Turner v. Granite City Illinois Hospital Company, LLC et al
ORDER. For the reasons stated in the attached Memorandum and Order, Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 32 ) is DENIED, and Defendant Granite City Illinois Hospital Company, LLC's Motion for Leave to File Answer (Doc. 36 ) is GRANTED. Defendant's Answer at Doc. 33 is deemed timely filed. The previously imposed stay of discovery at Doc. 23 is LIFTED. By November 21, 2023, the parties are DIRECTED to submit an amended Joint Report of the Parties via email to DWDpd@ilsd.uscourts.gov. Signed by Judge David W. Dugan on 11/15/2023. (arm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
A.W., a Minor, by and through her
mother and next friend, HEATHER
GRANITE CITY ILLINOIS HOSPITAL)
COMPANY, LLC, d/b/a GATEWAY
REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, and )
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Case No. 22-cv-2714-DWD
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
DUGAN, District Judge:
This matter is before the Court on two motions: Plaintiff Heather Turner’s Motion
for Default Judgment filed on October 25, 2023 (Doc. 32), and Defendant Granite City
Illinois Hospital Company, LLC’s Motion for Leave to File Answer filed on October 30,
2023 (Doc. 36). Defendant filed a response in opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Default
(Doc. 34). Plaintiff did not file a response to Defendant’s Motion for Leave, and the time
for doing so has now passed. See SDIL-LR 7.1. Local Rule 7.1(c) permits the Court to
construe this failure to response as an “admission of the merits of the motion” for leave.
Id. Here, the Court finds it appropriate to construe Plaintiff’s failure to respond to
Defendant’s Motion for Leave as an admission of the merits of the Motion. Considering
this admission, and for the reasons further detailed below, Plaintiff’s Motion will be
denied, and Defendant’s Motion will be granted.
In this matter, Plaintiff Heather Turner, on behalf of her minor child, A.W., asserts
claims for medical negligence related to the events surrounding A.W.’s birth in July 2016
at Gateway Regional Medical Center (Doc. 7). On November 21, 2022, Plaintiff filed her
Complaint against Defendants Granite City Illinois Hospital Company, LLC d/b/a
Gateway Regional Medical Center and the United States of America (Doc. 1). 1 On
September 20, 2023, the Court granted the United States’ Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 31), leaving only Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Granite City Illinois Hospital
Company, LLC d/b/a Gateway Regional Medical Center (hereinafter “Defendant” or
“GRMC”). Defendant GRMC entered its appearance on December 14, 2022 (Doc. 8).
However, Defendant did not file its Answer to Plaintiff’s Complaint until October 26,
2023 (Doc. 33).
On October 25, 2023, Plaintiff filed her Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 32).
Defendant opposes the Motion (Doc. 34). Defendant further asks for leave to file its
Answer pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b) (Doc. 36). Preliminarily, the Court must DENY
Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 32) as premature in light of the fact that an
entry of default has not been entered pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Fed. R. Civ. P. 55
outlines the two stages in a default proceeding: the establishment of the default under
Rule 55(a) (entry of default), and the actual entry of a default judgment under Rule 55(b)
Plaintiff filed a duplicate version of her Complaint on December 1, 2022, at Doc. 7. The first filing omitted
a case filing sheet, but all other portions of the Complains are identical.
(default judgment). See VLM Food Trading Int'l, Inc. v. Illinois Trading Co., 811 F.3d 247,
255 (7th Cir. 2016).
Each stage of this two-step process serves a separate purpose. At step one, the
entry of default establishes the liability of the defaulting party as the basis for default
judgment, and prevents the defaulting party from contesting the fact of its liability unless
the entry of default is vacated under Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c). Id. (internal citations omitted).
Whereas the entry of default judgment at step two determines the rights of the party. Id.;
see also Morris v. Baldwin, No. 17-CV-0456-DRH, 2018 WL 4140880 (S.D. Ill. Aug. 30, 2018),
at * 2 (After the entry of default, “the Court still must determine the appropriate amount
of damages, which must be pleaded and proved by the plaintiff in a motion for default
judgment.”). Here, Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment requests either the entry of a
“certificate of default” or default judgment, but does not clearly indicate whether she is
proceeding under Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a) or Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b). Nevertheless, the Clerk of
Court has not yet entered an entry of default under Rule 55(a). Accordingly, default
judgment is not yet appropriate.
Alternatively, even if default had been entered, Defendant’s Response (Doc. 34)
and Motion for Leave (Doc. 36) provide “good cause” for the court to set aside an entry
of default under Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c) (“the court may set aside an entry of default for good
cause.”). The standard for “good cause” under Rule 55(c) is lenient, particularly where,
as here, the Clerk has not entered default, and default has not yet been finalized. See e.g.,
JMB Mfg., Inc. v. Child Craft, LLC, 799 F.3d 780, 791-792 (7th Cir. 2015); Cracco v. Vitran
Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 631 (7th Cir. 2009) (The Rule 55(c) standard is more lenient due to
the “policy of favoring trial on the merits over default judgment.”). To prevail on a Fed.
R. Civ. P. 55(c) motion, the movant “must show: (1) good cause for the default, (2) quick
action to correct it, and (3) a meritorious defense to the complaint. See Cracco, 559 F.3d at
630–631 (internal quotation and citation omitted).
