United States District Court, D. Delaware
LEONARD K STARK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Wilmington this 28th day of November, 2017, having considered
Defendants Darren Tillison and Tyra Tillison's
("Defendants") (i) Motion To Be Relieved from
Judgment and Stay of Execution (D.I. 50) ("Rule 60(b)
Motion") and (ii) Request for Continuance (D.I. 54)
("Stay Motion"), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that
Defendants' (i) Rule 60(b) Motion (D.I. 50) is DENIED and
Defendants' (ii) Stay Motion (D.I. 54) is DENIED WITHOUT
August 30, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion for
entry of default judgment against Defendants in their
individual capacities and against Weinstein, Weinburg &
Fox, LLC, a corporate entity related to Defendants.
(See D.I. 49) Defendants now seek relief from that
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60.
(See D.I. 50) Defendants' motion does not
indicate the subsection of Rule 60(b) under which they
proceed. (See D.I. 50) In it, Defendants assert that
their lack of procedural understanding led them to
"inadvertently and mistakenly" fail to answer the
complaint. (See D.I. 50 ¶¶ 4-7) The Court
presumes, then, that Defendants rely upon Rule 60(b)(1),
contending that the default judgment should be set aside due
to Defendants' mistake or inadvertence. Plaintiffs have
not filed a response.
motion for reconsideration filed pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 60(b) "allows a party to seek relief
from a final judgment, and request reopening of his [or her]
case, under a limited set of circumstances including fraud,
mistake, and newly discovered evidence." Gonzalez v.
Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 528 (2005). More specifically,
Rule 60(b) allows a party to move for relief from a final
judgment based on:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable
diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for
a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously
called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or
misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is. void;
(5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged;
it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or
vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable;
or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.
motion filed under Rule 60(b) must be made within a
reasonable time and, for motions under Rules 60(b)(1)-(3),
must be filed no more than one year after entry of the
pertinent judgment or order or the date of the proceeding.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(1).
for relief from judgment are left to the sound discretion of
the trial court, guided by accepted legal principles applied
in light of all relevant circumstances. See Pierce
Assocs. Inc. v. Nemours Found., 865 F.2d 530, 548 (3d
Cir. 1988). When exercising its discretion to decide a Rule
60(b)(1) motion, district courts must consider: (1) the
prejudice to the plaintiff in setting aside the default
judgment; (2) whether the defendant has a meritorious
defense; (3) the culpability of the defendant's conduct;
and (4) "the effectiveness of alternative
sanctions." Mrs. Ressler's Food Prods, v. KZY
Logistics LLC, 675 Fed.Appx. 136, 139-40 (3d Cir. 2017);
see also United States v. $55, 518.05 in U.S.
Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 194-95 (3d Cir.
first factor, whether Plaintiffs would be prejudiced by
lifting the default judgment, weighs slightly in
Defendants' favor. Prejudice can be proven by showing a
"loss of available evidence, increased potential for
fraud or collusion, or substantial reliance upon the
judgment." Feliciano v. Reliant Tooling Co.,
691 F.2d 653, 657 (3d Cir. 1982). Given the Third
Circuit's strong preference for deciding cases on the
merits, "[d]elay in realizing satisfaction on a
claim" is rarely sufficient to justify denying a motion
to "open a default judgment entered at an early stage
of the proceedings." Id. at 656-57; see
also $55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d at 194-95.
However, an unreasonable delay can rise to the level of
prejudice required for this factor to favor the non-moving
party. See Girafa.com v. Smartdevil, Inc.,
728 F.Supp.2d 537, 545 (D. Del. 2010) (warning if
defendant's inability to secure counsel "persist[ed]
unreasonably, " court's prejudice analysis would
now been over three years since Plaintiffs filed their
Complaint. (See D.I. 1) Notably, the Complaint was
filed against multiple defendants. (See D.I. 1)
During the three years that Plaintiffs have been waiting for
Defendants to file an answer, Plaintiffs - along with the
other defendant in the case - submitted a proposed scheduling
order to the Court (D.I. 30, 31), engaged in discovery (D.I.
