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Bell v. AU Hospitality, LLC

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

March 5, 2019

Nakita Bell, Plaintiff,
v.
AU Hospitality, LLC, d/b/a Motel 6, Defendant.

          ORDER

          HON. JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Presently pending before the Court is a Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment, [Filing No. 23], and a Motion for Reconsideration, [Filing No. 30], filed by Defendant AU Hospitality, LLC d/b/a Motel 6 (“AU”). Each has to do with the Court's entry of default judgment in favor of Plaintiff Nakita Bell on January 3, 2018, [Filing No. 16], and AU's subsequent efforts to set aside the judgment.

         In the first Motion, AU argues that it was not properly served with process in this matter. On February 4, 2019, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on the issue of service of process.

         In the second Motion, AU urges the Court to reconsider its Order of January 14, 2019 and set aside the “damages aspect” of the default judgment in the event the Court does not set aside the default judgment itself.

         The Court now considers each of the two pending Motions in turn.

         I. Background

         On March 29, 2017, Ms. Bell filed suit against AU alleging that during her employment with AU, she was not paid overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. [Filing No. 1 at 1-2.] As a result. Ms. Bell alleged that AU owed her over fourteen thousand dollars in overtime pay and liquidated damages. [Filing No. 1 at 2.]

         On July 28, 2017, Ms. Bell filed an affidavit of service with the Court, in which Express Process Service, Inc. Process Server Bill Rorie attested that he served process on AU by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint on motel manager Mark Crawford, who Mr. Rorie described as “Age: 30, Sex: M, Race/Skin Color: Caucasian, Height: 6'0”, Weight: 260, Hair: Brown, Glasses: N.” [Filing No. 10.]

         On August 16, 2017, Ms. Bell filed a Motion for Clerk's Entry of Default, [Filing No. 11], which the Court granted on September 18, 2017, [Filing No. 13]. On December 4, 2017, Ms. Bell filed a Motion for Default Judgment, [Filing No. 14], which the Court granted on January 3, 2018, [Filing No. 15]. On the same day, the Court entered final judgment in favor of Ms. Bell in the amount of $14, 430.00 in overtime compensation and liquidated damages, and $2, 854.25 in attorneys' fees and costs. [Filing No. 16.]

         On November 7, 2018, AU filed a Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b), [Filing No. 23], which the Court took under advisement, [Filing No. 27]. In an Order dated January 14, 2019, (the “January 14, 2019 Order”), the Court found that the record before it contained “two conflicting affidavits: one in which process server Bill Rorie claims that he served Mr. Crawford, and another in which Mr. Crawford claims that he was not served and that the proof of service submitted by Ms. Bell does not contain his signature.” [Filing No. 27 at 7.] As such, the Court found that an evidentiary hearing was necessary.

         At the evidentiary hearing Mr. Rorie, and Mr. Crawford both testified, as well as motel employee Bernella Harris. Mr. Rorie testified that he encountered Mr. Crawford twice in the course of serving process in this case: once when he unsuccessfully attempted to serve the registered agent, and a second time when he served process on Mr. Crawford. He testified that he specifically recalled serving Mr. Crawford and that Mr. Crawford was wearing a hat when he was served and had been doing maintenance work. Mr. Rorie then identified Mr. Crawford in the courtroom. Both Mr. Crawford and Ms. Harris testified that Mr. Crawford never wore a hat. Mr. Crawford further testified that he never did maintenance work at the motel and that he is 5'9” and weighs 275 pounds and was 45 years old when Mr. Rorie allegedly served process on him. At the close of the hearing the Court once again took AU's Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment under advisement.

         Meanwhile, at the hearing, the Court granted two pending Motions to Withdraw Attorney Appearances for Defense counsel and ordered AU to retain counsel on or before February 19, 2019. [Filing No. 31 at 1.] On February 12, 2019, AU's new counsel entered an appearance in this matter.

         A few days before the evidentiary hearing, AU filed a Motion for Reconsideration as to the Court's January 14, 2019 Order, [Filing No. 30], to which Ms. Bell has responded.

         Herein, the Court considers each of the two pending Motions, beginning with the ...


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