Laureate Education, Inc. v. Laureate Learning Center, Inc. et al
ORDER granting 103 Motion for Default Judgment against Defendants. The 65 Answer of Defendants to the First Amended Complaint is STRICKEN. Defendants are ENJOINED in accordance with the above. As a result, a permanent injunction is ENTERED against Defendants. Signed by Judge Richard W. Story on 09/15/2017. (rsg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
LAUREATE EDUCATION, INC.,
CENTER, INC., LAUREATE
MEDICAL INSTITUTE, INC.,
and CARLA B. JONES,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
This case comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s Renewed Motion for
Entry of Default Judgment, or, in the Alternative, for a Status Conference
. After a thorough review of the record and the parties’ briefs, the Court
enters the following Order.
This case arises out of the operation of two allegedly infringing
websites thought to be owned and operated by Defendants. Plaintiff Laureate
Education, Inc. (“Plaintiff”) operates an international network of institutions of
higher learning. (Compl., Dkt.  ¶ 2.) It owns several U.S. Trademark
registrations for LAUREATE, including LAUREATE for educational services
and for audio and video pre-recordings. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.)
Plaintiff originally filed suit against Defendants Laureate Learning
Center, Inc. (“LLC”) and Laureate Medical Institute, Inc. (“LMI”) in the
Southern District of New York. (Id.) Plaintiff claimed that LLC and LMI were
violating Plaintiff’s trademark by “using the name LAUREATE or
LAUREATTE in connection with educational services.” (Id. ¶ 7.) On March
11, 2015, default judgment was entered against LLC and LMI, and a permanent
injunction was granted in Plaintiff’s favor. (Order, Dkt. .) Default was set
aside, and the case was transferred to the Northern District of Georgia, on May
8, 2015. (Order, Dkt. .)
During discovery, Plaintiff learned of the involvement of Defendant
Carla B. Jones (“Jones”). The Court granted Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend the
Complaint . (Order, Dkt. .) Plaintiff amended its complaint to add
Jones as a defendant on April 21, 2016, seeking alter ego liability. (First Am.
Compl., Dkt. .)
Since that time, Plaintiff has made various unsuccessful attempts to
proceed with discovery. On June 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel
Discovery after Jones failed to respond to Plaintiff’s first set of discovery
requests. (Mot. to Compel, Dkt. , at 2.) The Court granted that Motion and
ordered Jones to respond to the discovery request. (Order, Dkt. .) In July,
Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel Production and Enforce Subpoena after
Laureatte School of Medical Training, Inc. (“LSMT”) failed to respond to a
subpoena that was sent to both LSMT and Jones. (Mot. to Enforce Subpoena
and Compel Produc., Dkt. , at 2.) On August 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed its
First Motion for Entry of Default Judgment, noting that Defendants had not
complied with the Court’s July 19, 2016 Order  compelling discovery.
(Mot. for Entry of Default J. and for Atty’s Fees and Expenses, Dkt. , at 2.)
Finally, on August 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Sanctions after
Defendants failed to appear at a scheduled LSMT deposition for which both
LSMT and Jones received a subpoena. (Mot. for Sanctions Given Failure of
LSMT to Appear for Dep., Dkt. , at 2.)
On September 26, 2016, the Court ruled as follows on each of the
above-mentioned motions. Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Production and
Enforce Subpoena  was granted, and Defendants were ordered to pay all
Plaintiff’s fees and expenses incurred as a result of bringing the Motion.
(Order, Dkt. , at 2.) Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanctions for Failure to Appear
at a Deposition  was granted in part and denied in part, and Defendants
were ordered to pay Plaintiff’s attorney’s fees in connection with the
deposition. (Id. at 4-5.) In an effort to give Defendants a final opportunity to
cooperate in discovery, the Court denied Plaintiff’s Motion for Default
Judgment . (Id. at 3-4.) Defendants objected to Plaintiff’s statement of
fees in connection with the Order for Sanctions. (Objection to Statement on
Atty’s Fees and Expenses, Dkt. .) On November 14, 2016, the Court made
a final determination on attorney’s fees and expenses and ordered Defendants
to pay Plaintiff $24,811.50 in attorney’s fees and $586.28 in expenses within
21 days. (Order, Dkt. , at 2-3.) The Court further held Jones personally
jointly and severally liable for the payment of the fees along with the other
Defendants. (Id. at 3.)
On December 5, 2016, the day the fees were due to Plaintiff, Jones filed
for bankruptcy; two days later, Jones filed a Notice of Automatic Stay Due to
Filing of Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Proceeding . Because Jones had a prior
bankruptcy case dismissed within the preceding year, the automatic stay of
these proceedings was for 30 days only, and it expired on January 4, 2017.
