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Big Chuy Distributors & Sons Inc. v. Ag-Wise Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 8, 2013

Big Chuy Distributors & Sons Incorporated, an Arizona corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
AG-Wise Incorporated, a California corporation, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LESLIE A. BOWMAN, Magistrate Judge.

Pending before the court is an application[1] for default judgment filed by Plaintiff on May 22, 2013. (Doc. 16)

Plaintiff, Big Chuy Distributors & Sons, is a middleman in the produce business. Defendant, Ag-Wise Incorporated, is a grower. Pursuant to a Distribution Agreement, Plaintiff advanced money to Defendant to grow and harvest a crop, which was delivered to Plaintiff for sale to third parties. Plaintiff sold the produce but apparently did not make enough to cover its costs. Plaintiff seeks damages in the following amounts: (1) $106, 414.28 still owed by Defendant to Plaintiff under the Distribution Agreement; (2) $15, 221.13 in interest on the outstanding debt; (3) $6, 207.50 in attorneys' fees; (4) $648.40 in costs; and (5) 0.11% interest per annum on attorneys' fees and costs. In the instant motion, Plaintiff moves that the court enter default judgment in its favor pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2).

Magistrate Judge Bowman currently presides over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c)(1) having received the plaintiff's written consent. Because the defendant has not yet appeared, this court has prepared a report and recommendation, which will be directed to District Judge Raner C. Collins.

The Magistrate Judge recommends that the District Court GRANT the motion. Plaintiff has proven that it is entitled to damages in the amount of $106, 414.28 plus interest in the amount of $15, 221.13. Likewise, Plaintiff has proven that it is entitled to attorneys' fees in the amount of $6, 207.50 as well as costs in the amount of $648.40. Finally, Plaintiff is entitled to 0.11% interest on the sum total of the judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1961.

Discussion

Plaintiff filed its complaint on February 17, 2012. (Doc. 1) Service on Defendant was accomplished on March 22, 2012. (Doc. 8) Defendant failed to file a timely answer, and the Clerk entered default on June 7, 2012. (Doc. 10)

On August 22, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment against Defendant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(1). (Doc. 12) The motion was denied without prejudice because Plaintiff did not prove that its damages were a "sum certain, " as required by the Rule. (Doc. 14) On May 22, 2013, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for default judgment against Defendant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). (Doc. 16-3)

The District Court has "wide latitude" and discretion in deciding damage awards after granting default judgment. HTS, Inc. v. Boley, CV-12-835-PHX-SMM, 2013 WL 3187362 (D. Ariz. June 21, 2013) (citing James v. Frame, 6 F.3d 307, 310 (5th Cir. 1993)). Courts need not conduct a hearing for a default judgment for money; however, it is necessary that the award be for a liquidated sum or one capable of mathematical calculation. Davis v. Fendler, 650 F.2d 1154, 1161 (9th Cir. 1981). Here, the claim is for liquidated and other mathematically calculable damages; thus, the court should award them without conducting a hearing.

First, Plaintiff seeks $106, 414.28 that it claims is owed by Defendant under the Distribution Agreement. Plaintiff corporation has provided an affidavit from its President declaring damages in that amount (Doc. 16-2, Ex. B), which is supported by a Grower Balance Detail spreadsheet. (Doc. 16-2 Ex. 6) The balance enumerated in the Grower Balance Detail spreadsheet is $106, 651.98; however, as the affidavit declares, that balance reflects an erroneous charge of $237.70, the precise difference between the balance enumerated in the Balance Detail Spreadsheet and the amount sought. Plaintiff is therefore entitled to recover these damages.

Second, Plaintiff seeks interest on the $106, 414.28 balance in the amount of ten (10) percent per annum from the time the contract was liquidated. Plaintiff has provided the Exclusive Distribution Agreement (hereafter "contract") between it and Defendant. (Doc. 16-2, Ex. 1) The contract, in relevant part, reads:

Any sums due hereunder shall be paid in U.S. Dollars and if not timely paid after such final liquidation shall bear interest at the rate set forth at Section 7.3B of the related Schedule.

(Doc. 16-2, Ex. 1, p. 5, §7.3) Section 7.3B of both Schedules explicitly states that interest in the amount of ten (10) percent per annum will accrue on all outstanding balances beginning at the time of final liquidation. (Doc. 16-2, Ex. 2, p. 4, §7.3B; Doc. 16-2, Ex. 3, p. 4, §7.3B) Plaintiff is therefore entitled to recover interest on the unpaid ...


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