United States District Court, S.D. New York
February 4, 2005.
JOHN HALO, PRO SE Plaintiff,
CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: THEODORE KATZ, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, John Halo, proceeding pro se, brings this action
against the New York City Police Department, various police
officers, and other individuals, claiming, inter alia, that
he was falsely arrested and denied medical care while he was
incarcerated. The action was referred to this Court for general
By Order dated December 8, 2004, the Court (Lynch, J.) granted
various Defendants who were served with process an extension
until January 21, 2005, to respond to the Complaint. An Answer
was not filed on that date. Accordingly, the Clerk has entered
the Defendants' default and Plaintiff has moved for the entry of
a default judgment. Defendants oppose the motion, arguing that
the failure to file their Answer was inadvertent, that they have
meritorious defenses, and that there will be no prejudice to
Plaintiff if their Answer is filed as soon as the Court grants
leave to do so. (See Letter from Leah A. Bynon, Esq., dated
Feb. 1, 2005 ("Bynon Ltr.") at 1-2). For the following reasons,
Defendants' application to file their Answer subsequent to the
required filing date is granted, and Plaintiff's motion for a
default judgment is denied.
The Second Circuit has held that "`strong public policy favors
resolving disputes on [their] merits' and that, `although courts
have an interest in expediting litigation, abuses of process may
be prevented by enforcing those defaults that arise from
egregious or deliberate conduct.'" Pecarsky v. Galaxiworld.com,
Ltd., 249 F.3d 167, 172 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Am. Alliance
Ins. Co. v. Eagle Ins. Co., 92 F.3d 57, 61 (2d Cir. 1996)); see
also id. at 174 ("It is well established that default
judgments are disfavored. A clear preference exists for cases to
be adjudicated on the merits."); Enron Oil Corp. v. Diakuhara,
10 F.3d 90, 96 (2d Cir. 1993) ("[B]ecause defaults are generally
disfavored and are reserved for rare occasions, when doubt exists
as to whether a default should be granted or vacated, the doubt
should be resolved in favor of the defaulting party.").
As provided in Rule 55(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, "[f]or good cause shown the court may set aside an
entry of default." The factors to be considered in determining
whether "good cause" has been shown to relieve a party of its
default are: "whether the default was willful; (2) whether
setting aside the default would]prejudice the adversary; and (3)
whether a meritorious defense is presented." Enron,
10 F.3d at 96; accord
Action S.A. v. Marc Rich & Co., 951 F.2d 504, 507 (2d Cir.
1991); Meehan v. Snow, 652 F.2d 274, 277 (2d Cir. 1981). "Other
relevant equitable factors may also be considered, for instance,
whether the failure to follow a rule of procedure was a mistake
made in good faith and whether the entry of default would bring
about a harsh and unfair result." Enron, 10 F.3d at 96.
Willfulness requires a showing of bad faith or deliberate
default on the part of the defaulting party, and does not
"include careless or negligent errors." Am. Alliance,
92 F.3d at 61. There is no evidence of willfulness in this case.
Defendants' counsel has explained that she inadvertently failed
to file the Answer while under the pressure of a trial date in
another action. Accordingly, this factor weighs in Defendants'
In order to establish a meritorious defense, "[t]he test . . .
is measured not by whether there is a likelihood that [the
defendant] will carry the day, but whether the evidence
submitted, if proven at trial, would constitute a complete
defense." Pecarsky, 249 F.3d at 173 (quoting Enron,
10 F.3d at 98); see also Am. Alliance, 92 F.3d at 61 ("[T]he defense
need not be ultimately persuasive at this stage. A defense is
meritorious if it is good at law so as to give the factfinder
some determination to make.") (internal quotation marks omitted).
Defendants contend that they have meritorious defenses to
Plaintiff's claims, foremost that a complaining witness filed
criminal complaints against Plaintiff,
providing probable cause for his arrest and prosecution.
Finally, Plaintiff has not identified any prejudice as a result
of Defendants' ten-day delay in filing their Answer, and the
Court can perceive none. Pretrial discovery has not yet commenced
and the initial pretrial conference with the Court is scheduled
for February 17, 2005. Moreover, according to Defendants'
counsel, Plaintiff is aware that Defendants' are represented and
intend to defend against his claims, because she and Plaintiff
have had multiple conversations and have discussed the upcoming
conference. (See Bynon Ltr. at 2.)
Because Defendants' default was not willful, meritorious
defenses have been asserted, and no prejudice has resulted, the
Court concludes that Defendants have shown good cause to vacate
their default. It follows that Plaintiff's motion for a default
judgment is denied. The moving Defendants shall file their
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