United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
ORDER SETTING ASIDE ENTRY OF DEFAULT (Doc. 12) and
DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT (Doc.
Timothy S. Black United States District Judge
case is before the Court on the Clerk's entry of default
against Defendant (Doc. 12), Plaintiffs motion for default
judgment (Doc. 11), and Defendant's request to set aside
February 21, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Complaint. (Doc. 3).
The Complaint asserts that Plaintiff worked for Defendant as
a roofer in the fall of 2016. (Id. at ¶ 4). The
Complaint claims that Defendant did not pay Plaintiff for
approximately 53.5 hours of work he performed for Defendant
during October and November, 2016. (Id. at ¶
11). The Complaint asserts claims for violation of federal
and state minimum-wage laws and violation of Ohio Rev. Code
was served with the Complaint on February 24, 2017. (Doc. 8).
On May 31, 2017, the Court put on an Order requiring
Plaintiff to seek entry of default or show cause why the
Complaint should not be dismissed for lack of prosecution.
(Doc. 9). On May 31, 2017, Plaintiff filed an application for
entry of default and a motion for default judgment. (Docs.
10, 11). On June 1, 2017, the Clerk issued an entry of
default. (Doc. 12).
5, 2017, Defendant filed a Response to Default. (Doc. 13).
The Response asserts that Defendant received some papers
regarding this litigation and, acting pro se,
"immediately" contacted Plaintiffs attorney. (Doc.
13 at 1). Defendant understood from that conversation that he
would be receiving additional documents with a "court
date" before he was required to act. (Id.)
Instead, Defendant received a letter stating that Plaintiff
had moved for default judgment. (Id. at 2).
Defendant "immediately" called the Court and was
informed he "had to come in and give an answer."
5, 2017, Defendant filed an Answer. (Doc. 16). The Answer
states that Plaintiff worked for Defendant as an independent
contractor for about three weeks, during which time Plaintiff
used drugs and left the job site for hours at a time.
(Id.) Defendant dismissed Plaintiff from his duties
after Plaintiff showed up "higher than a kite" to
the job site. (Id.). At that time, Defendant owed
Plaintiff less than $100. (Id.) Later, one of the
roofs Plaintiff installed began to leak because of deficient
workmanship; the roof cost Defendant $2, 500 to replace.
(Id.) The Answer argues Defendant does not owe
Plaintiff any money for the work he did perform.
may set aside an entry of default for good cause.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c). To determine whether good cause exists,
courts weigh three equitable factors: (1) whether the
defendant's culpable conduct led to the entry of default;
(2) whether the defendant has a meritorious claim or defense;
and (3) whether the plaintiff would be prejudiced if default
was set aside. See Burrell v. Henderson, 434 F.3d
826, 831-32 (6thCir. 2006).
55(c) leaves to the discretion of the trial judge the
decision whether to set aside an entry of default. However, a
strong preference for trials on the merits in federal courts
has led to the adoption of a somewhat modified standard of
review where defaults are involved." Shepard Claims
Service, Inc. v. William Darrah & Associates, 796
F.2d 190, 193 (6th Cir. 1986); See also Union
Coin, 705 F.2d at 846 ("Trials on the merits are
favored in federal courts and a 'glaring abuse' of
discretion is not required for reversal of a court's
refusal to relieve a party of the harsh sanction of
balance of the relevant factors clearly weighs in favor of
setting aside the default. First, nothing before the Court
suggests Defendant's culpable conduct lead to the entry
of default. "Culpable conduct" includes an intent
to "thwart judicial proceedings or a reckless disregard
for the effect of [a defendant's] conduct on those
proceedings." See Dassault Systemes, SA v.
Childress, 663 F.3d 832, 844 (6th Cir. 2011).
Defendant (who is proceeding pro se) claims that he
received some papers regarding this litigation, immediately
contacted Plaintiffs attorney, and understood from that
conversation that he would be receiving additional
information, including a court date, before he was required
to act. (Doc. 13 at 1-2). Upon learning Plaintiff filed a
motion for default judgment, Defendant promptly filed an
Answer and Response. (Docs. 13, 16). The Court cannot
conclude from these facts that Defendant intended to thwart,
or recklessly disregard, these proceedings.
Defendant has raised a meritorious defense. To establish a
meritorious defense for purposes of setting aside a default,
a defendant must simply advance a defense that is "good
at law, " not necessarily one that is likely to succeed.
See United Coin Meter Co. Inc. v. Seaboard Coastline
R.R.,705 F.2d 839, 844-45 (6th Cir. 1989).
The key to the meritorious defense inquiry is the
determination of "whether there is some possibility that
the outcome of the suit after a full trial will be contrary