United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ENTRY GRANTING MOTION TO SET ASIDE DEFAULT AND
DENYING MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
action brought pursuant 42 U.S.C. 1983, plaintiff Oscar
Rosales asserts that the defendants were deliberately
indifferent to his need for medical care. Based on his
failure to appear and respond to the complaint, default was
entered against defendant Pulkit Patel. Patel now seeks to
set aside the default and Rosales has moved for default
judgment against Patel.
seeking to vacate an entry of default prior to the entry of
final judgment must show: “(1) good cause for the
default; (2) quick action to correct it; and (3) a
meritorious defense to the complaint.” Cracco v.
Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2009).
Good Cause and Quick Action
Patel argues that he has good cause for the default. Dr.
Patel was named as a defendant in Rosales' amended
complaint. On August 12, 2016, the Clerk of the Court mailed
a “Notice of Lawsuit & Waiver” relating to
the Amended Complaint to Dr. Patel to the former office of
Urology Practice Group of Regional Healthcare Partners
(“RHP”) located on Ohio Street in Terre Haute,
Indiana. The notice was returned to the Court as
undeliverable and the Clerk mailed another notice to Dr.
Patel. The notice included the Amended Complaint, a Notice of
Lawsuit and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons, Waiver
of Service of Summons, and the Court's August 26, 2016,
Entry Directing Further Proceedings.
Patel was one of several doctors in RHP's Urology
Practice Group from July 2009, until his retirement on
December 31, 2015. After RHP received the August 2016 Notice,
its Urology Practice Office Manager, Lori Webster
(“Webster”) called Dr. Patel indicating that mail
addressed to him had been delivered to the 4th St. Office of
the Urology Practice Group. After Webster's call, Dr.
Patel went to the 4th St. Office and reviewed the documents
included in the August 2016 Notice. Dr. Patel signed the
Waiver of the Service of Summons believing that signing and
returning that document was how he was to respond to the
legal papers. The Court received Dr. Patel's executed
Waiver on September 12, 2016.
he reviewed the documents, Dr. Patel directed Webster, the
Office Manager, to deliver them to RHC's practice manager
Bridgett Sullivan (“Sullivan”) and to inform
Sullivan that Dr. Patel wanted her to send them to his
insurance carrier. During Dr. Patel's time with RHP, this
had always been the standard office procedure. Webster
carried out Dr. Patel's instructions and delivered the
Amended Complaint to Sullivan, and informed her of Dr.
Patel's instruction for Sullivan to deliver them to his
insurance company. Unbeknownst to Dr. Patel, Sullivan did not
deliver the papers to his insurance carrier or notify the
company of the delivery of the Amended Complaint to the 4th
January 2017, the Second Amended Complaint was delivered to
the 4th St. Office. At that time, Dr. Patel was in India. On
February 7, 2017, Dr. Patel returned to Terre Haute from that
two-month trip to India. On February 8, 2017, Dr. Patel went
to the 4th St. Office to check if he had received any mail
from anyone. He then saw that papers from a court which had
been delivered by mail to that office. Dr. Patel reviewed the
papers and concluded that they related to the claim Mr.
Rosales had filed against him, the same claim which was the
subject of the documents he had seen in September 2016. In
accordance with the standard RHP procedure, he instructed
Webster to give the documents to Sullivan and to inform
Sullivan she needed to send them to the insurance company.
Webster did as she was instructed.
Sullivan did not deliver them to the insurance company. As
was the case with the first mailing, Dr. Patel had no
knowledge that Sullivan had not complied with his
instructions to deliver the documents in the second mailing
to his insurance company.
April 25, 2017, Webster and Sullivan became aware of the
delivery of mail addressed to Dr. Patel regarding the
plaintiff's claim. These included a letter from
Rosales' attorney and Rosales' Motion for Entry of
Default. Sullivan's review of these documents made her
realize that she had not sent the court documents previously
mailed to Urology Practice Group to Dr. Patel's insurance
company. Sullivan then immediately transmitted the Motion for
Entry of Default to the insurance company, who then promptly
emailed the motion to counsel for Dr. Patel. Because the
attorney was engaged in other business, he did not see the
email until after all staff had left the office. The next
morning, counsel appeared on behalf of Dr. Patel.
on these facts, the Court finds good cause to set aside the
entry of default against Dr. Patel. Dr. Patel did not simply
ignore the Court's orders, but acted reasonably upon the
receipt of documents from the Court. Based on the practice of
RHP and previous experience, he reasonably expected that his
actions - signing the paperwork and notifying the office
manager - were sufficient to respond to the Court's
directions. In addition, Dr. Patel has shown quick action to
correct the delinquency. His office and his counsel acted
promptly upon being made aware that default had been entered