Close v. DASI, LLC
ORDER GRANTING 9 Motion to Set Aside Entry of Default and leave to file the Answer is GRANTED. Signed by Judge Xavier Rodriguez. (rg)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
SAN ANTONIO DIVISION
Civil Action No. SA-16-CA-0990-XR
On this date, the Court considered Defendant’s Motion to Set Aside Entry of Default
(Docket no. 9). After careful consideration, the Court grants the motion.
On October 7, 2016, Plaintiff James Close filed this lawsuit against DASI, LLC in this
Court for injunctive relief, attorney’s fees, and costs pursuant to Title III of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), 42. U.S.C. § 112181. Docket no. 1. On December 13, 2016, Close
moved for entry of default, and clerk’s default was entered the same day. Docket nos. 5 & 6.
DASI now files this motion to set aside the default and for leave to file its answer. Docket no. 9.
When a party fails to defend and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk
must enter the party’s default. Fed. R. Civ. P. R 55 (a). Close filed the process server’s affidavit
stating that personal service was made on DASI’s registered agent, R. David Guerra, on October
21, 2016 in McAllen, Texas. Close also provided an affidavit from his counsel with the default
application. See Docket no. 3, 4, 5-1. Thus, clerk’s default was appropriately entered based on
the face of the record.
The court may set aside an entry of default for good cause. Fed. R. Civ. P. R 55 (c). To
determine whether good cause to set aside a default exists, courts usually employ equitable
principles. Lacy v. Sitel Corp., 227 F.3d 290, 292 (5th Cir. 2000). The factors to be considered
include: (1) whether the default was willful; (2) whether setting it aside would prejudice the
adversary, (3) whether a meritorious defense is presented; and (4) whether the defendant acted
expeditiously to correct the default. Id.
Courts take different approaches regarding whether the court must consider and note its
disposition of all these factors on the record. Some view the factors in the disjunctive and
consider all the factors in assessing good cause. See, e.g., Breuer Elec. Mfg. Co. v. Toronado Sys.
of Am., Inc., 687 F.2d 182, 185 (7th Cir. 1982) (“in order to have the entry of default set aside, it
was incumbent upon defendants to show: good cause for their default, quick action to correct it
and a meritorious defense to plaintiff's complaint”). Others end the inquiry after a finding of
willfulness. See, e.g., Matter of Dierschke, 975 F.2d 181, 184 (5th Cir. 1992) (“when the court
finds an intentional failure of responsive pleadings there need be no other finding”). This Court
will consider multiple factors to determine whether good cause exists to set aside the default.
As to whether the default was willful, there is no indication in the record that DASI acted
willfully in failing to file an answer in the relevant sense of intentional disregard. Although
DASI admits not filing an answer, DASI contends that it “was never actually served with process
despite Plaintiff’s affidavit to the contrary” and that “Guerra first became aware of this suit as a
result of delivery of documents to San Antonio which did not constitute personal service.”
Docket no. 9 at 2. DASI states that after delivery of the documents, it consulted with counsel and
awaited formal service, and did not learn of the entry of default based upon alleged personal
service until receiving a copy of the entry of default. Plaintiff Close has not responded to the
motion to set aside the entry of default to dispute the issue of proper service.
DASI asserts that, immediately upon learning of the entry of default, it consulted with
counsel and filed this motion and proposed answer immediately. Docket no. 9 at 2. DASI has
acted expeditiously to correct the default. Further, the record does not indicate granting the
motion will cause prejudice to Close. Having to prosecute a lawsuit on the merits is not
prejudicial, and courts favor resolution on the merits as opposed to through default. The Court
need not decide whether DASI has presented a meritorious defense at this stage. Further, as
noted, Plaintiff Close has not filed a response in opposition. Thus, considering the relevant
factors, the Court concludes that the motion to set aside the entry of default should be granted.
Defendant’s Motion to Set Aside Entry of Default (Docket no. 9) is GRANTED and
leave to file the Answer is GRANTED. The entry of default (Docket no. 6) is VACATED. The
Clerk shall file the Answer.
It is so ORDERED.
SIGNED this 6th day of February, 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?