BARBER v. SGT. STASSER et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jose L. Linares on 7/18/17. (sr, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
RONALD JAMES BARBER,
Civil Action No. 16-47 10 (JLL)
SGT. STASSER, et ctt.,
LINARES, Chief District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court by’ way of a motion to vacate the Clerk’s entry of
default, which motion was filed by Defendants Edith Feldman, R.N. and Rosalind Gratts, L.P.N.
(the “Nursing Defendants”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(c). (ECF No. 26).
Plaintiff has not opposed this motion. The Court, having reviewed the pending motion to vacate,
and for good cause shown, will grant the Nursing Defendants’ motion to vacate the entty of default.
Pro se Plaintiff Ronald James Barber filed the pending action on or about July 23, 2016.
(ECF No. 1).’ In short, Plaintiff seeks damages from the Nursing Defendants based upon their
alleged deliberate indifference to a medical crisis that he experienced while a resident at the Special
Treatment Unit of the East Jersey State Prison in Avenel, New Jersey. (See ECF No. 1, Complaint
After the Nursing Defendants failed to timely answer or otherwise respond to the
Complaint, Plaintiff filed a “notice of motion for default and judgment of default” against the
Moving Defendants. (ECF No. 20). The Clerk of Court entered default against the Moving
Plaintiff’s Complaint is dated July 23. 2016: however, the Complaint was not filed on the electronic docket on
4,2016. (ECF No. 1 at 1).
Defendants on December 19, 2016, for their failure to plead or otherwise respond to the Complaint.
On January 17, 2017, the undersigned isstied an Order denying Plaintiffs motion for the
entry of default judgment without prejudice to the refihing of same at a later date. (ECF No. 21).
Specifically, the Court noted that entry of judgment against the Nursing Defendants would have
been premature at that stage of the litigation. Several months later, on June 9, 2016, the Nursing
Defendants filed the pending motion to vacate the Clerk’s entry of default. (ECF No. 26). Plaintiff
has not timely opposed the Moving Defendants’ motion, and that motion is now ripe for the Court’s
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(c), a court may set aside an entry of default for
“good cause.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c). The Third Circuit expressly disfavors default judgments,
preferring that cases be adjudicated on their merits, See, e.g., Zcniadski de Bueno v. Bsteno Castro,
822 F.2d 416, 420 (3d Cir. 1987). Moteover, adjudication of a motion to set aside default “is left
primarily to the discretion of the district court.” Hritz
Cir. 1984); see also Bctiley
Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180 (3d
UniteclAirlines. 279 F.3d 194, 204 (3d Cir. 2002). That said, Courts
considering a motion to vacate the entry of default consider “(1) whether the plaintiff will be
prejudiced; (2) whether the defendant has a meritorious defense; [and] (3) whether the default was
the result of the defendant’s culpable conduct.” United States v. $55,518.05 in US. Currency, 728
F.2d 192, 195 (3d Cir. 1984); see also Gett Petroleum Marketing, Inc.
Saini, No. 05-4732.
2007 WL 465451, at *2 (D.N.J. Feb.7, 2007). In this case, the Court finds that the above factors
militate in the Moving Defendants’ favor.
As to the first factor, there is no indication before the Court that Plaintiff would be
prejudiced in any meaningftd way by having his case decided on the merits. This is particularly
the case where the Court denied Plaintiffs motion for the entry of default judgment as to the
Nursing Defendants, noting that the motion was premature at such an early stage of the litigation.
Second, the Court is satisfied that the Nursing Defendants have set forth meritorious
defenses to the claims asserted against them. Here, Plaintiff seeks damages from the Nursing
Defendants based upon their alleged deliberate indifference to a medical crisis that he experienced
while a resident at the Special Treatment Unit of the East Jersey State Prison in Avenel, New
Jersey. (See ECF No. 1, Complaint at 19). In defense of these allegations, the Nursing Defendants
will argue that Plaintiffs claims sounding in medical malpractice and/or professional negligence
are not properly brought under 42 U.S.C.
1983. (Defs.’ Br. at 4) (citing cases). Additionally,
the Nursing Defendants will argue that “to the extent that certain claims against the [N]ursing
[D]efendants sound in tort, particularly medical malpractice and/or professional negligence, those
claims must be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to file a timely notice of claim against the nursing
defendants at all applicable times” in contravention of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, N.J.S.A.
At this early stage in the litigation, the Court finds these defenses worthy of
With respect to the final factor of the Rule 55(c) analysis—the defendant’s culpability in
the delay—the Court finds that this factor weighs in favor of the Nursing Defendants. “[T]he
standard for ‘culpable conduct’ in this Circuit is the ‘willfulness’ or ‘bad faith’ of a non-responding
defendant.” Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 f.2d 1178, 1182-83 (3d Cir. 1984); see also Paris v.
Pennscutken Sch. Dist., 12-cv-7355, 2013 WL 4047638 (D.N.J. Aug. 9, 2013) (citations omitted);
Emcasco Inc. Co.
Sambrick, 834 F.2d 71, 75 (3d Cir. 1987). Here, the Nursing Defendants have
advised the Court that the delay was attributable to their inability to retain counsel. (Defs.’ Br. at
While the Court would have appreciated a more detailed explanation as to the Nursing
Defendants’ attempts and inability to timely retain counsel, the Court declines to find that the delay
was the result of “flagrant bad faith.” Emcasco Inc., $34 F.2d at 75. Accordingly, this factor
militates in the Nursing Defendants’ favor.
In summary, the Court has reviewed the Nursing Defendants’ unopposed motion to vacate
the Clerk’s entry of default, and finds that good cause exists to grant the Nursing Defendants their
requested relief. An appropriate Order accompanies this Opinion.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Hon. Jose L. Linares
Chief United States District Judge
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