United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division
WINFRED L. ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
FAMILY DOLLAR STORES OF GEORGIA, LLC f/d/b/a FAMILY DOLLAR STORES OF GEORGIA, INC., Defendant.
LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff Winfred L. Anderson's Motion for
Default Judgment. (Doc. 6). For the reasons that follow,
Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED.
filed a Complaint (Doc. 1) against Defendant Family Dollar
Stores of Georgia, LLC, on January 12, 2017. In his
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on January 16, 2014, at
approximately 1:30 p.m., he visited Defendant's property
located in Moultrie, Georgia for the purpose of conducting
business with Defendant. (Doc. 1, ¶ 5). While walking in
the parking lot toward Defendant's store, Plaintiff fell
into a large hole where the pavement had collapsed. (Doc. 1,
¶ 5). This hole had existed for “a significant
period of time, ” and Defendant “had extensive
and long-standing knowledge” of its existence. (Doc. 1,
¶ 14). Despite its knowledge, Defendant “made the
conscious and willful decision to do nothing to fix the
defect nor to provide any form of warning whatsoever to its
patrons.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 14). As a result of his fall,
Defendant sustained injuries to his neck, back, right
shoulder, right hip, and both knees. (Doc. 1, ¶ 12).
Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages for his medical bills,
lost wages, and pain and suffering. (Doc. 1, ¶ 14).
Plaintiff further seeks punitive damages, as a result of
Defendant's “willful disregard for the safety of
others.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 14).
summons was issued as to Defendant on January 12, 2017. (Doc.
2). The Proof of Service reflects that the summons was served
on Amelia Garner, Operations Specialist for CT Corp., an
individual designated by law to accept service of process on
behalf of Family Dollar Stores of Georgia, on January 13,
2017 at 12:40 p.m. (Doc. 4). After Defendant failed to file
an answer to the Complaint or a motion under Rule 12 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiff filed an
Application to Clerk for Entry of Default (Doc. 5), which was
entered by the clerk on February 14, 2017. On February 15,
2017, Plaintiff filed the pending Motion for Default
Judgment. (Doc. 6). A damages hearing was held before this
Court on April 6, 2017. Having fully considered
Plaintiff's motion and the evidence before the Court, the
Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion. Accordingly, default
judgment should be entered in favor of Plaintiff and against
Defendant, and appropriate relief is due to be awarded as
discussed herein. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b).
DEFAULT JUDGMENT STANDARD
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that,
“[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative
relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and
that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk
must enter the party's default.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(a). If the plaintiff's claim is not for a sum certain,
the plaintiff must apply to the court for a default judgment
against the defaulting party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2).
reviewing a motion for default judgment, the Court must
ensure that the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint
actually state a cause of action and that there is a
substantive, sufficient basis in the pleadings for the
particular relief sought. Tyco Fire & Security, LLC
v. Alcocer, 218 Fed.Appx. 860, 863 (11th Cir. 2007).
“[A] default is not treated as an absolute confession
by the defendant of his liability and of the plaintiff's
right to recover.” Nishimatsu Constr. Co., Ltd. v.
Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir.
1975). “[A] defaulted defendant is deemed to
‘admit the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of
fact.'” United States. v. Ruetz, 334
Fed.Appx. 294, 295 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Nishimatsu, 515 F.2d at 1206). Thus, the Defendant
“is not held to admit facts that are not well-pleaded
or to admit to conclusions of law.”
Nishimatsu, 515 F.2d at 1206.
arises under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, based on the diversity of
citizenship of the parties and an amount in controversy in
excess of $75, 000.00. Under Georgia law, a party asserting a
claim for personal injury has the burden of pleading and
proving that the defendant owed a duty of care to the
plaintiff, this duty was breached, and the breach was the
proximate cause of the plaintiff's damages. Butts v.
Williams, 543 S.E.2d 779, 781 (Ga.Ct.App. 2000). The
Court finds that the well-pleaded allegations of
Plaintiff's Complaint set forth the basis of
Defendant's liability for breaching a duty of care owed
to Plaintiff, which breach proximately caused damage to the
Plaintiff. Thus, Plaintiff is entitled to entry of default
concluded that Plaintiff is entitled to entry of default
judgment, the Court now turns to the relief requested. The
evidence reveals that Plaintiff was approximately 52 years
old at the time that he was injured, that Plaintiff has been
unable to work since he was injured, and that he will be
unable to work in the future. Up until Plaintiff was injured,
he earned between $35, 000 and $40, 000 yearly from 2002
until 2014 through Nijjer Enterprises. Assuming that
Plaintiff had worked until he was 65 years old earning an
average of $37, 500 yearly, Plaintiff's injury has
resulted in lost wages in the amount of $487, 500.00. The
evidence further reveals that Plaintiff suffered severe and
permanent injuries, and that Plaintiff has incurred at least
$198, 986.97 in medical bills, based on the Court's
calculation. These injuries do now and will in the future
cause Plaintiff to experience physical and mental pain and
suffering. Thus, the Court finds an award of compensatory
damages in the amount of $1, 200, 000.00 appropriate.
has also established by clear and convincing evidence that
Defendant's conduct in not fixing the defect in the
pavement showed entire want of care, sufficient to raise the
presumption of conscious indifference to the consequences and
warranting the imposition of punitive damages. See
O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(b) (“Punitive damages may be
awarded only in such tort actions in which it is proven by
clear and convincing evidence that the defendant's
actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness,
oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the
presumption of conscious indifference to
consequences.”). The Court finds an award of punitive
damages in the amount of $200, 000.00 appropriate.
foregoing reasons, the Court HEREBY ORDERS the Clerk of Court
to enter final default judgment in favor of Plaintiff. The
judgment shall provide that Plaintiff recovers $1, 200,
000.00 in ...