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Suda v. Christensen and Larson Investment

United States District Court, D. Utah

November 20, 2018

LINDA SUDA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTENSEN AND LARSEN INVESTMENT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

          TED STEWART DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny the Motion without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Linda Suda filed her Complaint on June 5, 2018, alleging that Defendant Christensen & Larsen Investment Company violated certain provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and seeking both injunctive relief and declaratory judgment. Plaintiff served Defendant with the Complaint on June 8, 2018. Pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Defendant's answer was due on June 29, 2018. Defendant has not yet filed an answer or otherwise made an appearance in this case.

         Plaintiff moved for entry of default by the Clerk of Court on July 11, 2018. The Clerk granted the motion and entered a Default Certificate against Defendant for failure to answer the Complaint on July 23, 2018. Plaintiff now requests that the Court enter default judgment against Defendant. In so doing, Plaintiff requests an order permanently enjoining Defendant from violating certain ADA provisions as they pertain to Defendant's public premises and issuing declaratory judgment that (1) an actual controversy exists between and Plaintiff and Defendant; and (2) that Plaintiff is a disabled person who is being subjected to discrimination on the basis of her disability. Plaintiff also seeks attorney's fees.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Rule 55(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides authority for district courts to enter default judgment. While “the entry of a default judgment is committed to the sound discretion of the district court, ” the “judgment must be supported by a sufficient basis on the pleadings.”[1] The Court must, therefore, ensure Plaintiff includes sufficient factual allegations in her pleadings to support each of her claims for relief prior to granting default judgment.

         A. INJUNCTION

To receive an injunction, the plaintiff must show:
(1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.[2]

However, Plaintiff argues that “[b]ecause the ADA sets forth the criteria necessary for injunctive relief, the traditional equitable factors, including a showing of irreparable harm, need not be proved.”[3]

         Plaintiff's argument is based on the Tenth Circuit's opinion in Atchison, Topka & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. Lennen.[4] In Atchison, the plaintiffs sought an injunction under a statute that gave United States district courts authority to grant injunctive relief to prevent violations of the relevant statute. The district court denied the plaintiffs' request for an injunction after finding that that the factors for consideration did not favor injunctive relief. The Tenth Circuit reversed, finding that “[w]here an injunction is authorized by statute it is unnecessary for plaintiff to plead and prove the existence of the usual equitable grounds, irreparable injury and absence of an adequate remedy at law. It is enough if the requirements of the statute are satisfied.”[5]

         More recently, however, the Tenth Circuit has narrowed the scope of Atchison. In Fish v. Kobach, [6] the Tenth Circuit rejected the plaintiffs' reliance on Atchison to support that they need not make a showing of irreparable harm. The Tenth Circuit held that Atchison, and the decisions following it, must be read in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Weinberger v. Romero- Barcelo, [7] wherein the Supreme Court clarified “the narrow circumstances when a presumption of irreparable injury could apply stemming from a congressional enactment.”[8] “Following Romero-Barcelo, [the Tenth Circuit has] held that only an ‘unequivocal statement' by Congress may modify the courts' traditional equitable jurisdiction.”[9]

         In First Western Capital Management Co. v. Malamed, [10] the Tenth Circuit again reiterated the narrow scope of Atchison, holding that “when a statute mandates injunctive relief as a remedy for a violation-or impending violation-of the statute, it has effectively constrained the courts' traditional discretion to determine whether such relief is warranted, ” however, “when a statute merely authorizes-rather than ...


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