United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
OPINION AND ORDER
CLARENCE COOPER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Application for
Entry of Default Judgment [Doc. No. 8] and Defendants'
Motion to Set Aside Entry of Default [Doc. No. 9]. For the
reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS the
Motion to Set Aside Default [Doc. No. 9] and DENIES
as moot Plaintiff's Application for Entry of
Default Judgment [Doc. No. 8].
Anita Carole Aughnay (“Plaintiff” or “Ms.
Aughnay”) and Defendant John Ayers Starr (“Mr.
Starr”) were previously involved in a romantic
relationship. During the relationship, Mr. Starr and his
company, Defendant First Party Administrator, LLC, received a
total of $430, 500.00 from Ms. Aughnay. These funds are the
focus of this case.
first occasion that Ms. Aughnay provided money that is at
issue in this litigation, Mr. Starr executed a promissory
note in favor of Ms. Aughnay in the original amount of $170,
000.00. Subsequent to that transaction, there were a series
of eight additional transfers of funds from Ms. Aughnay to
Defendants in the total principal amount of $260, 500.00. Ms.
Aughnay contends that the additional transactions were oral
loans, whereas Defendants contend that the additional
transactions were gifts that Ms. Aughnay made during a time
when Mr. Starr was caring for Ms. Aughnay after she suffered
a debilitating, spinal cord injury. Mr. Starr complained to
Ms. Aughnay that his business was suffering due to the amount
of time he was spending caring for Ms. Aughnay, and Mr. Starr
maintains that Ms. Aughnay gifted him the funds as an
expression of her gratitude for the time he was dedicating to
her care. Ms. Aughnay claims she gave him the $260, 500.00
under duress and that she would not have made these
additional loans had Mr. Starr not exerted control and
influence over her. Mr. Starr and Ms. Aughnay are no longer a
couple, and this case arises from their dispute regarding
whether these transactions were loans or gifts.
7, 2019, Ms. Aughnay commenced this action against Defendants
alleging claims for declaratory judgment, breach of contract
based on the promissory note, and breach of contract based on
the oral loans. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff alternatively brings
claims for rescission, unjust enrichment, money had and
received, and promissory estoppel. (Id.) These
alternatively-pled claims all relate to the oral loans.
(Id.) Plaintiff finally alleges a separate claim for
costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees. (Id.)
served the Summonses and Verified Complaint upon Defendants
on June 11, 2019, making their responsive pleadings due no
later than July 2, 2019. (Doc. Nos. 5, 6.) No responsive
pleadings having been filed, Plaintiff moved the Clerk for
entry of default against Defendants on July 3, 2019. (Doc.
No. 7.) The Clerk entered default on July 3, 2019, and
Plaintiff moved for entry of default judgment immediately
thereafter. (Doc. No. 8.)
15, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Set Aside Entry of
Default and Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's
Application for Default Judgment. (Doc. No. 9.) All matters
have been fully briefed and are ripe for resolution by the
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 55 provides “[t]he court may
set aside an entry of default for good cause . . . .”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c). The defaulting party bears the burden of
establishing good cause. Sherrard v. Macy's Sys. and
Tech. Inc., 724 Fed.Appx. 736, 738 (11th Cir. 2018).
Good cause is a mutable standard that varies from case to
case. Id. Courts generally consider several factors
in determining whether “good cause” has been
shown, including whether the default was culpable or willful,
whether the defaulting party acted promptly to correct the
default, whether setting aside the default would prejudice
the defaulting party's adversary, and whether the
defaulting party presents a meritorious defense. Compania
Interamericana Exp.-Imp., S.A. v. Compania Dominicana De
Aviacion, 88 F.3d 948, 951 (11th Cir. 1996) (internal
citations omitted); see also Rasmussen v. W.E. Hutton
& Co., 68 F.R.D. 231, 233 (N.D.Ga. 1975).
“[I]f a party willfully defaults by displaying either
an intentional or reckless disregard for the judicial
proceedings, the court need make no other findings in denying
relief.” Compania, 88 F.3d at 951-52 (citation
Eleventh Circuit views default with disfavor and strongly
prefers to determine cases on their merits.
Sherrard, 724 Fed.Appx. at 738 (citation omitted);
Fla. Physician's Ins. Co. v. Ehlers, 8 F.3d 780,
783 (11th Cir. 1993). A motion made pursuant to Rule 55(c) is
addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. See
McGrady v. D'Andrea Elec., Inc., 434 F.2d 1000, 1001
(5th Cir. 1970).