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United States v. Trevitt

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

August 28, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CARMEN D. TREVITT, JR., BARBARA B. TREVITT, et al. Defendants. BRANCH BANKING AND TRUST COMPANY, Cross-Claimant,
v.
CARMEN D. TREVITT, JR. and BARBARA B. TREVITT, Cross-Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTIONS

C. ASHLEY ROYAL, District Judge.

This case is currently before the Court on Carmen and Barbara Trevitt's Motion to Strike Branch Banking and Trust Company's Crossclaim [Doc. 46], "Objection to United States of America's Application for Entry of Default" [Doc. 41], Motion to Allow an Amended Answer and Change the Title of Pleadings [Doc. 61], and Motions for a Hearing [Docs. 65 & 66] as well as the Government's and Branch Banking and Trust Company's Motions for Default Judgment [Docs. 48 & 49].

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Government filed the present action to reduce the federal income tax liabilities of Carmen and Barbara Trevitt (collectively, the "Trevitts") to judgment and to foreclose federal tax liens against certain real property in which all Defendants claim an interest. After service of the Amended Complaint, the Trevitts, proceeding pro se , filed personal Affidavits averring that their signatures do not appear on Internal Revenue Service Form 870.[1] Thereafter, the Trevitts filed two additional documents each titled as a "Counterclaim" against the Government on July 23, 2013.[2] Branch Banking and Trust Company ("BB&T) was also named as a Defendant, and, on September 27, 2014, BB&T filed an Answer and raised a Crossclaim against the Trevitts for indemnification pursuant to the provisions of a security deed.[3] The Trevitts did not respond to BB&T's Crossclaim.

Upon the Government's Motion, the Court dismissed the Trevitts' Counterclaims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[4] Thereafter, the Court held a discovery hearing on March 13, 2014, at which the Court discussed the litigation process with the Trevitts and, given the complexity of this case, encouraged the Trevitts to retain counsel. All parties attended and participated in the hearing.

Shortly after the hearing, BB&T and the Government moved for entry of default against the Trevitts on the grounds that the Trevitts failed to file responsive pleadings to the Government's Amended Complaint and BB&T's Crossclaim.[5] The Clerk of Court entered default in favor of the Government and BB&T on March 20, 2014.

In response to the Clerk's Entries of Default, the Trevitts filed (1) an "Objection to United States of America's Application for Entry of Default"[6] and (2) a Motion to Strike BB&T's Crossclaim.[7] Soon thereafter, both the Government and BB&T moved for default judgment against the Trevitts.[8] The Trevitts opposed both Motions[9] and later retained counsel to represent them in this proceeding. On behalf of the Trevitts, counsel filed a Motion to Allow an Amended Answer and Change the Title of Pleadings as well as Motions for a Hearing to discuss the merits of the pending Motions.[10] The Government opposes all of these requests.

DISCUSSION

As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that the parties have fully briefed the Motions and the relevant issues, and, as such, a hearing is unnecessary. Accordingly, the Trevitts' Motions for a Hearing are DENIED. The Court will now turn to the pending substantive Motions.

I. The Trevitts' Motion to Strike BB&T's Crossclaim and BB&T's Motion for Default Judgment

In response to the Clerk's entry of default in favor of BB&T, the Trevitts filed a Motion to Strike the Crossclaim, arguing that BB&T's Crossclaim should be struck from the record for two reasons. First, the Crossclaim was not properly captioned as a separate pleading in violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a); instead, it was "deceptively hidden" on the tenth page of BB&T's Answer. Second, the Trevitts argue that the Crossclaim was not properly served on them.[11]

Neither argument, however, warrants striking the Crossclaim. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require that a crossclaim be captioned as a separate pleading.[12] The Federal Rules simply require that "a pleading... state as a crossclaim any claim by one party against a coparty."[13] Here, BB&T's response was properly captioned as its "Answer, Affirmative Defenses, and Cross-Claim." Because BB&T properly captioned its Answer and the Crossclaim was stated within it, no grounds exist to strike the Crossclaim for failure to comply with federal pleading requirements.

In addition, the record belies the Trevitts' contention that they were not properly served: the Certificate of Service shows that BB&T perfected service by mail to the Trevitts' address on file with the Court.[14] Accordingly, to the extent that the Trevitts request that ...


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