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USAlliance Federal Credit Union v. Rawlings

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

March 29, 2018

USALLIANCE FEDERAL CREDIT UNION, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF A. RAWLINGS, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          SHERIPOLSTER CHAPPELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment and Affidavits in Support (Doc. 14) filed on March 7, 2018. No. Response was filed and the time to do so has expired. The Court finds that an evidentiary hearing is not required and will render a decision based on the documents submitted. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         This is an action on a promissory note to recover outstanding indebtedness on a boat loan. On November 8, 2017, Plaintiff USAlliance Federal Credit Union filed a one-count Complaint for breach of a maritime contract. (Doc. 1). Because Defendant Jeff A. Rawlings failed to respond to the Complaint, a Clerk's Entry of Default (Doc. 11) was entered on January 3, 2018. Plaintiff now seeks the entry of judgment against Rawlings for the principal balance owed at the time of the default, late fees, interest accrued, and attorney's fees and costs.

         When a default judgment occurs, a defendant admits the plaintiff's well-pled allegations of fact. If liability is well pled, it is established by virtue of a default judgment. Buchanan v. Bowman, 820 F.2d 359, 361 (11th Cir. 1987). The mere entry of a default by the clerk does not in itself warrant the entry of default by the Court. Rather the Court must find that there is sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment to be entered. GMAC Commercial Mortg. Corp. v. Maitland Hotel Assocs., Ltd., 218 F.Supp.2d 1355, 1359 (M.D. Fla. 2002) (citation omitted). A complaint must state a claim in order for default judgment to be granted. Id.

         Deeming all facts in the Complaint as admitted, on or about March 10, 2015, Rawlings borrowed $29, 943.00 from USAlliance for the purchase of the 32' M/V ROBIN'S NEST, Official Number 1102212, HIN: RGMVA334K900. (Doc. 1, ¶ 6). The loan transaction was memorialized by a Loan and Security Agreement executed by Rawlings, and is attached to the Complaint. (Id.; Doc. 6-1). Rawlings has not made a payment on the loan since July 12, 2017. (Id., ¶ 8). On October 6, 2017, USAlliance sent Rawlings a written notice of default and notice of acceleration of the balance due because of his continuing default. (Id., ¶ 9).

         Plaintiff's Affidavit of Robert Wesler in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Final Default Judgment (Doc. 14-3), states that the loan documents attached to the Complaint are true and correct copies. Also provided is the Affidavit of Non-Military Service (Doc. 14-4) and the Affidavit of Timothy P. Shusta, Esq., counsel for USAlliance (Doc. 14-5), to support the request for attorney's fees and costs.

         DISCUSSION

         The elements of a breach of contract cause of action are: (1) a valid contract, (2) a material breach, and (3) damages. Havens v. Coast Florida, P.A., 117 So.3d 1179, 1181 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013). Here, USAlliance alleged that Rawlings personally guaranteed repayment of the debt, that Rawlings breached the loan agreement by refusing to pay that debt, and that Rawlings owes USAlliance damages as a result. Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiff has adequately pled a breach of contract, which allegations are deemed admitted, supporting the entry of a default judgment against Defendant.

         A. Damages

         Regarding the damages, Plaintiff submitted an Affidavit of Robert Wesler, a Portfolio Manager for USAlliance. (Doc. 14-3, “Wesler Affidavit”). In the Wesler Affidavit, USAlliance asserts a claim of $28, 193.83 due at the time of the Affidavit, excluding the attorney's fees and costs incurred in seeking enforcement of the loan agreement. Plaintiff seeks damages in the form of the principal balance on the loan, unpaid late fees, and accrued interest. (Id. at ¶¶ 9-11.) Specifically, as of January 5, 2018, Plaintiff asserts the following is due and owing:

Principal

$26, 539.57

Late Fees

$142.68

Accrued Interest[2]

$1, 511.58

TOTAL

$28, 193.83

         Defendant has failed or refused to pay the amounts due and owing, and is indebted to Plaintiff in the amount of $28, 193.83 as of January 5, 2018. Therefore, the Court will grant the requested pre-judgment interest, and apply the continuing per diem rate stated in the loan agreement of $8.54 from January 6, 2018, through the date of entry of judgment.

         B. ...


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