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Valenzuela v. Regency Theater

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 5, 2019

Jorge Benito Valenzuela, a single man, Plaintiff,
v.
Regency Theater a/k/a Golin Theaters Inc., Defendants.

          ORDER AND DEFAULT JUDGMENT

          David G. Campbell Senior United States District Judge

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2), Plaintiff Jorge Valenzuela has filed a renewed motion for default judgment against Defendant Regency Theater, also known as Golin Theaters Inc. (hereinafter, “Regency”).[1] Doc. 34. For the reasons stated below, default judgment is appropriate and will be entered.

         I. Background.

         On November 21, 2017, Plaintiff suffered physical injuries when the chair in which he was sitting at a Regency Theater in Yuma, Arizona, malfunctioned. Plaintiff filed suit against Regency asserting various negligence claims. Doc. 1-3 at 3-8. He seeks compensatory damages for past and future medical care and pain and suffering. Id.

         Regency was served with the summons and complaint, but has not appeared in this action. See Docs. 21, 22, 41-1. The Clerk entered Regency's default pursuant to Rule 55(a). Doc. 23. Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment, which the Court denied without prejudice because Plaintiff failed to show that default judgment is appropriate. Docs. 32, 33. Plaintiff has filed a renewed motion for default judgment and evidence of his claimed damages. Docs. 34, 39. Regency has filed no response.

         II. Default Judgment Under Rule 55(b)(2).

         After the clerk enters default, the district court may enter default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2). The court's “decision whether to enter a default judgment is a discretionary one.” Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980). Although the court it is not required to make detailed findings of fact in deciding whether default judgment is appropriate, see Fair Housing of Marin v. Combs, 285 F.3d 899, 906 (9th Cir. 2002), it should consider the following factors: (1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff, (2) the merits of the claims, (3) the sufficiency of the complaint, (4) the amount of money at stake, (5) the possibility of factual disputes, (6) whether default is due to excusable neglect, and (7) the policy favoring decisions on the merits. See Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1986).

         A. Possible Prejudice to Plaintiff.

         The first Eitel factor weighs in favor of default judgment. Despite being served with process, Regency has not answered or otherwise responded to the complaint. If default judgment is not entered, Plaintiff “will likely be without other recourse for recovery.” PepsiCo, Inc. v. Cal. Sec. Cans, 238 F.Supp.2d 1172, 1177 (C.D. Cal. 2002).

         B. Merits of the Claims and Sufficiency of the Complaint.

         The second and third Eitel factors favor default judgment where, as in this case, the complaint sufficiently states a plausible claim for relief under the Rule 8 pleading standards. See Id. at 1175; Danning v. Lavine, 572 F.2d 1386, 1388-89 (9th Cir. 1978). Plaintiff alleges that he was a business invitee at the Regency Theater in Yuma on November 21, 2017, that the reclining chair he was sitting in suddenly collapsed causing him personal injuries, and that Regency negligently maintained the chair and thereby breached the duty of care it owed to Plaintiff. Doc. 1-3 at 3-8; see Doc. 34-1 at 6-9. These allegations are sufficient to state a plausible negligence claim under Arizona law. See Quiroz v. ALCOA Inc., 416 P.3d 824, 827-28 (Ariz. 2018) (“To establish a defendant's liability for a negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove: (1) a duty requiring the defendant to conform to a certain standard of care; (2) breach of that standard; (3) a causal connection between the breach and the resulting injury; and (4) actual damages.”) (citing Gipson v. Kasey, 150 P.3d 228, 230 (Ariz. 2007)). The second and third factors favor default judgment.[2]

         C. Amount of Money at Stake.

         Under the fourth Eitel factor, the Court considers the amount of money at stake in relation to the seriousness of the defendant's conduct. Plaintiff seeks nearly $250, 000 in alleged damages for past and future medical care and approximately $500, 000 for pain and suffering. Doc. 34 at 4. Although the Court will not award all of the damages sought by Plaintiff, it appears that his injuries are real and substantial, were caused by Regency's negligent maintenance of the chair in which it knew guests would be sitting, and that the requested damages are not unreasonable. The fourth Eitel factor favors default judgment. See Mayer v. Redix, No. ED CV 12-515-DMG (E), 2014 WL 4258125, at *7 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 26, 2014) (explaining that “[d]efault judgment is disfavored where the sum of money at stake is too large or unreasonable in relation to defendant's conduct.”).

         D. Possible Dispute ...


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