United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division
CURTIS WUERTZER AND CURTIS WUERTZER d/b/a C&L TRUCKING, Plaintiffs,
STADIUM INTERNATIONAL TRUCKS, INC., Defendant.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION FOR DEFAULT
JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO SET ASIDE
ENTRY OF DEFAULT
E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Curtis Wuertzer and Curtis Wuertzer d/b/a C&L Trucking,
brought this lawsuit against defendant, Stadium International
Trucks, Inc. Plaintiffs move for a default judgment after the
Clerk’s entry of default. Defendant moves to set aside
the entry of default. For the reasons stated below, the court
denies plaintiffs’ motion for default judgment and
grants defendant’s motion to set aside the entry of
Curtis Wuertzer and Curtis Wuertzer d/b/a C&L Trucking
(collectively referred to as Wuertzer) are a South Dakota
public entity engaged in the trucking business. Docket 1 at
¶ 3. Wuertzer owned a 2006 International Truck, Model
94001 (the Truck). Docket 1 at ¶ 7. The Truck was
recalled due to an issue with the engine compartment. Docket
1 at ¶ 8.
Stadium International Trucks is a New York corporation and
authorized dealer of International trucks. Docket 1 at ¶
4. Stadium also performs repair work on International trucks.
Id. at ¶ 4. On June 15, 2007, Stadium repaired
the Truck’s engine compartment. Id. at ¶
9, 2014, a fire stared in the Truck’s engine
compartment. Docket 1 at ¶ 10. Wuertzer alleges that
Stadium’s inadequate repair work caused the fire.
Id. at ¶ 11. Wuertzer’s loss from the
fire exceeds $400, 000. Docket 1 at ¶ 20.
September 14, 2015, Wuertzer filed suit against Stadium
alleging negligence, breach of express and/or implied
warranties, and breach of contract. Docket 1. When Stadium
received the complaint, Stadium’s president, Gary
Devennie, forwarded the email to Shephard Insurance. Docket
22. The email failed. Id. Because of that failure,
Stadium did not answer. Id. On January 21, 2016,
Wuertzer moved for default judgment. Docket 11. The Clerk
made an entry of default that same day. Docket 12. Wuertzer
then moved for default judgment on February 11, 2016. Docket
13. That same day, Stadium answered and filed a motion to set
aside the entry of default. Docket 20, 21. Wuertzer opposes
the motion to set aside the default. Docket 26.
of a default under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) is
not, as such, entry of a judgment; it merely permits the
plaintiff to move for a default judgment under Rule 55(b)(2),
assuming that the default is not set aside under Rule
55(c).” Inman v. Am. Home Furniture Placement,
Inc., 120 F.3d 117, 118 n.2 (8th Cir. 1997). Here,
the Clerk entered the default of Stadium pursuant to Rule
55(a), and the court must now decide whether to set aside the
default under Rule 55(c).
55(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
the district court may set aside a clerk’s entry of
default “[f]or good cause.” “When examining
whether good cause exists, the district court should weigh
‘whether the conduct of the defaulting party was
blameworthy or culpable, whether the defaulting party has a
meritorious defense, and whether the other party would be
prejudiced if the default were excused.’
” Stephenson v. El-Batrawi, 524
F.3d 907, 912 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Johnson v. Dayton
Elec. Mfg. Co., 140 F.3d 781, 784 (8th Cir. 1998)).
alleges that it can show good cause for its failure to answer
the complaint in a timely manner. Wuertzer argues that
Stadium cannot show good cause.
Culpability or Blameworthiness
the default is the result of inadvertence or mistake, and not
an intentional disregard of procedural rules, the default is
set aside. Union Pac. R. Co. v. Progress Rail Servs.
Corp., 256 F.3d 781, 782 (8th Cir. 2001). Mistakes such
as faulty record-keeping, forwarding the complaint to the
incorrect person, poor communication, or believing that the
insurance agency was handling the case have all been excused.
Union Pac. R. Co, 256 F.3d at 782 (8th Cir. 2001)
(record-keeping); U.S. ex rel. Shaver v. Lucas W.
Corp., 237 F.3d 932, 933 (8th Cir. 2001) (incorrect
person); Johnson, 140 F.3d at 784 (8th Cir. 1998)
(poor communication); Myers v. Oury, No. CIV.
12-5072-KES, 2014 WL 458124, at *2 (D.S.D. Feb. 4, 2014)
(insurance agency). The Eighth Circuit has also recognized
that “it is likely that a party who promptly attacks an
entry of default, rather than waiting for grant of a default
judgment, was guilty of an oversight and wishes to defend the
case on the merits.” Johnson v. Dayton Elec. Mfg.
Co., 140 F.3d 781, 784 (8th Cir. 1998).
Stadium had actual notice of the lawsuit. The summons
notified Stadium that it had 21 days to answer. Stadium
forwarded the summons and complaint via email to its
insurance agency. This was the usual practice Stadium, so it
believed the matter was being handled by the insurance
agency. The email never reached the insurance agency,
however. When Stadium received notice of the entry of
default, it again promptly contacted its insurance agency.
This time, the email was successful, and the agency then
contacted legal counsel. The court finds that Stadium’s
actions were not an intentional disregard of the procedural
rules, but instead, a ...