United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division
RANDAL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
the Court is Defendant Eric C. Smith's Motion for Entry
of Judgment. (Doc. 17.) Because the lone remaining party,
Defendant Nicholas S. Bacon, is in default, the Court will
construe this filing as a motion for default judgment. For
the reasons set forth below, Defendant Smith's motion is
October 18, 2017, Plaintiff The Prudential Insurance Company
of America ("Prudential") filed this interpleader
action concerning a group life insurance policy (the
"Policy") covering Montez Bacon (the
"Insured") in the amount of $100, 000.00. (Compl.,
Doc. 1, ¶¶ 7-11.) Defendant Nicholas S. Bacon, the
Insured's son, was the sole primary beneficiary under the
policy. (Id. ¶ 9, Ex. B.) After the
Insured's death, Defendant Eric C. Smith, the
Insured's other son, filed a Preferential Beneficiary
Statement with Prudential to claim the Policy's benefits.
(Id. ¶ 16, Ex. D.) These two competing claims
are the basis for this interpleader action.
March 3, 2017, Montez Bacon was murdered by a gunshot wound
to the back. (Id. ¶ 10, Ex. C.) Nicholas S.
Bacon was subsequently arrested and charged with aggravated
assault and murder in connection with the death of his
mother. (Id. ¶ 12.) Under O.C.G.A. §
53-1-5 and the terms of the Policy, if Bacon
"feloniously and intentionally" killed the Insured
he forfeits his right to the benefits and is treated as if he
predeceased the Insured. (Id. ¶¶ 13-15.)
Georgia law further provides that any person who commits
murder or voluntary manslaughter shall not receive benefits
from any insurance policy on the life of the deceased, even
if that person is the named beneficiary. O.C.G.A. §
33-25-12. Thus, if Bacon committed the murder of the Insured,
the Policy's benefits would be payable to the
Insured's heirs at law, Eric C. Smith. (Id.
after Prudential filed its complaint, Smith filed his answer.
(Doc. 7.) Bacon, however, has yet to file an answer or any
other responsive pleading, even though he was served with
process on October 31, 2017. (Doc. 5.)
25, 2018, upon joint motion from Prudential and Smith, the
Court ordered Prudential to deposit the $100, 000.00 benefit
plus applicable interest into the Registry of the Court,
dismissed Prudential from the case, and enjoined Smith and
Bacon from prosecuting any action against Prudential related
to the Policy's benefits. (Order of May 25, 2018, Doc.
10, at 4-6.) The Court also instructed the Clerk to enter
default against Bacon for failing to plead or otherwise
defend. (Id. at 8.) Finally, the Court ordered Bacon
and Smith to enter pleadings establishing their adversity to
one another and their claim to the Policy's benefits
within twenty-one days. (Id. at 5.)
days later, Smith entered a cross-claim complaint against
Bacon establishing his own claim to the Policy's
benefits.(See Cross-cl. Compl., Doc. 13.)
Bacon never entered a pleading as instructed by the
Court's May 25th Order. He did, however, file a motion
for appointment of counsel within the twenty-one-day period.
(Doc. 15.) The United States Magistrate Judge subsequently
denied Bacon's motion concluding that this case did not
present an "exceptional circumstance" requiring the
appointment of counsel. (Order of July 9, 2018, Doc. 16, at
3- 4.) Since then, Bacon remains in default and has not filed
a motion to set aside the entry of default or a pleading as
instructed by the Court's May 25th Order.
January 4, 2019, Smith filed a "Motion for Entry of
Judgment" requesting judgment be entered in his favor
and that he be awarded the full amount of benefits currently
in the Registry of the Court. (Doc. 17.) Smith's motion
notes that Bacon remains in default, has not asserted any
claim to the Policy's benefits, and has not complied with
the Court's May 25th Order. Accordingly, the Court will
construe Smith's motion as a motion for default judgment.
Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) governs the Court's ability
to grant a default judgment and vests the Court with
discretion to determine whether judgment should be entered.
Pitts ex rel. Pitts v. Seneca Sports, Inc., 321
F.Supp.2d 1353, 1356 (S.D. Ga. 2004). `` [A] defendant's
default does not in itself warrant the court in entering a
default judgment. There must be a sufficient basis in the
pleadings for the judgment entered . . . The defendant is not
held to admit facts that are not well-pleaded or to admit
conclusions of law." Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v.
Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir.
1975). A defendant, by his default, is only
deemed to have admitted the ``plaintiff's well-pleaded
allegations of fact." Id. Three distinct
matters are essential for the entry of default judgment: (1)
jurisdiction, (2) liability, and (3) damages. Pitts,
321 F.Supp.2d at 1356. With respect to the jurisdictional
element, ``[t]he Court must have personal and subject-matter
jurisdiction over the defendant." Id.
Furthermore, ``[t]he presence of the Court's jurisdiction
must appear on the face of the complaint." Id.
Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case under
multiple statutes. First, the parties are diverse; Prudential
is a citizen of New Jersey and both Bacon and Smith are
citizens of Georgia. (Compl., ¶ 5.) The Policy's
benefits at issue in this action exceed $75, 000.