Good cause does not require a party to provide a good excuse so long as setting
aside a default does not cause prejudice to the opposing party. See JMB Mfg., Inc., 799
F.3d at 792; see also Arwa Chiropractic, P.C. v. Med-Care Diabetic & Med. Supplies, Inc., 961
F.3d 942, 948 (7th Cir. 2020) (noting the standard for good cause is less stringent than
seeking relief from final judgment under Rule 60(b), which requires showing mistake,
inadvertence, or excusable neglect). Likewise, to establish a meritorious defense, a party
does not need to make a definitive showing that the defense will prevail, though more
than bare legal conclusions must be provided. See Acosta v. DT & C Glob. Mgmt., LLC, 874
F.3d 557, 561–562 (7th Cir. 2017).
Here, Defendant took quick corrective action in response to Plaintiff’s Motion for
Default Judgment. Plaintiff’s Motion was filed on October 25, 2023 (Doc. 32), and
Defendant filed its Answer and Response in Opposition to Default Judgment the next
day, on October 26, 2023 (Docs. 33, 34). Defendant also demonstrates good cause for the
default. Defendant entered its appearance in this matter promptly (Doc. 8), and further
filed its corporate disclosure statement (Doc. 14). However, Defendant represents that its
counsel mistakenly believed the Court’s January 30, 2023 Order staying the discovery in
this matter also applied to stay its pending deadlines, thus wrongfully assuming that the
litigation of Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant were stayed until after the disposition of
the United States’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Docs. 34, 36). Defendant also states
that its Counsel’s understanding of the case was further muddled in early January 2023
because Defendant was in the process of being sold to a new owner (Doc. 36). Finally,
Defendant emphasizes that upon learning of this mistake, Defendant promptly took
corrective action by filing its Answer the next day (Doc. 36).
The Court accepts
Defendant’s representation of its confusion, and finds this confusion akin to mistake or
excusable neglect, and thus sufficient for establishing good cause.
Defendant further claims to have a meritorious defense to Plaintiff’s complaint,
arguing, among other defenses, that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
Plaintiff’s remaining claims and that Plaintiff’s claims are time-barred (Doc. 33). 2 Thus,
even if an entry of default had been entered, the Court FINDS that the facts and
circumstances here would be sufficient to set aside a default under Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c)
and permit Defendant to file its answer.
Similarly, and considering this finding, the Court also FINDS that Defendant has
shown excusable neglect under Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1)(B) such that the Defendant’s Motion
for Leave to File Answer (Doc. 36) will be granted. Rule 6(b) permits the Court to extend
the time for “[w]hen an act may or must be done” after the time has expired if the party
failing to act shows “excusable neglect.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1)(B). District courts “enjoy
wide latitude” when determining whether a litigant has shown excusable neglect. Jones
v. Bayler, No. 22-1296, 2023 WL 3646069, at *2 (7th Cir. May 25, 2023), cert. denied, No. 23-
On November 14, 2023, Defendant field a Motion to Dismiss or Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 37).
This Motion is not yet ripe for review.
5704, 2023 WL 7287207 (U.S. Nov. 6, 2023). In finding “excusable neglect,” courts
“consider all relevant circumstances surrounding the party’s neglect, including the
prejudice to the non-movant, length of delay, and reason for delay.” Bowman v. Korte, 962
F.3d 995, 998 (7th Cir. 2020).
Here, while Defendant’s delay in filing its answer was long, Defendant’s proffered
reasons for the delay, and the lack of prejudice to Plaintiff excuses this lateness. In
addition to the facts described above, namely Counsel’s confusion as to the Court’s Order
staying discovery, Defendant also contends that Plaintiff was aware of its intention to
deny all allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint because of Defendant’s answer filed in
Plaintiff’s prior litigation. Specifically, and as is further detailed in the record, Plaintiff
initially filed this case in Madison County, Illinois on September 2, 2020 (Doc. 31). The
case was removed to federal court in SDIL Case No. 20-CV-01302-GCS, but then
voluntarily dismissed so Plaintiff could complete the Federal Tort Claims Act’s
administrative process (Doc. 31).
November 21, 2022 (Doc. 1).
Plaintiff then refiled her case in this matter on
Defendant represents that it previously denied all
allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint when Plaintiff first initiated her suit in 2020 in
Madison County, Illinois before the case was originally removed to this Court (Doc. 361). Accordingly, Defendant suggests that Plaintiff should not be surprised from its
delayed answer denying Plaintiff’s allegations.
Defendant also argues that Plaintiff will suffer no prejudice from its delayed
answer because of the previously imposed stay of discovery in this matter and the recent
disposition of the United States’ Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court agrees that
the facts and circumstances here show excusable neglect, and therefore GRANTS
Defendant’s Motion for Leave (Doc. 36).
For these reasons, Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 32) is DENIED,
and Defendant GCHC’s Motion for Leave to File Answer (Doc. 36) is GRANTED.
Defendant’s Answer at Doc. 33 is deemed timely filed. Further, the previously imposed
stay of discovery at Doc. 23 is LIFTED.
By November 21, 2023, the parties are
DIRECTED to submit an amended Joint Report of the Parties via email to
Dated: November 15, 2023
DAVID W. DUGAN
United States District Judge
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