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Renewable Energy Equipment Leasing, LLC v. Team Gemini, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio

January 23, 2018

TEAM GEMINI, LLC, et al., Defendants.




         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment as to damages as supplemented (Docs. 127, 132). By Order dated August 14, 2017 (Doc. 118), this Motion was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for the issuance of a Report and Recommendation. For the following reasons, it is RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Motion be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.


         Plaintiff Renewable Energy Equipment Leasing, LLC (“REEL”) filed this action against Team Gemini, LLC (“Team Gemini”) on December 19, 2014, asserting claims for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, quantum meruit, and declaratory judgment. (Doc. 1). On August 3, 2015, REEL amended its Complaint to add Gemini Holding I, LLC (“Gemini Holdings”) and Team Gemini Project Cardinal (“TGPC”) as defendants. (Doc. 27).

         The events giving rise to the current Motion are set forth in Judge Watson's August 14, 2017 Order (Doc. 118), and will not be repeated in detail here. Briefly, however, Defendants Team Gemini and TGPC failed to object to an earlier Report and Recommendation (Doc. 109) recommending that the Court enter default judgment against them and Gemini Holdings for numerous failures to respond to Court Orders. Consequently, Judge Watson adopted the Report and Recommendation and referred the matter of damages to the undersigned. Following a status conference at which neither Team Gemini nor TGPC appeared, the undersigned ordered summary judgment motions to be filed on the issue of damages (Doc. 123). By Opinion and Order dated November 9, 2017, the Court dismissed with prejudice REEL's claim against Gemini Holdings (Doc. 125).

         REEL filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on November 20, 2017, and, as directed by the Court, supplemented the motion on January 12, 2018. Neither Team Gemini nor TGPC filed a response or a motion for summary judgment. The Court's mailings to Team Gemini have been returned as undeliverable. (See, e.g., Docs. 120, 126, 128, and 131).


         When a defendant is in default, the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as to liability, but not damages, must be taken as true. United States v. Conces, 507 F.3d 1028, 1038 (6th Cir. 2007). Rule 55(b)(2) governs all cases in which a court enters a default judgment. Zuffa, L.L.C. v. Holtsberry, No. 3:12-cv-1191, 2013 WL 183861, at *2 (N.D. Ohio Jan. 17, 2013). If a plaintiff's claim on which default is entered is not for a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by computation, an evidentiary hearing generally is required. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). However, an evidentiary hearing is not required “‘if sufficient evidence is submitted to support the request for damages or if the amount claimed is one capable of ascertainment from definite figures in the documentary evidence or affidavits.'” Ayers v. Receivables Performance Mgmt., LLC, No. 2:15-cv-12082, 2016 WL 5402962, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 28, 2016) (quoting Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Yakubets, 3 F.Supp.3d 261, 271, n.8 (E.D. Pa. 2014)); see also Servpro Indus., Inc. v. Santoro & Sons Enter., Inc., No. 3:15-cv-00608, 2017 WL 1331434, at *1 (M.D. Tenn. Apr. 11, 2017) (hearing not required if moving party submits uncontested, sworn affidavits sufficient to establish damages amount).

         Also relevant here, summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial “responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions” of the record that demonstrate “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

         Further, “‘Rule 56 does not allow district courts to automatically grant summary judgment on a claim simply because the summary judgment motion … is unopposed.'” J&J Sports Prod., Inc. v. Tonita Rest., LLC, No. 5:13-CV-382-REW, 2015 WL 9462975, n.5 (E.D. Ky., Dec. 28, 2015) (quoting Jackson v. Fed. Express, 766 F.3d 189, 194 (2d Cir. 2014)). Rather, the court is still required to “‘ensure that each statement of material fact is supported by record evidence sufficient to satisfy the movant's burden of production even if the statement is unopposed….'” Id. The court, however, “is not required to conduct its own probing investigation of the record to discover an issue of material fact when a summary judgment motion is unopposed.” Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Darkow, No. 5:09CV02482, 2010 WL 3002032, at *3 (N.D. Ohio July 30, 2010) (citing Guarino v. Brookfield Twp. Tr., 980 F.2d 399, 407 (6th Cir. 1992)). At the same time, the court must “‘carefully review the legitimacy of such an unresponded-to motion, even as it refrains from actively pursuing advocacy … for a silent party.'” Id.


         The following information is taken from REEL's Amended Complaint with attached exhibits (Doc. 27), the affidavit of REEL's sole member and manager, Peter Micciche, submitted in support of the Summary Judgment Motion (Doc. 127-1), and the documents attached to REEL's supplement to its summary judgment motion. (Doc. 132).

         At the time the Amended Complaint was filed, Team Gemini was a sustainable project design and development company, with an ownership interest in a variety of projects in the United States and other countries, with an emphasis on renewable energy. (Doc. 27, ¶ 6). Team Gemini was the sole member of TGPC. (Id. at ¶ 7). TGPC was in contract with the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (“SWACO”) to build a recycling center referred to as “COR3 ...

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