JDM Farmland, LLC v. Mauch
ORDER Granting 14 Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment. Plaintiff is entitled to a total judgment of $214,543.31 in damages consisting of: principal unpaid rent in the amount of $144,750.00; contractual late fees in the amount of $26,250.00; prejudgment interest in the amount of $17,484.25; attorney fees in the amount of $25,371.99; and costs in the amount of $687.07. The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to enter final judgment in favor of Plaintiff and agai nst Defendant in the total amount of $214,543.31. Post-judgment interest shall accrue at the federal rate from the date of entry of judgment The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case. SO ORDERED by Judge Christine M. Arguello on 10/15/2020.(swest)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Judge Christine M. Arguello
Civil Action No. 20-cv-02020-CMA-NYW
JDM FARMLAND, LLC,
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment. (Doc.
#14). For the reasons below, the Court grants the Motion and enters default judgment in
This is a breach-of-contract case. Plaintiff, JDM Farmland, LLC, owns a parcel of
agricultural land in Baca county, Colorado. (Doc. # 1, ¶¶ 1, 6). In 2017, Plaintiff leased
the land to Defendant for a term of thirty-four months. (Doc. # 1-1). According to the
lease terms, Defendant was to pay cash rent in the amount of $315,000.00, payable in
four installments: $52,500 on March 1, 2018; $52,500 on August 1, 2018; $105,000 on
January 1, 2019; and $105,000 on January 1, 2020. (Doc. # 1-1, at Sec. 3).
According to Plaintiff’s Complaint, Defendant paid the first rent installment in
accordance with the lease terms, but then failed to pay any of the remaining
installments. (Doc. # 1, ¶ 11). Plaintiff twice notified Defendant of the delinquency and
demanded payment (Ex. B to Doc. # 1), but it did not receive any of the remaining rent
due. Defendant ultimately vacated the premises, and Plaintiff leased the property to a
new tenant. (Doc. # 1, ¶ 15). Plaintiff now seeks default judgment against Defendant in
the amount of $144,750.00, plus contractual late fees, attorney fees, costs, and interest
(Doc. # 14).
STANDARD OF DECISION
Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, courts must enter a default
judgment against a party that has failed to plead or otherwise defend an action brought
against it. Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2). Default judgment may be entered by the clerk of
court if the claim is for “a sum certain,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(1); in all other cases, “the
party must apply to the court for a default judgment.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2).
[D]efault judgment must normally be viewed as available only when the
adversary process has been halted because of an essentially unresponsive
party. In that instance, the diligent party must be protected lest he be faced
with interminable delay and continued uncertainty as to his rights. The
default judgment remedy serves as such a protection.
In re Rains, 946 F.2d 731, 732–33 (10th Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks and
A default amounts to an admission of liability, and all well-pleaded allegations in
the complaint pertaining to liability are deemed true. See Greyhound Exhibitgroup, Inc.
v. E.L.U.L. Realty Corp., 973 F.2d 155, 158 (2d Cir. 1992) (internal citation omitted);
Lyons P’ship, L.P. v. D&L Amusement & Entm’t, Inc., 702 F. Supp. 2d 104, 109
(E.D.N.Y. 2010). “The Court also accepts as undisputed any facts set forth by the
moving party in affidavits and exhibits.” Bricklayers & Trowel Trades Int’l Pension Fund
v. Denver Marble Co., No. 16-CV-02065-RM, 2019 WL 399228, at *2 (D. Colo. Jan. 31,
2019) (citing Purzel Video GmbH v. Biby, 13 F. Supp. 3d 1127, 1135 (D. Colo. 2014)).
It “remains for the court to consider whether the unchallenged facts constitute a
legitimate cause of action, since a party in default does not admit conclusions of law.”
Leider v. Ralfe, No. 01 Civ. 3137 (HB) (FM), 2004 WL 1773330, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. July 30,
2004) (quoting In re Indus. Diamonds Antitrust Litig., 119 F. Supp. 2d 418, 420
In the context of a default judgment, a plaintiff “must . . . establish that on the law
it is entitled to the relief it requests, given the facts as established by the default.” PHL
Variable Ins. Co. v. Bimbo, No. 17-CV-1290 (FB) (ST), 2018 WL 4691222, at *2
(E.D.N.Y. Aug. 30, 2018), report and recommendation adopted, No. 17-CV-1290 (FB)
(ST), 2018 WL 4689580 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 2018) (quoting Trs. of the Plumbers Local
Union No. 1 Welfare Fund v. Generation II Plumbing & Heating, Inc., No. 07CV5150
(SJ) (SMG), 2009 WL 3188303, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 1, 2009)).
