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Ignition Athletic Performance Group, LLC v. Speed City International Corp.

June 27, 2006

IGNITION ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE GROUP, LLC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SPEED CITY INTERNATIONAL CORP., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: District Judge Susan J. Dlott

ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Ignition Athletic Performance Group, LLC's Motion for Entry of Default Judgment against Defendants Speed City International Corporation and Multi Sport International, Inc. (Doc. #4.) For the reasons below, the Motion (doc. #4) is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Ignition Athletic Performance Group, LLC ("Ignition") filed this suit against Speed City International Corporation ("Speed City") and Multi Sport International, Inc. ("Multi Sport") (collectively "Defendants") in April 2006, alleging that Defendants have violated the federal Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act, O.R.C. § 4165.01 et seq., and Ohio unfair competition law by manufacturing, marketing and distributing an instructional video and DVD entitled Visual Ignition. (Doc. #1.) On the same day Ignition filed its complaint, the Clerk of Court issued summons to both Defendants at an address identified on the summons as belonging to a registered agent. (Doc. #2.)

On June 16, 2006, Ignition filed its pending Motion for Entry of Default Judgment ("Default Motion") (doc. #4). As of this Order, neither Defendant has filed an opposition to Ignition's Default Motion, answered Ignition's complaint, or otherwise entered an appearance in this action. However, no returns of summons or other proofs of service have been separately entered in the docket for this action.

II. ANALYSIS

Ignition brings its Default Motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b), which provides, in relevant part:

(b) Judgment. Judgment by default may be entered as follows:

(1) By the Clerk. When the plaintiff's claim against a defendant is for a sum certain or for a sum which can by computation be made certain, the clerk upon request of the plaintiff and upon affidavit of the amount due shall enter judgment for that amount and costs against the defendant, if the defendant has been defaulted for failure to appear . . . .

(2) By the Court. In all other cases the party entitled to default shall apply to the court therefor . . . . Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(1), (2); see also doc. #4 at 1.

In light of the general presumption that legal disputes are best resolved on their merits, default judgment is a "drastic step" that should be reserved for relatively "extreme cases." United Coin Meter Co. v. Seaboard Coastline R.R., 705 F.2d 839, 845-46 (6th Cir. 1983). While the decision to issue a default judgment is generally committed to the trial court's discretion, that discretion is not "unfettered." Shephard Claims Serv., Inc., v. William Darrah & Assoc., 796 F.2d 190, 193 (6th Cir. 1986). Default judgments are less appropriate where it appears that an alleged default may stem from some "honest mistake," and not "willful misconduct, carelessness, or negligence." See, e.g., id. Such judgments are also presumptively void wherever the issuing court lacks jurisdiction over the parties or subject matter or default would raise other due process concerns. See, e.g., Antoine v. Atlas Turner, 66 F.3d 105, 110 (6th Cir. 1995).

A. Failure to File Predicate Rule 55(a) Motion for Entry of Default

In order to obtain default judgment under Federal Rule 55(b), parties must first move for entry of default under Rule 55(a), which provides that When a party against whom affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend as provided by these rules and that fact is made to appear by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk shall enter the party's default.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a); United Coin Meter Co., Inc. v. Seaboard Coastline R.R., 705 F.2d 839, 844 (6th Cir. 1983); see also, e.g., Ramada Franchise Sys., Inc. v. Baroda Enter., Inc., 220 F.R.D. 303, 305 (N.D. Ohio 2004) and Raimondo v. ...


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