United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge.
case arises from a personal injury that plaintiff Dawn Bryan
(“plaintiff” or “Bryan”) allegedly
suffered after a fall in a hotel managed by defendant, Lark
Hotels, LLC (“Lark” or “defendant”).
Plaintiff contends that Lark was negligent in its operation
of the hotel because the bed frame in her hotel room had
unreasonably sharp edges that caused an injury to her right
leg. Pending before this Court are defendant's emergency
motion to set aside the default (Docket No. 10) and
plaintiff's motion for entry of default judgment (Docket
No. 17). For the following reasons, defendant's motion
will be allowed and plaintiff's motion will be denied.
filed her complaint on May 15, 2017 and Lark was served
shortly thereafter. No responsive pleading was filed before
it was due on June 21, 2017. On July 6, 2017, plaintiff
requested and was granted entry of default. On July 28, 2017,
defendant filed an emergency motion to set aside the default
which plaintiff opposed on August 4, 2017. On August 23,
2017, plaintiff filed a motion for entry of default judgment
which was timely opposed by defendant.
Defendant's Motion to Set Aside Default and
Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Default
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c), entry of default can be set aside for
“good cause”. That standard is a “liberal
one” based upon the policy justification that actions
should be resolved on their merits. Coon v.
Grenier, 867 F.2d 73, 76 (1st Cir. 1989). The
“good cause” standard is not applied
formulaically and instead turns on the unique facts of each
case. McKinnon v. Kwong Wah Rest.,
83 F.3d 498, 503 (1st Cir. 1996). In determining whether
entry of default should be set aside, a district court should
(1) whether the default was willful; (2) whether setting it
aside would prejudice the adversary; (3) whether a
meritorious defense is presented; (4) the nature of the
defendant's explanation for the default; (5) the good
faith of the parties; (6) the amount of money involved; and
(7) the timing of the motion.
Id. (citing Coon, 867 F.2d at 76).
motion to set aside the default, Lark suggests that its
conduct did not willfully invite a default and that it has
acted diligently since receiving the subject notice. Lark
contends that plaintiff will suffer no prejudice by the
removal of default and that it has meritorious defenses to
this action. Plaintiff rejoins that defendant's
justification is vague and fails to demonstrate good cause.
plaintiff correctly notes that Lark's rationale for
failing to answer or file a responsive pleading is equivocal,
it does not ring of bad faith or willfulness. Contra
McKinnon, 83 F.3d at 503 (affirming the district
court's determination that defendants defaulted willfully
because they were aware of the pending legal problem but
hoped that it “would all go away”). Here, Lark
alludes to the failure of an agent of its insurer, Custard
Insurance Adjusters, to forward the summons and complaint
pursuant to her normal practice and procedure. While that
explanation is disconcerting, it does not suggest that
Lark's employees or agents acted in bad faith.
Furthermore, Lark sought to remove the default soon after it
prejudice factor similarly cuts against Ms. Bryan. If entry
of default is set aside, plaintiff's recovery, if she
becomes entitled to one, will have been delayed. In the
context of Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c), however, “delay in and
of itself does not constitute prejudice”. KPS &
Assocs. v. Designs by FMC, Inc., 318
F.3d 1, 15 (1st Cir. 2003). Furthermore, Lark has presented a
potentially meritorious defense against plaintiff's claim
of negligence. Lark contends that plaintiff will be unable to
show that Lark breached any duty owed to her because the
bedframe was not dangerously sharp and plaintiff fell on her
own accord. Establishing a meritorious defense is “not
a particularly arduous task” and a party's
contentions “need only suggest the existence of facts
which, if proven at trial, would constitute a cognizable
defense”. Indigo Am., Inc. v. Big
Impressions LLC, 597 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 2010) (citing
Coon, 867 F.2d at 77). Defendant has met that low
together, those factors countenance in favor of allowing
defendant the opportunity to defend the case on its merits.
The Court concludes that there is good cause to allow
defendant's motion to set aside the default.
foregoing reasons, defendant's motion to set aside the
default (Docket No. 10) is ALLOWED and
plaintiff's motion for entry of ...