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Szatkowski v. Maxwell's Bar and Grill/Rid Enterprises

May 19, 2006

RENEE SZATKOWSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MAXWELL'S BAR AND GRILL/RID ENTERPRISES AND MARC DROUIN, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

By complaint filed with this Court on January 5, 2004, plaintiff commenced an action against defendants, Maxwell's Bar and Grill/RID Enterprises, and Marc Drouin, individually, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et. seq., as amended, and the New York States Human Rights Law, Executive Law § 290, et. seq. alleging in four causes of action that she was intentionally discriminated against based upon her gender. Neither defendant appeared and on March 11, 2004, the Clerk of the Court entered a default against both. By notice of motion filed on December 1, 2004, plaintiff sought the following relief: correction of the caption of the summons and complaint, to read Marc Drouin instead of Mark Drouin; entry of a default judgment against defendants, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) (2), and a hearing to determine the proper amount of damages to which she is entitled.

DISCUSSION

Correction of Caption

The Court grants the application and the caption of the summons and complaint is amended to read Marc Drouin instead of Mark Drouin.

Default Judgment and Inquest on Damages

On February 14, 2005, an inquest was held to allow the Court to determine the amount of damages to which plaintiff was entitled upon entry of a default judgment. One witness, plaintiff, Renee Szatkowski, testified at the inquest.

1. Standards of Law

a. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2)

Rule 55(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that, in order to determine the amount of damages in the context of a default judgment, the court may conduct a hearing. It is, of course, well settled that a court, in lieu of a hearing, may rely on detailed affidavits and documentary evidence, along with its own personal knowledge of the record. Transatlantic Marine Claims Agency, Inc. v. Ace Shipping Corp., Div. of Ace Young Inc., 109 F.3d 105, 111 (2d Cir.1997). Whether or not an evidentiary hearing is held, a court may not merely accept a plaintiff's statement as to damages. Rather, a court must take the necessary steps to establish damages with reasonable certainty. Id. That is, while a defaulting party's liability is deemed established and such party loses his defenses against a claim, plaintiff is nonetheless required to introduce evidence to prove the extent of his or her damages. Bambu Sales, Inc. v. Ozak Trading Inc., 58 F.3d 849, 854 (2d Cir.1995). Of course, Rule 54(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a "judgment by default shall not be different in kind from or exceed in amount that prayed for in the demand for judgment." In other words, it would be fundamentally unfair to have the complaint lead defendant to believe that only a certain type and dimension of relief was being sought and then, should defendant attempt to limit the scope and size of the potential judgment by not appearing or otherwise defaulting, allow the court to give a different type of relief or a larger damage award.

Pacific Westeel, Inc. v. D & R Installation, No. 01 Civ. 0293 (RLC) (AJP), 2003 WL 22359512, *2, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18436, *6-7, (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 17, 2003)

2. Findings of Fact

At the outset, the Court notes that each of plaintiff's four causes of action seeks the following: that plaintiff be awarded general and compensatory damages, including pre-judgment interest, in an amount according to proof at trial; that plaintiff be awarded punitive damages in an amount according to proof at ...


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