Following a clerk’s entry of default, courts follow two steps before granting default
judgment. First, a court must ensure it has subject matter and personal jurisdiction.
Williams v. Life Sav. & Loan, 802 F.2d 1200, 1203 (10th Cir. 1986); Marcus Food Co. v.
DiPanfilo, 671 F.3d 1159, 1166 (10th Cir. 2011) (holding that default judgment against
defendant over whom court has no personal jurisdiction is void). Defects in personal
jurisdiction are not waived by default when a party fails to appear or to respond, and the
plaintiff bears the burden of proving personal jurisdiction before a default judgment may
be entered. Williams, 802 F.2d at 1202–03. “Where, as here, the issue is determined on
the basis of the pleadings and affidavits, that burden may be met by a prima facie
showing.” Sharpshooter Spectrum Venture, LLC v. Consentino, No. 09-cv-0150-WDMKLM, 2011 WL 3159094, at *2 (D. Colo. July 26, 2011) (citing Shrader v. Biddinger, 633
F.3d 1235, 1239 (10th Cir. 2011)).
Second, courts must consider whether the well-pleaded allegations of fact—
which are admitted by a defendant upon default—support a judgment on the claims
against the defaulting defendant. See Tripodi v. Welch, 810 F.3d 761, 764 (10th Cir.
2016) (plaintiff in a default action did not need to prove complaint’s factual allegations;
however, judgment must be supported by a sufficient basis in the pleadings).
1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
The Court has diversity jurisdiction over the instant case: Plaintiff is a Delaware
limited liability whose sole member resides in New York (Doc. # 1, ¶ 1); Defendant is a
resident of Kansas (Doc. #1, ¶ 2); and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000
($144,750.00), excluding prejudgment interest, attorney fees, and costs. (Docs. ## 1,
14) Therefore, the Court has diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
2. Personal Jurisdiction
The Court also finds that it has personal jurisdiction over Defendant because
service was adequate, see Reg’l Dist. Council v. Mile High Rodbusters, Inc., 82 F.
Supp. 3d 1235, 1241 (D. Colo. 2015), and exercising jurisdiction over Defendant
comports with constitutional due process demands, Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermilion Fine
Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063, 1070 (10th Cir. 2008).
Plaintiff effected service on July 10, 2020, when a process server retained by
Plaintiff personally served the Summons and Complaint on Defendant at his residence
in Kansas. (Doc. # 1-1, at ¶ 14; Doc. # 7). Therefore, Plaintiff completed service upon
Defendant in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(h).
Next, the Court finds that exercising jurisdiction over Defendant comports with
constitutional due process demands. To establish personal jurisdiction in a diversity
case, a plaintiff must show both that jurisdiction is proper under the forum state’s longarm statute and that exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant comports with
the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. Equifax Services, Inc. v. Hitz,
905 F.2d 1355, 1357 (10th Cir. 1990). However, parties to a contract may consent to
litigate disputes in a particular forum by inserting a forum selection clause into their
contract. Elec. Realty Assocs., L.P. v. Vaughan Real Estate, Inc., 897 F. Supp. 521,
522–23 (D. Kan. 1995) (citing Nat’l Equipment Rental, Ltd. v. Szukhent, 375 U.S. 311,
315 (1964); Williams v. Life Savings and Loan, 802 F.2d 1200, 1202 (10th Cir. 1986));
see also Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 n.14 (1985) (explaining
that party may consent to jurisdiction by assenting to a forum selection clause contained
in a contract). “Absent fraud, duress, or other coercive factors, such an agreement
precludes consenting corporations from later contesting personal jurisdiction unless
they can clearly show that enforcement of the clause would be unreasonable.” Elec.
Realty Assocs., 897 F. Supp. at 522–23 (citing Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407
U.S. 1, 15–16 (1972)). “To the extent that parties have consented to personal
jurisdiction in a certain forum, application of a forum state’s long-arm statute and
analysis of a party’s contacts with the forum state are unnecessary.” Id. at 523.
