UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. ACOSTA
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Esther Salas on 2/7/17. (cm )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Civil Action No. 15-8652 (ES) (MAH)
SALAS, DISTRICT JUDGE
This matter comes before the Court on the motion of Plaintiff United States of America
(“Plaintiff”) for default judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). (See
D.E. No. 35). For the reasons below, Plaintiff’s motion is GRANTED.
The Court provides the background of this action in summary fashion because it
writes for the parties who are undoubtedly familiar with the procedural and factual
background of this litigation. On November 27, 2012, Plaintiff commenced the
instant action, asserting a breach of contract claim against Defendant Gilbert Acosta
(Social Security No. XXXX-XX-7420) (“Defendant”), specifically for non-payment
of student loans. (D.E. No. 1; D.E. No. 35-1, Letter Brief in Support of Motion for
Default Judgment (“Plaintiff’s Brief”) at 2).
Plaintiff used Defendant’s loan documents and credit report to determine that
Defendant resided at 34 Chestnut Ave, Bogota, New Jersey. (See D.E. Nos. 35-2 &
35-3). On December 25, 2016, a process server served Defendant by leaving the
Summons and Complaint with Jamilah Acosta, a co-habitant of Defendant. (D.E.
On February 1, 2016, a party with a similar name to Defendant1 who resided at the
same address filed a motion to dismiss, asserting he was not the same Gilbert
Acosta as the Defendant in this matter. (See D.E. No. 5). Thereafter, Plaintiff’s
counsel conducted two skip traces,2 which again indicated that Defendant resided at
34 Chestnut Avenue. (See D.E. 35-5). After a hearing before The Honorable
Michael A. Hammer, United States Magistrate Judge, Plaintiff voluntarily
dismissed the Complaint against Gilbert Acosta (Social Security No. XXX-XX5623) (D.E. Nos. 25 & 26) and filed a letter to the Court asserting that default was
proper to be entered against Gilbert Acosta (Social Security No. XXX-XX-7420).
(D.E. No. 29).
The time for answering the Complaint has expired, and Defendant has neither been
granted an extension of time within which to answer, interposed an answer, nor
otherwise responded to the Complaint.
On June 16, 2016, Plaintiff sent the Clerk of the Court a letter requesting that
default be entered against Defendant Gilbert Acosta (Social Security No. XXX-XX7420). (D.E. No. 5).
On June 26, 2016, the Clerk of the Court entered default as to this Defendant. (See
June 26, 2016 docket entry).
On September 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking default judgment to
recover the debts owed as set forth in the Complaint. (D.E. No. 35).
This party’s name is Gilbert Acosta (Social Security No. XXX-XX-5623). (See D.E. No. 25).
One skip trace used the Defendant’s Social Security number “XXX-XX-7420,” and the other skip trace
used the name “Gilbert Acosta,” the city “Bogota,” and the state “New Jersey.” (See D.E. 35-5).
On September 2016, Plaintiffs also provided Defendant with notice of their motion
for default judgment. (D.E. No. 35-10).
“A consequence of the entry of a default judgment is that ‘the factual allegations of
the complaint . . . will be taken as true.’” Comdyne I, Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d
1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990).
“Before granting a default judgment, the Court must determine (i) whether there is
sufficient proof of service, (ii) whether a sufficient cause of action was stated, and
(iii) whether default judgment is proper.” Teamsters Health & Welfare Fund of
Phila. & Vicinity v. Dubin Paper Co., No. 11-7137, 2012 WL 3018062, at *2
(D.N.J. July 24, 2012) (internal citations omitted).
First, the Court finds that there has been sufficient proof of service because
Defendant was served with the Summons and Complaint on December 25, 2016.
(See D.E. No. 6).
Moreover, the Court finds that Plaintiff—by using loan
documents, credit reports, and skip searches—has sufficiently established that
Defendant Gilbert Acosta (Social Security No. XXX-XX-7420), residing at 34
Chestnut Street, Bogota, New Jersey, is the proper defendant in this matter.
Second, the Court finds that Plaintiff has stated a sufficient cause of action. Here,
in its default judgment motion, Plaintiff argues that Defendant breached a contract
to repay his student loans. (Plaintiff’s Brief at 2). To prevail on a breach of
contract claim in New Jersey, Plaintiff must prove: (i) that a contractual relationship
existed with Defendant; (ii) that Defendant breached the contract; and (iii) that
Plaintiff suffered damages. See AT & T Credit Corp. v. Zurich Data Corp., 37 F.
Supp. 2d 367, 370 (D.N.J. 1999).
Plaintiff has alleged: (i) that there was a
contractual relationship based Plaintiff’s execution of a promissory note to secure a
Direct Consultation Loan from the U.S Department of Education (see D.E. 1-2); (ii)
Defendant breached the contract by failing to repay the loan (D.E. No. 1 ¶ 4); and
(iii) Plaintiff suffered damages in excess of $99,357.87 (D.E. No. 1 ¶ 2).
Therefore, Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a cause of action for breach of contract.
Third, to determine whether granting default judgment is proper, the Court “must
make factual findings as to (i) whether the party subject to default has a meritorious
defense, (ii) the prejudice suffered by the party seeking default, and (iii) the
culpability of the party subject to default.” Doug Brady, Inc. v. N.J. Bldg. Laborers
Statewide Funds, 250 F.R.D. 171, 177 (D.N.J. 2008). Here, the Court finds that
granting default judgment is proper. First, absent any responsive pleadings from
Defendant, meritorious defenses do not appear to be available. Second, the Court
finds that Plaintiff “will suffer prejudice if the Court does not enter default
judgment as Plaintiff has no other means of seeking damages for the harm caused
by Defendant.” Gowan v. Cont’l Airlines, Inc., No. 10-1858, 2012 WL 2838924, at
*2 (D.N.J. July 9, 2012). Finally, Defendant is culpable because he has been served
with notice of this action but has failed to participate properly. (D.E. No. 7-5).
Accordingly, the Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment.
An appropriate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
Esther Salas, U.S.D.J.
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