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Barnes v. Abraham, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 25, 2018

CRAIG BARNES, Plaintiff,
v.
ABRAHAM, INC., Defendant.

          ELIZABETH P. DEAVERS MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDMUND A. SARGUS, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Abraham, Inc.'s Motion for Relief from Judgment (ECF No. 32). Defendant moves under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) for the Court to set aside its November 28, 2017 Judgment (ECF No. 29) awarding Plaintiff Craig Barnes damages, attorney fees, and expenses. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         I.

         Alleging claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act, the Ohio Prompt Pay Act, and Article II, § 34a of the Ohio Constitution, Plaintiff filed this case against Defendant on April 7, 2017. (Compl. at 1, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff served Defendant with a summons and Complaint on April 21, 2017. (Proof of Service at PagelD 25, ECF No. 6.)

         Defendant did not answer or otherwise respond to the Complaint, so on May 15, 2017, Plaintiff moved for an entry of default against Defendant. (Req. for Entry of Default at 1, ECF No. 7.) The Clerk of Court entered default that same day. (First Entry of Default at 1, ECF No. 8.)

         On the joint motion of the parties, the Court vacated this entry of default on May 31, 2017. (May 31, 2017 Order at 1, ECF No. 12.) The Court instructed Defendant that it had through July 29, 2017, to respond to the Complaint. (Id.)

         On July 11, 2017, defense counsel moved for leave to withdraw. (Mot. to Withdraw at 1, ECF No. 15.) The Court gave Defendant twenty-one days to respond to its counsel's motion, and the Court extended Defendant's deadline for responding to the Complaint. (July 12, 2017 Order at 1, ECF No. 16.) The Court cautioned Defendant that non-attorneys are not permitted to appear or maintain litigation on behalf of a corporation and that Defendant would need to retain an attorney to file an answer and further defend against Plaintiffs claims. (Id. at 1-2.)

         Defendant did not respond to its counsel's motion, so on August 3, 2017, the Court granted defense counsel leave to withdraw. (Aug. 3, 2017 Order at 1, ECF No. 19.) In its Order, the Court directed Defendant to answer Plaintiffs Complaint within fourteen days. (Id. at 2.) The Court again informed Defendant that it needed to obtain new counsel because non-attorneys are not permitted to represent a corporation. (Id. at 1.) Defendant's failure to comply with these instructions could result in the Court entering default judgment in Plaintiffs favor, the Court warned. (Id. at 1-2.)

         Fourteen days passed and Defendant did not obtain new counsel or answer the Complaint. Consequently, Plaintiff applied for a new entry of default, which the Clerk entered on August 23, 2017. (Second Entry of Default at 1, ECF No. 21.)

         The Court held an in-person status conference the next day. Defendant's non-attorney manager, Abner Knife, appeared on Defendant's behalf. (Sept. 14, 2017 Order at 1, ECF No. 22.) During the conference, the Court reiterated to Mr. Knife that Defendant needed to obtain counsel to continue defending the case. (Id.)

         Defendant did not obtain counsel, so on September 14, 2017, the Court set a status conference for September 29, 2017. (Sept. 14, 2017 Order at 1.) In its Order, the Court again explained that a corporation may only appear in federal court through counsel. (Id. at 1-2.) Defendant therefore needed to be represented by an attorney at the conference, the Court stated. (Id. at 1.)

         No one appeared on Defendant's behalf at the September 29 status conference. (Oct. 3, 2017 Show Cause Order at 1, ECF No. 25.) Defendant did not offer any explanation for its absence, nor did Defendant make any effort to continue the conference. (See id.)

         On October 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 24) and the Court issued a Show Cause Order. (Oct. 3, 2017 Show Cause Order at 1.) The Order instructed Defendant to show cause within fourteen days why Plaintiffs Motion for Default Judgment should not be granted. (Id.) The Court cautioned Defendant that failure to comply with the Order would result in the Court entering default judgment in Plaintiffs favor. (Id. at 1-2.)

         More than fourteen days passed, and Defendant did not respond to the Show Cause Order. Defendant, moreover, did not obtain new counsel or respond to Plaintiffs Motion for Default Judgment. Consequently, on November 28, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs request for default judgment and awarded Plaintiff $90, 233.46 in damages, $12, 246.66 in attorney fees, and $415.61 in expenses. (Nov. 28, 2017 ...


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