(Ex. A, Notice of Filing of Bankr. Court’s Order Confirming Termination of
Stay, Dkt. [104-1], at 3.) Despite the Court’s November 14, 2016 Order , to
date, neither Jones nor any other Defendant has paid the required attorney’s
fees and expenses to Plaintiff. (Renewed Mot. for Entry of Default J., or, in the
Alternative, for a Status Conference, Dkt. , at 2.) Accordingly, on January
6, 2017, Plaintiff filed this Renewed Motion for Entry of Default Judgment as
to Defendants  requesting that the Court strike Defendant’s May 16, 2016
Answer to the First Amended Complaint  and enter default judgment
against all Defendants. (Id. at 1.)
I. Legal Standard
The Supreme Court has held that federal courts have the inherent power
to “fashion an appropriate sanction for conduct which abuses the judicial
process.” Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44-45 (1991). Rule 37 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure offers guidance on appropriate sanctions,
stating “[i]f a party or a party's officer, director, or managing agent—or a
witness designated under Rule 30(b)(6) or 31(a)(4) fails to obey an order to
provide or permit discovery, including an order under Rule 26(f), 35, or 37(a),
the court where the action is pending may issue further just orders.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 37(b)(2)(A). The rule further states that sanctions may include “striking
pleadings in whole or in part” and “rendering a default judgment against the
disobedient party.” Id.
While “Rule 37 gives district judges broad discretion to fashion
appropriate sanctions,” the 11th Circuit has noted that “this discretion is guided
by a judicial interpretation of the rule.” OneBeacon Ins. Co. v. Millbourne, No.
1:04-cv-3596, 2005 WL 3797628, at *3 (N.D. Ga. Oct. 20, 2005) (quoting
Malautea v. Suzuki Motor Co., Ltd., 987 F.2d 1536, 1542 (11th Cir. 1993)).
Given the finality of a default judgment, a judge should only use default as a
sanction “as a last resort, when less drastic sanctions would not ensure
compliance with the court’s orders.” Id. However, this Court has held that
“[s]triking answers and entering default judgments are appropriate when a
party fails to appear for a deposition, fails to respond to interrogatories and
request for production, fails to appear again when so ordered by a court, and
fails to make a reasonable offer to appear.” Functional Prod. Trading, S.A. v.
JITC, LLC, No. 1:12-cv-00355, 2013 WL 4482507, at *3 (N.D. Ga. Aug. 20,
2013) (emphasis added).
Since this case was transferred to this Court, Defendants have
continually flouted the Federal Rules and have attempted to undermine the
integrity of these proceedings. Defendants have collectively failed to (1)
respond to discovery requests, (2) respond to a subpoena, (3) appear for a
scheduled deposition, and (4) comply with the Court’s orders. When attorney’s
fees and expenses were awarded as a sanction for these violations, Defendant
Jones filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid payment. The remaining
Defendants, without the guise of a valid excuse, made no efforts to pay.
Defendants’ behavior throughout the discovery process has proven that lesser
sanctions will not ensure their compliance with the discovery process.
Therefore, despite the harshness of the requested sanctions, they are
nonetheless warranted in this case. The severity of the sanction is
appropriately commensurate with the pervasiveness of Defendants’
noncompliance with the Federal Rules and their recalcitrance in the face of this
Court’s November 14, 2016 Order . The Answer of Defendants to the First
Amended Complaint  is therefore STRICKEN, and default judgment
against Defendants is GRANTED.
As a result, a permanent injunction is ENTERED against Defendants.
Defendants, their founders, owners, officers, directors, managers, shareholders,
agents, employees, representatives, independent contractors, predecessors,
successors, parent companies, assigns, affiliates, all other entities owned, in
whole or in part, by any Defendant now or in the future, all other persons or
entities any Defendant directly or indirectly has the right to control now or in
the future, and all persons acting in concert with any of the foregoing
(collectively, “Enjoined Parties”), shall be forever and permanently enjoined
(1) Directly or indirectly using the term LAUREATE or LAUREATTE or
any term, mark or words, or combination thereof that is confusingly
similar to LAUREATE or LAUREATTE, including, but not limited to
(a) as a trademark, service mark, or trade name; (b) as a corporate or
business name; (c) as a “doing business as” or “dba” name; (d) within a
domain name, URL, website, or webpage, and/or (e) in any other
(2) Committing or attempting to commit any other act calculated to cause
any person to believe that any Defendants’ products, goods, or services
are affiliated with, endorsed by, or in any way connected to Laureate
Education, Inc. or Laureate Education Inc.’s successors in interest or
assigns of Laureate Education Inc.’s “LAUREATE” trademark.
Defendants remain obligated to pay the previously ordered $24,811.50 in
attorney’s fees and $586.28 in expenses, but no further damages shall be
Plaintiff Laureate Education, Inc.’s Renewed Motion for Entry of
Default Judgment, or, in the Alterative, for a Status Conference  is
GRANTED. The Answer of Defendants to the First Amended Complaint 
is STRICKEN. Default judgment is ENTERED against Defendants.
Defendants are ENJOINED in accordance with the above.
SO ORDERED, this 15th day of September, 2017.
RICHARD W. STORY
United States District Judge
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