United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER 
SHERIPOLSTER CHAPPELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Scotlynn USA
Division, Inc.'s (Scotlynn) Motion for Default Judgment
(Doc. 25) filed on May 22, 2017. Defendant Z Top Logistics,
Inc. (Z Top) has not filed a response and the time to do so
has expired. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is
granted in part.
is a freight brokerage company that contracts with motor
carriers to transport goods throughout the United States.
(Doc. 1 at ¶ 5). Z Top is one such entity with whom
Scotlynn contracts. Id. at ¶ 6. On November 12,
2014, Scotlynn and Z Top entered into a Property
Broker/Carrier Agreement (the “Agreement”), the
terms of which were intended to govern the transport of
various loads of cargo for Scotlynn by Z Top. Id. at
then arranged for Z Top to transport 41, 580 pounds of frozen
chicken (the “Cargo”) from Missouri to Virginia.
Id. at ¶ 9. On October 14, 2015, Z Top picked
up the Cargo, and acknowledged its good condition.
Id. at ¶ 10. During transit, Z Top was in a
rollover accident and the poultry was exposed to outside
temperatures for over 14 hours, and rendered unfit for human
consumption. Id. at ¶ 12. Because of the
Cargo's temperature, it was rejected. Id. As a
result, Scotlynn's customer pursued a claim against it
for the entirety of the loss, which is $39, 354.62.
Id. at ¶ 13. On December 11, 2015, Scotlynn
formally notified Z Top of the claim, which Z Top refused to
pay. Id. at ¶ 14.
then filed this suit. (Doc. 1). Despite service, Z Top has made
an appearance in this case; therefore, a Clerk's Default
(Doc. 17) was entered on April 11, 2017. (Doc. 22). Scotlynn
now seeks a default judgment against Defendants and an award
of costs and attorney's fees. (Doc. 25).
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establishes a
two-step procedure for obtaining default judgment.
SeeFed. R. Civ. P. 55. First, when a defendant fails
to plead or otherwise defend a lawsuit, the clerk of the
court must enter a clerk's default against the defendant.
Cohan v. Rist Properties, LLC, No. 2:14-cv-439-FTM,
2015 WL 224640, at *1-2 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 15, 2015) (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a)). Second, after receiving the clerk's
default, the court can enter a default judgment provided the
defendant is not an infant or incompetent. Id.
(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2)); see also Solaroll Shade
& Shutter Corp. v. Bio-Energy Sys. Inc., 803 F.2d
1130, 1134 (11th Cir. 1986) (stating a default judgment may
be entered “against a defendant who never appears or
answers a complaint, for in such circumstances the case never
has been placed at issue.”).
entry of a clerk's default, however, does not per
se warrant an entry of default judgment. Rather, a court
may enter a default judgment only if “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 F. App'x 860,
863 (11th Cir. 2007); Nishimatsu Constr. Co., Ltd. v.
Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir.
1975) (“The defendant, by his default, admits the
plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact, is
concluded on those facts by the judgment, and is barred from
contesting on appeal the facts thus established . . . A
default judgment is unassailable on the merits but only so
far as it is supported by well-pleaded allegations, assumed
to be true.” (citations omitted)). “The defendant
is not held to admit facts that are not well-pleaded or to
admit conclusions of law . . . [A] default is not treated as
an absolute confession of the defendant of his liability and
of the plaintiff's right to recover.”
Nishimatsu, 515 F.2d at 1206. In considering a
motion for default judgment, courts must “examine the
sufficiency of plaintiff's allegations to determine
whether the plaintiff is entitled to” relief. PNC
Bank, N.A. v. Starlight Props. & Holdings, LLC, No.
6:13-cv-408, 2014 WL 2574040, at *1 (M.D. Fla. June 9, 2014)
(citation omitted). With these principles in mind, the Court
will address Scotlynn's Motion for Default Judgment.
Complaint, Scotlynn alleges that Z Top's delivery of the
Cargo in a damaged condition renders it liable both under the
Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C.
§ 14706 et seq., and for breach of contract.
Scotlynn also brings a claim to enforce a lost instrument.
reasons stated below, the Court finds that Z Top is liable
under the Carmack Amendment and thus awards Scotlynn damages
commensurate with the loss as pled. That said, because
attorney's fees cannot be recovered under the Carmack
Amendment, the Court denies Scotlynn's request for same.
See Fine Foliage of Fla., Inc. v. Bowman
Transp., Inc., 698 F.Supp. 1566, 1576 (M.D. Fla. 1988).
Scotlynn's breach of contract claim against Z Top, the
Court finds that both are state law claims and thus preempted
by the Carmack Amendment. As such, the Court does not find
that Scotlynn is entitled to an alternative award of damages
or attorney's fees under that claim. Finally, the Court
taxes the cost of filing and service of process fees against
Count I - ...