United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Default Judgment
Against Defendant Sunscapes, Inc. Pursuant to F.R.C.P.
55(a)(2) [ECF No. 26], filed by the Plaintiff, Brian Huegel,
on September 30, 2016.
Plaintiff has sued the two entities he believes are
responsible for injuries he suffered after he slipped on ice
and fell in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart store located in
South Bend, Indiana. The Plaintiff alleges that Defendant
Wal-Mart negligently failed to maintain its parking lot in a
safe condition. He also alleges that Defendant Sunscapes,
Inc., was liable as the party that was employed or
subcontracted to remove snow and ice from Wal-Mart's
parking lot. The Plaintiff alleges that he suffered physical
injuries, incurred medical expenses, and suffered pain as a
result of the fall.
Plaintiff obtained a Clerk's Entry of Default against
Sunscapes pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a).
When he moved for default, the Plaintiff requested that a
damages hearing be postponed until trial when the liability
of Defendant Wal-Mart was determined. In his Motion for
Default Judgment, the Plaintiff asserts that he has settled
his claim with Wal-Mart, and asks the Court to enter judgment
against Sunscapes in the amount of $356,
800.00. The Affidavit of Plaintiff is submitted as
an exhibit in support of the Motion. In the Affidavit, the
Plaintiff describes his injuries, medical procedures, and
permanent injury of five percent upper extremity impairment
and three percent whole person impairment. The itemized
medical expenses are represented to be $66, 882.44. The final
paragraph of the Affidavit provides, “Affiant values
his premises liability claim against Sunscapes, Inc. at $356,
800.00.” (Aff. ¶ 10, ECF No. 26-1.)
the default of a party has been established for failure to
plead or otherwise defend, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55
authorizes a party to seek and a court to enter a default
judgment. As long as a plaintiff's allegations are
well-pled, a default judgment, as a general rule,
“‘establishe[s], as a matter of law, that
defendants [are] liable to plaintiff as to each cause of
action alleged in the complaint.'” Dundee
Cement Co. v. Howard Pipe & Concrete Prods., Inc.,
722 F.2d 1319, 1323 (7th Cir. 1983) (quoting Breuer Elec.
Mfg. Co. v. Toronado Sys. of Am., Inc., 687 F.2d 182,
186 (7th Cir. 1982)); see also O' Brien v. R.J.
O'Brien & Assocs., Inc., 998 F.2d 1394, 1404
(7th Cir. 1993). The party moving for a default judgment must
then establish entitlement to the relief sought. In re
Catt, 368 F.3d 789, 793 (7th Cir. 2004). Under Rule
54(c), a party obtaining a default judgment in its favor is
not entitled to a judgment that differs in kind from or an
award that exceeds the amount demanded in the pleadings.
Courts must ascertain with reasonable certainty the proper
amount to award as damages to the prevailing party, based
upon either an evidentiary hearing or from definite figures
contained in documentary evidence or in detailed affidavits.
In re Catt, 368 F.3d at 793; Dundee Cement
Co., 722 F.2d at 1323. “[W]here liability is joint
and several, the entry of default judgment against fewer than
all defendants in an action is proper, [however] a damages
hearing may not be held until the liability of each defendant
has been resolved.” Dundee, 722 F.2d at 1324.
The reason for this rule is to avoid inconsistent damage
awards on a single claim involving joint and several
default of Defendant Sunscapes has already been established,
and, as a matter of law, it is liable to the Plaintiff on the
negligence claim alleged in the Complaint. Accordingly, he is
entitled to compensatory damages.
[T]he person injured by the negligence of another is entitled
to reasonable compensation. Kavanagh v. Butorac, 140
Ind.App. 139, 221 N.E.2d 824, 828 (1966). Courts have said
that term means such sum as would reasonably compensate the
victim both for bodily injuries and for pain and suffering.
Id. To that sum is added past, present, and future
expenses reasonably necessary to the plaintiff's
treatment and all financial losses suffered, or to be
suffered, as a result of the inability to engage in his usual
occupation. Id. “Compensation is the stated
goal of a court when measuring damages for personal
injuries.” Id. (citation omitted).The
question, as is so frequently raised in personal injury
actions, is how much money reasonably compensates [victims]
for their injuries and pain and suffering.
Ritter v. Stanton, 745 N.E.2d 828, 843 (Ind.Ct.App.
2001) (additional citation omitted).
Court finds that ascertaining with reasonable certainty the
proper amount of damages to award in this case requires an
evidentiary hearing. The Affidavit, although it contains some
details, is not accompanied by any documentary support and
does not fully explain the justification for the $356, 800.00
value that the Plaintiff assigns to his claim. Accordingly,
the Court will refer this matter to the magistrate judge to
conduct a hearing to determine the amount of damages to award
the Plaintiff and to prepare a report and recommendation.
ORDERED that this case is referred to Magistrate Judge
Michael G. Gotsch, Sr., for purposes of conducting
proceedings, including a damages hearing, and submitting
proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the
disposition of the Plaintiff's Motion for Default
Judgment Against Defendant Sunscapes, Inc. [ECF No. 26],
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and N.D. Ind. L.R.