United States District Court, S.D. Florida
HARVEY A. BUCHHOLZ, Plaintiff,
SAI SAFFRON 180 LLC, Defendant.
ORDER ON MOTION FOR ENTRY OF DEFAULT
BLOOM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
CAUSE is before the Court upon Plaintiff's
Motion for Entry of Default Judgment and Application for
Attorney's Fees, Costs, Expert Witness Fees and
Litigation Expenses, ECF No.  (the “Motion”).
A Clerk's default was entered against Defendant Indian
Accent of Florida, LLC (“Defendant”) on September
4, 2019, ECF No. , as Defendant failed to appear, answer,
or otherwise plead to the Amended Complaint, ECF No. ,
despite having been served. See ECF No. . The
Court has carefully considered the Motion, the record in this
case and the applicable law, and is otherwise fully advised
in the premises. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is
granted as set forth below.
commenced this action against Defendant June 26, 2019,
asserting a claim for violations of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12182,
et seq., on Defendant's website. Specifically,
Plaintiff alleged that Defendant violated the ADA by failing
to interface its website with software utilized by visually
impaired individuals. As a result of the violations,
Plaintiff requests declaratory and injunctive relief,
attorney's fees, costs, and litigation expenses. As of
the date of this Order, Defendant has not responded to the
Amended Complaint or otherwise appeared in this
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b), the Court is
authorized to enter a final judgment of default against a
party who has failed to plead in response to a complaint. The
Eleventh Circuit maintains a “strong policy of
determining cases on their merits and we therefore view
defaults with disfavor.” In re Worldwide Web Sys.,
Inc., 328 F.3d 1291, 1295 (11th Cir. 2003). Nonetheless,
default judgment is entirely appropriate and within the
district court's sound discretion to render where the
defendant has failed to defend or otherwise engage in the
proceedings. See, e.g., Tara Prods.,
Inc. v. Hollywood Gadgets, Inc., 449 Fed.Appx. 908, 910
(11th Cir. 2011); Dawkins v. Glover, 308 Fed.Appx.
394, 395 (11th Cir. 2009); In re Knight, 833 F.2d
1515, 1516 (11th Cir. 1987); Wahl v. McIver, 773
F.2d 1169, 1174 (11th Cir. 1985); Pepsico, Inc. v.
Distribuidora La Matagalpa, Inc., 510 F.Supp.2d 1110,
1113 (S.D. Fla. 2007); see also Owens v. Benton, 190
Fed.Appx. 762 (11th Cir. 2006) (default judgment within
district court's discretion).
a defendant's “failure to appear and the
Clerk's subsequent entry of default against him do[es]
not automatically entitle Plaintiff to a default
judgment.” Capitol Records v. Carmichael, 508
F.Supp.2d 1079, 1083 (S.D. Ala. 2007). Indeed, a default is
not “an absolute confession by the defendant of his
liability and of the plaintiff's right to recover,
” Pitts ex rel. Pitts v. Seneca Sports, Inc.,
321 F.Supp.2d 1353, 1357 (S.D. Ga. 2004), but instead acts as
an admission by the defaulted defendant as to the
well-pleaded allegations of fact in the complaint. See
Eagle Hosp. Physicians, LLC v. SRG Consulting, Inc., 561
F.3d 1298, 1307 (11th Cir. 2009) (“A 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.”) (citations omitted); Descent v.
Kolitsidas, 396 F.Supp.2d 1315, 1316 (M.D. Fla. 2005)
(“the defendants' default notwithstanding, the
plaintiff is entitled to a default judgment only if the
complaint states a claim for relief”); GMAC
Commercial Mortg. Corp. v. Maitland Hotel Assocs., Ltd.,
218 F.Supp.2d 1355, 1359 (M.D. Fla. 2002) (default judgment
is appropriate only if court finds sufficient basis in
pleadings for judgment to be entered, and that complaint
states a claim). Stated differently, “a default
judgment cannot stand on a complaint that fails to state a
claim.” Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123
F.3d 1353, 1370 n.41 (11th Cir. 1997). Therefore, before
granting default judgment, “the district court must
ensure that the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint . .
. actually state a 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 Fed.Appx. 860, 863 (11th Cir. 2007).
review of Plaintiff's submissions, the Court finds a
sufficient basis in the Amended Complaint to enter default
judgment in Plaintiff's favor. Because Defendant has not
appeared, “all of the well-pled allegations in the
Complaint are deemed admitted.” Ordonez v. Icon Sky
Holdings LLC, No. 10-60156-CIV, 2011 WL 3843890, at *5
(S.D. Fla. Aug. 30, 2011) (citing Buchanan v.