33, 36, 39), and participated in a mediation that resulted in
a stipulated dismissal of Defendants' now-former
co-defendant (D.I. 37, 45). At the same time, Plaintiffs have
consistently attempted to move forward in their case against
Defendants and secure a judgment in their favor. (See,
e.g., D.I. 19, 20, 42, 44, 47) Thus, while
Defendants' failure to file an answer has stalled this
case procedurally, lifting the default judgment can no longer
come at an "early stage in the proceedings."
Feliciano, 691 F.2d at 657.
further delay to Plaintiffs realizing satisfaction on their
claim pushes the bounds of sufficient prejudice to weigh
against lifting the default judgment. See
Girafa.com., 728 F.Supp.2d at 545. On the other hand,
the record is devoid of any argument from Plaintiffs that
they would be prejudiced (e.g., due to lost evidence, a
time-barred claim, or otherwise) if the judgment were set
aside. Ultimately, given the preference for resolution on the
merits, this factor weighs slightly in favor of granting
second factor, whether Defendants have a meritorious defense,
does not favor either side. Whether the defendant has a
meritorious defense is the "threshold" question in
deciding whether to open a default judgment. See Hritz v.
Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1181 (3d Cir. 1984). This is
because "without a meritorious defense [defendant] could
not win at trial, " and "[t]herefore, there would
be no point in setting aside the default judgment."
$55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d at 195. To
prove a meritorious defense exists, a defendant must allege
specific facts that, "if established at trial, would
constitute a complete defense." Id.
have not filed an answer to the Complaint, nor have they
attached a proposed answer to their Rule 60(b) motion.
See generally Marks & Sokolov, LLC v.
Mireskandari, 2015 WL 1133788, at *7 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 11,
2015), affdsub nom. Marks Law Offices, LLC v.
Mireskandari, 2017 WL 3575237 (3d Cir. Aug. 18, 2017)
(looking disfavorably upon defendants' failure to attach
proposed answer to Rule 60(b)(1) motion when analyzing this
second factor). Defendants' motion does not indicate what
defense Defendants intend to put forth if the Court grants
their motion. (See D.I. 50) Defendants' only
assertion is that a genuine factual dispute exists regarding
their liability as individuals with respect to the actions of
their company, the former defendant. (See D.I. 50
¶ 9) Thus, the Court cannot conclude that Defendants
have a litigable defense. See $55, 518.05 in U.S.
Currency, 728 F.2d at 195 (requiring specific factual
allegations). Accordingly, the second factor is, at best,
inconclusive. See Hill v. Williamsport Police Dep
't, 69 Fed.Appx. 49, 52 (3d Cir. 2003) (finding
second factor inconclusive due to defendants' failure to
Turning to the third factor, Defendants' conduct has
reached a level of culpability weighing in favor of denying
Defendants' motion. When considering the culpability of a
defendant's conduct, a "willfulness" or
"bad faith" standard applies. See Hritz,
732 F.2d at 1182. "Willfulness" or "bad
faith" requires "more than mere negligence"
but less than "'knowing' disregard."
Id. at 1183. "Reckless disregard for repeated
communications from plaintiffs and the court, combined with
the failure to investigate the source of a serious injury,
can satisfy the culpable conduct standard." Id.
continue to assert that they are "attempting to
acclimate" to the procedures necessary to defend
themselves (D.I. 50 ¶ 4), and the Court appreciates that
Defendants are proceeding pro se. However, as the
Court explained in its August 30, 2017 Order, Defendants have
never provided the Court with an "explanation for why
they have not filed an answer or what efforts Defendants have
undertaken in the interim years to prepare to defend
themselves in this case." (D.I. 49 ¶ 6)
Defendants' present motion is no different. Indeed,
Defendants press -verbatim - the same arguments they
presented to the ...