The relevant lease agreement in this case included a forum selection clause,
which provides that any action for breach of the lease “shall be filed in the State in
which the [leased] Premises is located.” (Doc. # 1-1, at Sec. 26). The leased premises
is located in Baca County, Colorado. Therefore, because there is no evidence in the
record that this provision was procured through fraud, duress, or undue influence, the
Court finds that the clause is reasonable, and that it is not necessary to analyze the
application of Colorado’s long-arm statute or Defendant’s contacts with Colorado.
Plaintiff has met its burden to establish this Court’s personal jurisdiction over Defendant.
FAILURE TO DEFEND
It is clear from the record that Defendant has defaulted. Plaintiff served
Defendant on July 10, 2020. (Doc. #7). Defendant was required to answer or otherwise
respond to the Complaint on or before August 1, 2020. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(a)(1)(A)(i). Defendant has failed to answer or otherwise respond to the Complaint,
and the time to do so has expired. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a). The Clerk of Court,
therefore, properly entered a certificate of default against Defendant on August 13,
2020. (Doc. # 11).
The Court also finds that Plaintiff’s Complaint and the documentation submitted
in support of its Motion for Default Judgment provide a “sufficient basis in the pleadings
for default to be entered.” Bixler, 596 F.3d at 762. Under Colorado law, which governs
this action, a plaintiff must establish the following elements to maintain a breach of
contract claim: (1) the existence of a contract; (2) performance by the plaintiff or
justification for nonperformance; (3) failure to perform by the defendant; and (4)
resulting damage to the plaintiff. W. Distrib. Co. v. Diodosio, 841 P.2d 1053, 1058 (Colo.
Accepting the well-pled allegations in the Complaint as true, the Court finds that
the allegations support entry of default judgment against Defendant on Plaintiff’s
breach-of-contract claim. Plaintiff has established that Plaintiff and Defendant entered
into a lease agreement, pursuant to which Plaintiff agreed to lease the subject property
to Defendant in exchange for cash rent in the amount of $305,000. (Doc. # 1-1). Plaintiff
delivered the property to Defendant, but Defendant failed to fulfill his payment
obligation, resulting in financial loss to Plaintiff. (Doc. # 1, ¶¶ 13, 21-22). Accordingly,
Plaintiff has established its claim for breach of contract, and default judgment is proper.
Default judgment cannot be entered until the amount of damages has been
ascertained. See Herzfeld v. Parker, 100 F.R.D. 770, 773 (D. Colo. 1984). This
requirement helps ensure that plaintiffs who obtain default judgments do not receive
more in damages than is supported by actual proof. Id. at 773 n.2. Rule 55(b) provides
that “the court may conduct such hearings or order such references as it deems
necessary” in order to “determine the amount of damages.” A court may enter a default
judgment without a hearing when, as is the case here, “the amount claimed is a
liquidated sum or one capable of mathematical calculation.” Eighth Dist. Elec. Pension
Fund v. Campbell Elec., Inc., No. 16-cv-03040-CMA, 2017 WL 1243059, at *2 (D. Colo.
Mar. 17, 2017) (quoting Hunt v. Inter–Globe Energy, Inc., 770 F.2d 145, 148 (10th Cir.
1985)). In making an independent determination of the amount of damages, “the court
may rely on detailed affidavits or documentary evidence.” Id. (quoting Breaking the
Chain Found., Inc. v. Capitol Educ. Supp., Inc., 589 F. Supp. 2d 25, 28 (D.D.C. 2008));
Lopez v. Highmark Constr., LLP, No. 17-cv-01068-CMA-MLC, 2018 WL 1535506, at *3
(D. Colo. Mar. 29, 2018) (same).
The damages in this case are capable of mathematical calculation. Plaintiff
requests an award of (1) the remaining rent due under the lease agreement, less
amounts collected from a substitute lessee after Defendant vacated the property; (2) a
10% contractual late fee; (3) statutory prejudgment interest on the foregoing damages;
and (4) contractual attorney fees and costs. (Doc. # 14, pp. 9-10).
With respect to Plaintiff’s request for damages in the form of unpaid rent, the
lease agreement (Doc. # 14-2), the Affidavit of Robert Frizell (Doc. # 14-1), and the
payment demands (Doc. ## 14-1 and 14-3) establish the amount due under the lease
agreement and demonstrate that Defendant owes a balance of $144,750.00.
