United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division
Christopher L. Ray, United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court are defendant Riley's Motion for Extension of
Time to File Answer, doc. 17, and defendants Amodio's
Motion for Default Judgment, doc. 18, Motion for Entry of
Default, doc. 19, and Motion for Extension of Time, doc. 24.
For the following reasons, defendant Riley's motion is
GRANTED. Defendants Amodio's Motion for
Extension of Time is GRANTED. However,
defendants Amodio's Motion for Default Judgment is
DISMISSED as moot and defendants
Amodio's Motion for Entry of Default is
mid-September of this year, plaintiff Standard Insurance
Company filed this complaint in interpleader to dispose of
certain life insurance proceeds after the death of Lisa Marie
Riley. Doc. 1. The complaint named as defendants
Lisa Marie Riley's husband-Yathomas Lee Riley-as well as
her parents-Joseph and Eileen Amodio-who were believed to be
the guardians of her minor son. Doc. 1. While defendants
Amodio timely answered, defendant Riley did not. However,
prior to any motions requesting either a clerk's entry of
default or default judgment, defendant Riley filed a Motion
for Extension of Time to File Answer, doc. 17. Five days
after this motion for extension was filed, defendants Amodio
filed first a motion for default judgment, doc. 18, and then
a motion for entry of default, doc. 19. Briefly, these
defendants believe that because this case is in interpleader,
and because defendant Riley is unlikely to succeed on the
merits of any claim he may have to the corpus, they should be
entitled to place him in default for his late appearance.
“[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative
relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend,
that that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the
clerk must enter the party's default.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(a). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, a party can
only obtain default judgment through a two-step process.
First, “[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). After a clerk's entry of default, the
moving party may request an entry of default judgment.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). “[B]efore entering a default
judgment for damages, the district court must ensure that the
well-pleaded allegations in the complaint, which are taken as
true due to the default, actually state a substantive cause
of action and that there is a substantive, sufficient basis
in the pleadings for the particular relief sought.”
Tyco Fire & Sec., LLC v. Alcocer, 218 Fed.Appx.
860, 863 (11th Cir. 2007); see also Adolph Coors Co. v.
Movement Against Racism and the Klan, 777 F.2d 1538,
1543 (11th Cir. 1985) (finding that court may enter a default
judgment without conducting a hearing “if the amount
claimed is a liquidated sum or one capable of mathematical
calculation, ” or where “the record adequately
reflects the basis for the award via a . . . demonstration by
detailed affidavits establishing the necessary
defendants Amodio needed to get a clerks' entry of
default prior to moving for a default judgment. However, they
will not be able to obtain either of these as, prior to any
motion, defendant Riley appeared via counsel and attempted to
defend. See, e.g., Evans v. Strayer
University, 2016 WL 5844857, *2 (S.D. Ga. Oct. 3, 2016)
(“Plaintiff is not entitled to a default judgment
because she has not obtained an entry of default. Nor will
she be able to obtain one, because Defendant has appeared in
this case and attempted to defend.”). Accordingly,
their request for a clerk's entry of default is
DENIED and their motion for entry of default
judgment is DISMISSED AS MOOT.
corollary to both the motions for default judgment and the
objections to allowing defendant Riley to file an amended
pleading, there is an extended discussion of whether this
Court should allow defendant Riley to amend his pleadings
given the posture of the case. Specifically, defendant Riley
is currently serving a sentence of life without parole after
a jury convicted him of murdering his wife-the interpleader-
plaintiff's insured-Lisa Marie Riley. Defendants Amodio
argue that Georgia's “slayer statute, ”
O.C.G.A. § 33-25-13, prohibits defendant Riley from
recovering any of the proceeds from Lisa Marie Riley's
insurance proceeds. Doc. 22 at 2.
defendant Riley notes, it is the preference in this
circuit-to “resolve disputes on their merits.”
See White v. Harris, 2014 WL 12638087, * 4 (N.D.Ga.
Oct. 22, 2014) (citations omitted); see also Mitchell v.
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 294 F.3d 1309,
1316-17 (11th Cir. 2002) (“Entry of judgment by default
is a drastic remedy which should be used only in
‘extreme situations' or ‘exceptional
circumstances.' ”) (citations omitted). A court may
for good cause, extend the time to answer if the request is
made “on motion . . . after time has expired if the
party failed to act because of excusable neglect.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(1). When determining whether such an
exception applies, the Court generally applies a four factor
test which evaluates “(1) the danger of prejudice to
the nonmovant; (2) the length of the delay and its potential
impact on the judicial proceedings; (3) the reason for the
delay, including whether it was within the reasonable control
of the movant; and (4) whether the movant acted in good
faith.” Ashmore v. Sec'y, Dep't of
Transp., 503 Fed.Appx. 683, 685-86 (11th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs.
Ltd. P'ship, 507 U.S. 380, 395 (1993)).
defendant Riley alleges that he is incarcerated in Smith
State Prison, and that this made it difficult to communicate
with his counsel. Doc. 17 at 2. Defendant Riley's counsel
asserts that as soon as the omission was discovered, he
conferred with plaintiff's counsel and obtained consent
for an enlargement of time. Id. In this case, the
Court is disinclined to punish defendant Riley for what
appears to be his counsel's delay. Likewise, because of
the youth of this case the Court cannot conclude that any of
the parties involved will be prejudiced to any significant
extent and the delay in filing an answer was so short that no
party-including defendants Amodio-timely filed motions for
Clerk's Entry of Default. Finally, whether or not the
slayer statute is applicable to defendant Riley and acts to
exclude any right he may have to the corpus of the insurance
proceeds is a decision more appropriately left to summary
judgment. Considering the posture of this case, its age, and
the circuit preference for disposing of cases on their
merits, the Court will not preclude defendant Riley from
filing an answer. Accordingly, the Court
GRANTS defendant Riley's Motion for
Extension of Time. Doc. 17.
 Defendants Amodio filed a motion for
extension of time to file a brief in support of their Motion
for Entry of Default and objection to defendant Riley's
Motion for Extension. Although the Court could discuss the
relative value of employing the idiom “people who live
in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, ” it will
not and will instead merely GRANT the
 They also filed a motion to deposit
funds into the Court registry. Doc. 4. That motion, which is
not before the undersigned, has not been disposed. As a
result, this case is not formally in interpleader.
 The Court previously held the filed
answer, doc. 20, in abeyance pending a determination on the
motion for extension of time. That answer is now ...