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Cabreja v. SC Maintenance, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

June 19, 2019

RUBEN CABREJA, Plaintiff,
v.
SC MAINTENANCE, INC., and STEVEN S. CLEMENTS, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER P. TUTTE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This cause is before me on referral for consideration of the Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Final Default Judgment Against Defendants S.C. Maintenance, Inc. and Steven Clements. (Doc. 19). For the reasons discussed below, I respectfully recommend that the Plaintiff's motion be granted.

         I.

         Plaintiff Ruben Cabreja initiated this action in February 2019 under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) against his former employers, Defendant S.C. Maintenance, Inc. (SC Maintenance), a “cleaning/janitorial company” located in Polk County, and S.C. Maintenance's owner/operator, Defendant Steven Clements. (Doc. 1). In brief, Cabreja alleges he worked for the Defendants from September 2018 to October 2018 cleaning floors at night in stores such as Ross, Walgreens, Publix, and Big Lots. Id. at 2, 4. He asserts he was paid $100 per night for his services and was classified as a non-exempt employee. Id. at 4. Although he worked more than eight hours a night, six nights a week, Cabreja states he was not paid an overtime premium when he logged in excess of forty hours in a work week. Id. at 5. In addition, he claims the Defendants failed to pay him altogether for several days of labor. Id.

         Based on these allegations, Cabreja asserts three counts: willful violation of the FLSA for the Defendants' failure to pay him overtime compensation (Count I); unpaid wages under Florida common law (Count II); and willful violation of the FLSA due to the Defendants' failure to pay him the statutory minimum wage (Count III). Id. at 6-7. To redress these alleged harms, Cabreja seeks unpaid overtime and minimum wage compensation, liquidated damages, common-law unpaid wages, interest, costs, and attorney's fees. Id. at 8.

         Defendants Clements and S.C. Maintenance were served with the summons and complaint on February 14 and February 27, 2019, respectively. (Docs. 8, 10). Neither Defendant responded to the complaint, however, and the Clerk of Court entered defaults against each of them in March 2019. (Docs. 13, 17).

         Cabreja thereafter filed the instant motion seeking the entry of a default judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(1), or, in the alternative, Rule 55(b)(2). (Doc. 19). Cabrera executed and filed an affidavit in support of his claims, and included a declaration from his attorney, Cynthia Gonzalez, pertaining to the attorney's fees and costs incurred in pursuing the action. Id.

         On May 13, 2019, the Court directed Cabreja's counsel to supplement her affidavit to itemize the time she expended on this litigation. (Doc. 21). In accordance with that Order, counsel filed a supplemental affidavit on May 20, 2019. (Doc. 22). As a result, the matter is now ripe for the Court's resolution.

         II.

         “When 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). Once a Clerk's default has been entered, a plaintiff may apply for a default judgment to either the Clerk or the Court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b).

         Before granting such a motion, the courts must “ensure that it has jurisdiction over the claims and parties.” Sec. and Exch. Comm'n v. Martin, 2019 WL 1649948, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 1, 2019), report and recommendation adopted, 2019 WL 1643203 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 16, 2019); see also Sys. Pipe & Supply, Inc. v. M/V Viktor Kurnatovskiy, 242 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 2001) (“[W]hen entry of judgment is sought against a party who has failed to plead or otherwise defend, the district court has an affirmative duty to look into its jurisdiction both over the subject matter and the parties.”) (quotation omitted).

         Once jurisdiction is established, the Court may enter default judgment if “there is ‘a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment entered.'” Surtain v. Hamlin Terrace Found., 789 F.3d 1239, 1245 (11th Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (quoting Nishimatsu Constr. Co., Ltd. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975)). The showing required in this context “is similar to the factual showing necessary to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.” Graveling v. Castle Mortg. Co., 631 Fed.Appx. 690, 698 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Surtain, 789 F.3d at 1245); see also Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1370 n.41 (11th Cir. 1997) (“[A] default judgment cannot stand on a complaint that fails to state a claim.”). Thus, a court looks to see whether the complaint “contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). However, “while a defaulted defendant is deemed to admit the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact, he is not held to admit facts that are not well-pleaded or to admit conclusions of law.” Cotton v. Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 402 F.3d 1267, 1278 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal alteration and quotation omitted).

         If a claim for liability is adequately pleaded, the court must then assess its ability to measure damages. To this end, the “court has an obligation to assure that there is a legitimate basis for any damage award it enters.” Anheuser-Busch, Inc. v. Philpot, 317 F.3d 1264, 1266 (11th Cir. 2003); see also Adolph Coors Co. v. Movement Against Racism & the Klan, 777 F.2d 1538, 1544 (11th Cir. 1985) (explaining that damages may be awarded on default judgment only if the record adequately reflects the basis for award). “Rather than merely telling the Court in summary fashion what its damages are, a plaintiff seeking default judgment must show the Court what those damages are, how they are calculated, and where they come from.” PNCEF, LLC v. Hendricks Bldg. Supply LLC, 740 F.Supp.2d 1287, 1294 (S.D. Ala. 2010).

         If warranted, the court may conduct an evidentiary hearing on the issue of damages. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2)(B). Such a hearing is “not a per se requirement, ” however, and is not mandated where the sought-after damages amount is a liquidated sum, is capable of mathematic calculation, or “where all [the] essential evidence is already of record.” SEC v. Smyth, 420 F.3d 1225, 1232, n.13 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing S.E.C. v. First Fin. Group of Tex., Inc., 659 F.2d 660, 669 (5th Cir. 1981)).

         Each of the considerations-jurisdiction, liability, and damages-is addressed in turn below.

         III.

         A.

         Beginning with jurisdiction, it is clear that the Court has federal-question jurisdiction over Cabreja's FLSA claims. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (FLSA actions may be brought “in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction”); 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (conferring original jurisdiction for “all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States”); Quinn v. Dermatech Research, LLC, 2019 WL 1586736, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 12, 2019) (“This Court has federal question subject matter jurisdiction due to the FLSA claims.”).

         The Court also has supplemental jurisdiction over Cabreja's related state-law unpaid wage claim in light of its original jurisdiction over the FLSA claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367 (providing supplemental jurisdiction over claims “so related to claims in the action within [the Court's] original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy”); Sims v. Unation, LLC, 292 F.Supp.3d 1286, 1299 (M.D. Fla. 2018) (finding court had supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state-law unpaid wage claim where it had original jurisdiction under the FLSA).

         The Court likewise has personal jurisdiction over the Defendants. As alleged in the complaint, SC Maintenance is a Florida corporation with its principal place of business in Polk County. (Doc. 1 at 2-3); Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 924 (2011) (noting that a corporate defendant's place of incorporation and/or principal place of business is a “paradigm” basis for the exercise of general jurisdiction). As also alleged in the complaint, Clements is a “resident” of the State of Florida who owned and operated S.C. Maintenance in Polk County. (Doc. 1 at 2-3).[1] Furthermore, the returns of service filed in this action evidence that S.C. Maintenance was properly served with the summons and complaint ...


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