THE UNITED WELFARE FUND SECURITY DIVISION et al v. DODGE CHRYSLER JEEP OF PARAMUS
OPINION AND ORDER denying Plaintiffs 5 Motion for Default Judgment ; Granting Defendants 14 Motion to Vacate; The default that has been entered against the defendant (unnumbered docket entry following dkt. 4)is SET ASIDE; The defendant is granted leave, and directed, to separately file either an answer to the complaint or a dispositive motion within 21 days of the entry of this order. Signed by Judge Jose L. Linares on 05/08/2017. (ek)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 17-3 17 (JLL)
THE UNITED WELFARE FUND, et al.,
OPINION & ORDER
DODGE CHRYSLER JEEP OF PARAMUS,
LINARES, District Judge
IT APPEARING THAT:
This is an action to collect the allegedly delinquent contributions that are
owed by the defendant to certain employee benefit funds pursuant to the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act. (See dkt. 1 .)1
Currently pending before the Court is the plaintiffs’ motion pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (hereinafter, “Rule”) 55(b)(2) to enter default judgment
against the defendant for an amount that is in excess of $102,000 (hereinafter, “the
Plaintiffs’ Motion”), and the defendant’s cross motion pursuant to Rule 55(c) to set aside
the default that has been entered against it (hereinafter, “the Defendant’s Cross Motion”).
The Court will refer to documents by the docket entry numbers and the
page numbers imposed by the Electronic Case Filing System.
(See dkt. 5 through dkt. 5-3; dkt. 6 through dkt. 6-3; dkt. 7 through dkt. 7-6; dkt. 12
through dkt. 12-3; dkt. 14 through dkt. 14-3; dkt. 15.)
The Court resolves the Plaintiffs’ Motion and the Defendant’s Cross
Motion upon a review of the papers and without oral argument. S L.Civ.R. 78.1(b).
For the following reasons, the Court:
denies the Plaintiffs’ Motion;
grants the Defendant’s Cross Motion;
vacates the default that has been entered against the defendant; and
directs the defendant to file either an answer or a dispositive motion within
21 days, if not sooner. See generally Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(a)(1)(A)(i).
The decision whether or not to set aside the entry of a default is within the
discretion of the Court. See Famese v. Bagnasco, 687 F.2d 761, 763—64 (3d Cir. 1982).
The entry of a default judgment is disfavored, and decisions on the merits are to be
encouraged. See id. at 764; see also Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Starlight Ballroom
Dance Club, Inc., 175 Fed.Appx. 519, 52 1—22 (3d Cir. 2006).
The Court finds that the plaintiffs will not be prejudiced if the default is set
aside. See Farnese, 687 F.2d at 764. Even though the plaintiffs argue that the defendant
has not met its contribution obligations, the plaintiffs have not argued that their ability to
pursue their claims against the defendant will now be hampered. furthermore, a review
of the docket reveals that discovery has yet to be conducted.
The Court also finds that the defendant has presented a litigable defense in
the action. See Famese, 687 F.2d at 764. Indeed, the defendant certifies that it is actually
not delinquent in making its contributions. (See dkt. 12-1 at 6—9; dkt. 12-2 at 3; dkt. 14-1
at 6—9; dkt. 14-2 at 3.)
The Court also finds that the entry of default was not caused by the
culpable conduct of the defendant or its counsel, but was due to excusable neglect.
Famese, 687 F.2d at 764. The defendant certifies that the delay was caused by a failure
to connect with its counsel in a timely fashion due to miscommunication, vacations, and
scheduling conflicts. (See dkt. 12-1 at 9—10; dkt. 12-2 at 2; dkt. 14-1 at 4—5, 9—10;
dkt. 14-2 at 2.) In addition, the defendant appeared in the action within twelve days of
the entry of the default against it. (Compare unnumbered docket entry following dkt. 4
(the entry of default, dated February 24, 2017), with dkt. $ (the notice of appearance filed
by counsel for the defendant, dated March 8, 2017).) Furthermore, in support of the
Defendant’s Cross Motion, the defendant has submitted a proposed answer to the
plaintiffs’ complaint. (See dkt. 12-2 at 10—20; dkt. 14-2 at 10—20.) Therefore, the Court
finds that the defendant’s earlier failure to appear in the action was neither willful nor in
FOR GOOD CAUSE APPEARING:
IT IS THEREFORE on this
9/1. day of May, 2017, ORDERED that
the plaintiffs’ motion to enter default judgment against the defendant (dkt. 5) is
DENIED; and it is further
ORDERED that the defendant’s cross motion to set aside the default that has been
entered against it (dkt. 14) is GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED that the default that has been entered against the defendant
(unnumbered docket entry following dkt. 4)is SET ASIDE; and it is further
ORDERED that the defendant is granted leave, and directed, to separately file
either an answer to the complaint or a dispositive motion within 21 days of the entry of
States District Judge
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