry and default judgment. E.g., Wolf Lake Terminals v. Mut. Marine Ins. Co., 433 F.Supp.2d 933, 941 (N.D. Ind. 2005). If the clerk has not already done so, a court may order the clerk to enter a default when ruling on a motion for default judgment. Id.

Courts may consider several factors in ruling on default judgment including "the amount of money potentially involved, whether material issues of fact or issues of substantial public importance are at issue, whether the default is largely technical, whether plaintiff has been substantially prejudiced by the delay involved, and whether the grounds for default are clearly established or are in doubt." Cameron v. Myers, 569 F.Supp.2d 762, 764 (N.D. ...


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