Gardner v. Tefft et al
ORDER denying 13 Motion for Default Judgment. Signed by Honorable Susan O. Hickey on August 8, 2017. (mll)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
MICHAEL VALENTINE GARDNER
Case No. 4:16-cv-4102
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER N. TEFFT,
LIEUTENANT ADAMS, and WARDEN MOORE,
Miller County Detention Center
Plaintiff, Michael V. Gardner, proceeds in this action pro se and in forma pauperis
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is currently not incarcerated. Before the Court is
Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment as to Defendant Tefft. ECF No. 13. Defendant Tefft
has filed a response. ECF No. 14. This matter is ripe for the Court’s consideration.
Plaintiff moves the Court to enter default judgment against Defendant Tefft, because he
failed to file a timely answer to the complaint. Defendant Tefft was served on December 2,
2016, and his answer was due on December 23, 2016. ECF No. 10. Defendant Tefft did not sign
the executed summons. Instead, it appears to have been signed by another employee of Miller
County. Defendant Tefft states that he was unaware of the case until he was contacted by
counsel’s office on January 3, 2017, after two other Miller County defendants had been served.
Upon learning of the complaint in this case, Defendant Tefft immediately filed his answer on
January 3, 2017, eleven days after it was due. ECF No. 12.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b), the Court may, for good cause, extend
the time to respond on a motion made after the time has expired if the party failed to act because
of “excusable neglect.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1)(B). “Excusable neglect is an ‘elastic concept’
that empowers courts to accept, ‘where appropriate, . . . late filings caused by inadvertence,
mistake, or carelessness, as well as by intervening circumstances beyond the party’s control.’”
Chorosevic v. Metlife Choices, 600 F.3d 934, 946 (2010) (quoting Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v.
Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. P’ship, 507 U.S. 380, 392 (1993)). The following factors are important
when determining whether neglect is excusable: “(1) the possibility of prejudice to the defendant,
(2) the length of the delay and the potential impact on judicial proceedings, (3) the reason for the
delay, including whether the delay was within the party’s reasonable control, and (4) whether the
party acted in good faith.” Kurka v. Iowa County, 628 F.3d 953, 959 (8th Cir. 2010). Finally,
the Eighth Circuit explained that the “determination of whether neglect is excusable is at bottom
an equitable one, taking account of all relevant circumstances surrounding the party’s omission.”
Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted).
In the present case, the Court finds that Defendant Tefft’s failure to file a timely answer
was not a result of bad faith, but instead an inadvertent oversight. Further, Plaintiff has not
suffered any prejudice from the brief delay in filing the answer. If the Court were to grant
Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment, it would impose on Defendant Tefft a severe penalty
unmatched by any prejudice to Plaintiff. See Chorosevic, 600 F.3d 947 (citing Oberstar v.
F.D.I.C., 987 F.2d 494, 504 (8th Cir. 1993)). Such a result would contravene the judicial
preference for adjudication on the merits. Id. For these reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s
Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 13) should be and hereby is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED, this 8th day of August, 2017.
/s/ Susan O. Hickey
Susan O. Hickey
United States District Judge
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