Accordingly, judgment shall enter against Defendant in the amount of $144,750.00 for
the principal amount of unpaid rent.
With respect to Plaintiff’s request for damages in the form of a 10% contractual
late fee, the Court finds that such damages are also supported by the record. The lease
agreement (Doc. # 14-2) and the Affidavit of Robert Frizell (Doc. # 14-1) show that
Defendant agreed to a lease provision giving Plaintiff the option of charging a 10% late
fee on the gross amount of any delinquent lease payments. (Doc. # 14-2, Sec. 13).
Defendant has provided sufficient documentation to show that the amount of those late
fees is $26,250.00. (Doc. # 14-1). Therefore, judgment shall enter against Defendant in
the amount of $26,250.00 in late fees.
With respect to Plaintiff’s request for damages in the form of prejudgment
interest, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has demonstrated that it is entitled to
prejudgment interest in the amount of $17,484.25 pursuant to the calculation contained
in the Affidavit of Robert Frizell. (Doc. # 14-1). With respect to Plaintiff’s request for
post-judgment interest, the Court finds that Plaintiff has demonstrated it is entitled to
post-judgment interest at the federal rate as described in paragraph 20 of Plaintiff’s
Motion for default judgment. (Doc. #14). Post-judgment interest shall accrue from the
date of entry of judgment.
Finally, with respect to Plaintiff’s request for damages in the form of attorney fees
and costs, the Court finds that Plaintiff has provided sufficient evidence to show that it is
contractually entitled to attorney fees in the amount of $25,371.99 and costs in the
amount of $687.07. (Doc. ## 14-2, 14-5).
The lease in question provides for recovery of “reasonable” attorney fees and
costs incurred as a result of any breach of the agreement. (Doc. # 14-2, Sec. 13).
Though the agreement does not define a “reasonable” fee, the court concludes that
Plaintiff has established that the fees and costs it seeks are reasonable.
To determine the amount of reasonable attorney fees to award, the court must
generally “arrive at a ‘lodestar’ figure by multiplying the hours plaintiff[‘s] counsel
reasonably spent on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate.” Jane L. v. Bagerter, 61
F.3d 1505, 1509 (10th Cir. 1995). “The party requesting the fees bears ‘the burden of
showing that the requested rates are in line with those prevailing in the community for
similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation.’”
United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Midland Fumigant, Inc., 205 F.3d 1219, 1234 (10th Cir.
2000) (quoting Ellis v. University of Kan. Med. Ctr., 163 F.3d 1186, 1203 (10th
Cir.1998)). Plaintiff has met this burden.
Plaintiff has provided support for its position that the rates charged by its
attorneys are reasonable and consistent with the rates charged for similar work by
attorneys of comparable skill and experience. (Doc. # 14-5). Plaintiff has also provided
documentation of the appropriateness of the hours expended. Plaintiff’s fee request
shows that its attorneys spent 43.45 hours investigating the underlying dispute,
counseling Plaintiff, and prosecuting this action to completion; and Plaintiff has
demonstrated, through detailed billing entries, that this amount of time was reasonable
under the circumstances. (Doc. # 14-5). Plaintiff has also provided support for the
amount of the requested costs. Therefore, the Court concludes that the requested fee
and cost amount is reasonable.
In sum, Plaintiff has provided the Court with proof of the amount of damages, and
the Court finds that entering judgment against Defendant in the total amount of
$214,543.31 is warranted.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court ORDERS as follows:
Plaintiff’s Motion Default Judgment Against Defendant Brian Mauch (Doc.
#14) is hereby GRANTED;
Plaintiff is entitled to a total judgment of $214,543.31 in damages,
o principal unpaid rent in the amount of $144,750.00;
o contractual late fees in the amount of $26,250.00;
o prejudgment interest in the amount of $17,484.25;
o attorney fees in the amount of $25,371.99; and
o costs in the amount of $687.07;
the Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to enter final judgment in favor of Plaintiff
and against Defendant in the total amount of $214,543.31;
post-judgment interest shall accrue at the federal rate from the date of
entry of judgment.
The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case.
DATED: October 15, 2020
BY THE COURT:
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO
United States District Judge
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