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Holmes v. Delaware Department of Correction

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

July 9, 2015

MARVIN HOLMES Plaintiff,
v.
DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, Defendant.

Submitted: April 30, 2015

Upon Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment DENIED

Marvin Holmes, Pro Se.

Ophelia Waters, Esquire, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

HONORABLE MARY M. JOHNSTON JUDGE

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL CONTEXT

On July 31, 2012, Plaintiff Marvin Holmes was arrested for violating the terms of his probation. On August 9, 2012, Holmes was sentenced to Level IV Plummer Center, followed by a period of Level III probation. In September 2012, Holmes informed a nurse at the Plummer Center that he had a blood disorder and requested that his blood be drawn. The nurse refused Holmes' request because he was not displaying any symptoms and there was no indication of a blood disorder in his medical file.

On February 25, 2013, Holmes was arrested again for violating the terms of his probation. Holmes was held without bail at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution ("HRYCI") until the violation hearing. On February 26, 2013, Holmes informed the medical staff at HRYCI that he had a blood disorder. The nurse refused to draw his blood because she did not have the authorization to do so and there was no note in his file mentioning a blood disorder. On June 19, 2014, while still incarcerated at HRYCI, Holmes collapsed and lost consciousness. He was taken to St. Francis Hospital, where he received blood transfusions. Holmes was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma Cancer.

On September 10, 2014, Holmes filed a Complaint against Delaware Department of Correction ("DOC"). Holmes claims that DOC's failure to draw his blood resulted in his blood disorder being left untreated and progressing to stage three Multiple Myeloma Cancer. The Attorney General's Office was served with the Complaint on September 24, 2014. DOC was served with the Complaint on September 25, 2014.

On March 25, 2015, Holmes filed a Motion for Default Judgment. Holmes asserted that DOC was served in September 2014 and failed to file an answer within the twenty-day time period. On April 8, 2015, the Court sent a letter to the State, requiring it to file a response to the Complaint. On April 30, 2015, the State filed DOC Opposition to Entry of Default Judgment, claiming that the Motion for Default Judgment should be denied because the State had filed a Motion to Dismiss in Holmes v. Prothonotary, Superior Court, N.C. C. ("Prothonotary Case").[1] The State argues that the Prothonotary Case and this case allege the same operative facts and injury, such that the State's Motion to Dismiss filed in the Prothonotary Case relieves the State from the entry of default judgment in this case. Further, the State argues that Holmes' claim against DOC is barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Default Judgment

Superior Court Rule Civil 55(b) provides in pertinent part: "[W]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought, has failed to appear, plead or otherwise defend as provided by these Rules, and that fact is made to appear, judgment by default may be entered . . . ."[2] In analyzing Rule 55(b), this Court has held that "[t]here is no hard and fast rule that the filing of an entry of appearance or an untimely answer renders default judgment unavailable."[3] After an entry of appearance or an untimely answer is filed, a motion for default judgment still may be granted in the Court's discretion.[4] However, the preference ...


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