Bowman, 820 F.2d 359, 361 (11th Cir. 1987)). Having
reviewed the Amended Complaint, the Court finds
Plaintiff's allegations well-pled, and sufficient to
establish Defendant's liability.
the admitted facts in the Complaint establish liability, then
the Court must determine appropriate damages.”
Ordonez, 2011 WL 3843890, at *5. “Where all
the essential evidence is on record, an evidentiary hearing
on damages is not required.” Id. (citing
SEC v. Smyth, 420 F.3d 1225, 1232 n.13 (11th Cir.
2005) (“Rule 55(b)(2) speaks of evidentiary hearings in
a permissive tone . . . . We have held that no such hearing
is required where all essential evidence is already of
record.” (citations omitted)); Petmed Express, Inc.
v. Medpots.com, 336 F.Supp.2d 1213, 1223 (S.D. Fla.
2004). Here, Plaintiff requests injunctive relief only. Even
in a default judgment setting, injunctive relief is
available. See PetMed Express, Inc., 336 F.Supp.2d
also requests attorney's fees, costs, and litigation
expenses including expert fees. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
12205, “in any action . . . commenced pursuant to [the
ADA], the court or agency, in its discretion, may allow the
prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable
attorney's fee, including litigation expenses, and costs
. . . .” Congress thus expressly conferred upon federal
courts broad discretion in determining when an award of
attorney's fees is appropriate. See Tufaro v.
Willie, 756 F.Supp. 556, 560 (S.D. Fla. 1991)
(citing Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 14 (1980));
Norman v. Housing Auth. of City of Montgomery, 836
F.2d 1292, 1292 (11th Cir. 1988) (“For decades the law
in this circuit has been that [t]he court . . . is itself an
expert on the question and may consider its own knowledge and
experience concerning reasonable and proper fees . . .
.”). In Norman, the Eleventh Circuit provided
the framework within which courts may analyze the
reasonableness of an award of attorney's fees.
a district court must determine the lodestar figure by
multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by a
reasonable hourly rate. Id. at 1299; Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983) (“The most
useful starting point for determining the amount of a
reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonable expended on
the ligation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.”);
Cuban Museum of Arts & Culture, Inc. v. City of
Miami, 771 F.Supp. 1190, 1191 (S.D. Fla. 1991)
(“[T]his court must begin by calculating the lodestar,
the hours reasonably expended by counsel multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate.”). “A reasonable hourly
rate is the prevailing market rate in the relevant legal
community for similar services, by lawyers of reasonable
comparable skills, experience, and reputation.”
Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299. The party who applies for
attorney's fees bears the burden of submitting
satisfactory evidence to establish both that the requested
rate is in accord with the prevailing market rate and that
the hours are reasonable. Id. at 1303.
calculating the lodestar fee, the court may then proceed with
an analysis of whether to adjust the amount upwards or
downwards. In making this determination, the court may depend
upon a number of factors, including the quality of the
results, and representation in the litigation. Id.
at 1302. “If the result was excellent, then the court
should compensate for all hours reasonably expended.”
Id. (quoting Popham v. City of Kennesaw,
820 F.2d 1570, 1580 (11th Cir. 1987). But, “[i]f the
result was partial or limited success, then the lodestar must
be reduced to an amount that is not excessive.”
Id. (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 436-37).
Further, a “reduction is appropriate if the relief,
however significant, is limited in comparison to the scope of
the litigation as a whole.” Hensley, 461 U.S.
at 435. As such, the focus should be “on the
significance of overall results as a function of total
reasonable hours.” Popham, 820 F.2d at 1578.
noteworthy that success in civil rights claims is measured
differently than success in a private tort claim. Villano
v. City of Boynton Beach, 254 F.3d 1302, 1305 (11th Cir.
2001). In fact, “Congress has elected to encourage
meritorious civil rights claims because of the benefits of
such litigation for the named plaintiff and for society at
large, irrespective of whether the action seeks monetary
damages.” Id. (quoting Blanchard v.
Bergeron,489 U.S. 87, 96 (1989)). Likewise, the Supreme
Court has stated that “[u]nlike most private tort
litigants, a civil rights plaintiff seeks to vindicate
important civil and constitutional rights that cannot be
valued solely in monetary terms.” City of Riverside
v. Rivera,477 U.S. 561, 574 (1986). Accordingly,
“public benefit is a distinct measure of success in
civil rights actions . . . .” Villano, 254
F.3d at 1307. “When determining the degree of success
obtained by a civil rights plaintiff, a court must thus be
careful not to place ‘undue emphasis on the modest
money damages that were found by the jury' because