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Sibley v. Choice Hotels International, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 7, 2015

TRECIA LORELLE SIBLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL, INC.; RATAN GROUP HOTEL LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY d/b/a RODEWAY INN, RODEWAY INN LONG ISLAND, RODEWAY INN HUNTINGTON STATION, and/or HUNTINGTON COUNTRY INN; XYZ CORPORATIONS 1-50; MAHESH RATANJI a/k/a MAHESH M. RATANJI a/k/a MAHESHCHAND M. RATANJI; KHOZEM KHARAWALLA; and/or JANE AND JOHN DOES 1-10, individually and as owner, officer, director, shareholder, founder, manager, agent, servant, employee, representative, and/or independent contractor of RATAN GROUP HOTEL LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY d/b/a RODEWAY INN, RODEWAY INN LONG ISLAND, RODEWAY INN HUNTINGTON STATION, HUNTINGTON COUNTRY INN, and/or XYZ CORPORATIONS 1-50, Defendants.

Brian L. Ponder, Esq. Brian Ponder LLP, New York, NY., For Plaintiff.

Jennifer Anne Casey, Esq., Ahmuty, Demers & McManus, Albertson, NY., For Defendants, Choice Hotels.

Patrick W. McGovern, Esq., Genova Burns & Giantomasi, Newark, NJ., Ratan Group Ratanji & Kharawalla.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

JOANNA SEYBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Trecia Lorelle Sibley ("Plaintiff") brings this personal injury action against Defendants Choice Hotels International, Inc. ("Choice Hotels"), Ratan Group Hotel Limited Liability Company (the "Ratan Group"), Mahesh M. Ratanji ("Ratanji"), and Khozem Kharawalla ("Kharawalla, " and together with the Ratan Group and Ratanji, the "Ratan Defendants"). Presently before the Court are: (1) Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay's Report and Recommendation ("R&R") recommending that the undersigned deny Plaintiff's pending motion for default judgment against the Ratan Defendants and grant the Ratan Defendants' pending motion to vacate their default (Docket Entry 42); and (2) Plaintiff's motion to strike Choice Hotel's affirmative defenses and various paragraphs of Choice Hotel's Amended Answer that assert lack of knowledge or information (Docket Entry 17). For the following reasons, the Court ADOPTS Judge Lindsay's R&R over Plaintiff's objections, and Plaintiff's motion to strike is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced this diversity action on January 29, 2014, alleging that she sustained injuries when she was bitten by bed bugs at Defendants' hotel in Huntington Station, New York. (See generally Compl.) Plaintiff served the Ratan Defendants with Summonses and the Complaint on February 4, 2014, (see Docket Entries 10-3, 10-4, 10-5), but the Ratan Defendants failed to answer or otherwise respond to the Complaint within the time allotted. On March 4, 2014, Plaintiff requested that the Clerk of the Court certify the Ratan Defendants' default. (Docket Entry 10.) The Clerk entered the Ratan Defendants' default that same day. (Docket Entry 11.)

On March 6, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment against the Ratan Defendants. (Docket Entry 20.) The Ratan Defendants subsequently appeared in this action and, on March 14, 2014, filed a motion to vacate the Clerk's entry of default. (Docket Entry 24.) On March 19, 2014, the undersigned referred Plaintiff's motion for default judgment and the Ratan Defendants' motion to vacate to Judge Lindsay for a report and recommendation. (Docket Entry 32.) Judge Lindsay issued her R&R on November 6, 2014. (Docket Entry 42.) The R&R recommends that the undersigned grant the Ratan Defendants' motion to vacate and deny Plaintiff's motion for default judgment. On November 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed objections to Judge Lindsay's R&R. (Docket Entry 43.)

Unlike the Ratan Defendants, Choice Hotels filed a timely Answer to the Complaint on February 20, 2014 (Docket Entry 4), to which the Ratan Defendants filed a motion to strike (Docket 7). Choice Hotels subsequently filed an Amended Answer, which appears to be identical to the original Answer, except that the Amended Answer adds a sixth affirmative defense.[1] (Docket Entry 15.) On March 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed a new motion to strike Choice Hotel's affirmative defenses and various paragraphs of the Amended Answer. (Docket Entry 17.) Plaintiff's motion to strike, Judge Lindsay's R&R, and the motions for default judgment and to vacate the Clerk's entry of default are currently pending.[2]

DISCUSSION

The Court will first address Judge Lindsay's R&R and the pending motions for default judgment and to vacate the Clerk's entry of default before turning to Plaintiff's motion to strike.

I. Objections to Judge Lindsay's R&R

The Court will first set forth the applicable legal standard for evaluating a report and recommendation before turning to Plaintiff's objections specifically.

A. Legal Standard

"When evaluating the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge, the district court may adopt those portions of the report to which no objections have been made and which are not facially erroneous." Walker v. Vaughan, 216 F.Supp.2d 290, 291 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) (citation omitted). A party may serve and file specific, written objections to a magistrate's report and recommendation within fourteen days of receiving the recommended disposition. See FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b)(2). Upon receiving any timely objections to the magistrate's recommendation, the district "court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1)(C); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b)(3). A party that objects to a report and recommendation must point out the specific portions of the report and recommendation to which they object. See Barratt v. Joie, No. 96-CV-0324, 2002 WL 335014, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 2002) (citations omitted).

When a party raises an objection to a magistrate judge's report, the Court must conduct a de novo review of any contested sections of the report. See Pizarro v. Bartlett, 776 F.Supp. 815, 817 (S.D.N.Y. 1991). But if a party "makes only conclusory or general objections, or simply reiterates his original arguments, the Court reviews the Report and Recommendation only for clear error." Pall Corp. v. Entegris, Inc., 249 F.R.D. 48, 51 (E.D.N.Y. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Furthermore, even in a de novo review of a party's specific objections, the Court ordinarily will not consider "arguments, case law and/or evidentiary material which could have been, but [were] not, ...


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