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United States v. Patka

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

July 2, 2018

FIROZ M. PATKA, M.D., Defendant.



         Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for default judgment. (Doc. 24.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant is a doctor of medicine registered to dispense Schedule II, III, IV, and V controlled substances in the State of Georgia. Plaintiff, the United States of America, alleges that Defendant violated Section 829 of the Controlled Substances Act ("CSA"), 21 U.S.C. § 829, by improperly dispensing Schedule II controlled substances. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendant, who practiced at three different locations, would pre-sign blank prescriptions so that physician assistants - who otherwise could prescribe only Schedule III, IV, and V drugs - could prescribe Schedule II controlled substances in Defendant's absence.

         Plaintiff filed its complaint against Defendant on May 26, 2017. (Doc. 1.) Defendant failed to answer or otherwise appear. Plaintiff moved for an entry of default, and on December 22, 2017, the Clerk entered default against Defendant. (Docs. 20, 21.) On March 20, 2018, Plaintiff moved for default judgment against Defendant. (Doc. 24.) Plaintiff sought damages of $3.3 million and requested an evidentiary hearing to establish its requested damages. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on April 25, 2018, and heard evidence related to Defendant's liability as well as damages.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, a court may enter default judgment against a defendant when: (1) both subject-matter and personal jurisdiction exist; (2) the allegations in the complaint state a claim against the defendant; and (3) the plaintiff has shown the damages that it is entitled to. See Pitts ex rel. Pitts v. Seneca Sports, Inc., 321 F.Supp.2d 1353, 1356-58 (S.D. Ga. 2004).

         "[A] defendant's default does not in itself warrant the court in entering a default judgment." Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975). Default judgment is warranted only "when there is a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment entered." Surtain v. Hamlin Terrace Found., 789 F.3d 1239, 1245 (11th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). And although a ''defaulted defendant is deemed to admit the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact, [a defendant] is not held to admit facts that are not well-pleaded or to admit conclusions of law." Id. (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). The upshot of this standard is that "a motion for default judgment is like a reverse motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Id. Thus, when evaluating a motion for default judgment, a court must look to see whether the "complaint contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         1. Jurisdiction

         The Court has subject-matter jurisdiction because this case arises under federal law. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. It also has personal jurisdiction over Defendant because the conduct at issue occurred in the Southern District of Georgia. 21 U.S.C. § 842(c) (1) (A); see also Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 923 (2011).

         2. Liability

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated 21 U.S.C. § 842 by pre-signing blank prescriptions. Section 842 states that "[i]t shall be unlawful for any person . . . who [is registered to dispense controlled substances] to distribute or dispense a controlled substance in violation of section 829 of this title." 21 U.S.C. § 842(a)(1). Section 829 states that "[e]xcept when dispensed directly by a practitioner, other than a pharmacist, to an ultimate user, no controlled substance in schedule II may be dispensed without the written prescription of a practitioner . . . ." 21 U.S.C. § 829(a). For purposes of § 829, a valid "written prescription" means:

A prescription for a controlled substance to be effective must be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of his professional practice. The responsibility for the proper prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances is upon the prescribing practitioner, but a corresponding responsibility rests with the pharmacist who fills the prescription. An order purporting to be a prescription issued not in the usual course of professional treatment or in legitimate and authorized research is not a prescription within the meaning and intent of section 309 of the Act (21 U.S.C. 829) and the person knowingly filling such a ...

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