United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
December 1, 2005.
KENNETH D. MERRITT, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. GILBERT, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for
default judgment as to Defendants William Ribbing, M.D., and
Reimbursement Technologies, Inc., d/b/a Yates Emergency
Physicians (Doc. 41). Plaintiff requests default judgment against
these two defendants and a hearing to determine the proper amount
of damages. For the following reasons, this motion will be
The Clerk of the Court defaulted defendants Ribbing and
Reimbursement on November 16 and 17, respectively, for failure to
plead or otherwise defend in this case. Defendant Union County
Hospital District filed a motion to dismiss this case on July 11,
2005. Defendants Michaelis Jackson, Michaelis Jackson &
Associates, L.L.C., and the United States have all entered their
answers to the complaint. Because these claims are still pending,
any judgment entered by the Court against Defendants Ribbing and
Reimbursement at this time must be pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 54(b), which permits the Court to certify for
appeal a judgment resolving all claims against one party. See
National Metalcrafters, Div. of Keystone Consol. Indus. v.
McNeil, 784 F.2d 817, 821 (7th Cir. 1986). Rule 54(b) states: Judgment Upon Multiple Claims or Involving Multiple
Parties. When more than one claim for relief is
presented in an action, whether as a claim,
counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, or
when multiple parties are involved, the court may
direct the entry of a final judgment as to one or
more but fewer than all of the claims or parties only
upon an express determination that there is no just
reason for delay and upon an express direction for
the entry of judgment. In the absence of such
determination and direction, any order or other form
of decision, however designated, which adjudicates
fewer than all the claims or the rights and
liabilities of fewer than all the parties shall not
terminate the action as to any of the claims or
parties, and the order or other form of decision is
subject to revision at any time before the entry of
judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights
and liabilities of all the parties.
In determining whether to grant judgment under Rule 54(b) the
Court must first determine whether the judgment is final in the
sense that it is "`an ultimate disposition of an individual claim
entered in the course of a multiple claims action.'"
Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 7 (1980)
(quoting Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427, 436
(1956)). Then, the Court must determine whether there is any just
reason for delay, taking into account the interests of judicial
administration and the equities involved. Curtiss-Wright,
446 U.S. at 8; Schieffelin & Co. v. Valley Liquors, Inc.,
823 F.2d 1064, 1065-66 (7th Cir. 1987). In attempting to prevent piecemeal
litigation, the Court should "consider such factors as whether
the claims under review [are] separable from the others remaining
to be adjudicated and whether the nature of the claims already
determined [is] such that no appellate court would have to decide
the same issues more than once even if there were subsequent
appeals." Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 8; see ODC Comm. Corp.
v. Wenruth Investments, 826 F.2d 509, 512 (7th Cir. 1987).
The decision to certify a final judgment as to fewer than all
claims in a case is left to the sound discretion of the district
court. Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 8; Schieffelin,
823 F.2d at 1065. However, district courts are not to utilize Rule 54(b) unless
there is a good reason for doing so. United States v. Ettrick
Wood Prods., Inc., 916 F.2d 1211, 1218 (7th Cir. 1989).
Ordinarily, a default judgment should not be entered against one
defendant until the matter has been resolved as to all
defendants. Home Ins. Co. of Ill. v. Adco Oil Co.,
154 F.3d 739, 741 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Frow v. De La Vega, 82 U.S.
(15 Wall.) 552 (1872)), cert. denied, 526 U.S. 1017 (1999).
A short review of the complaint is necessary to understand why
entry of default judgment at this time would be inappropriate.
According to the complaint, this action arose as a result of an
injury suffered by the Plaintiff on March 22, 2003. Plaintiff
allegedly received negligent care from Jean Charlot, M.D., an
alleged agent of the United States, when he presented himself to
Community Health and Emergency Services, Inc. Dr. Charlot's
alleged negligence is the foundation of Plaintiff's claim against
the United States. At some point later that day, Plaintiff went
to the emergency room at Union County Hospital, owned by the
Union County Hospital District ("UCHD"). Dr. Ribbing, an alleged
agent of both Reimbursement and UCHD, allegedly provided
negligent care to Plaintiff during his visit to the emergency
room. Ribbing's alleged negligence is the foundation for
Plaintiff's claim against UCHD.*fn1 The claims against
Ribbing and UCHD are inextricably intertwined because the
liability of UCHD necessarily depends on the liability of
Ribbing. It is certainly possible that a jury could find for
UCHD, thus, implicitly determining that Ribbing was not
negligent. This possibility of inconsistency counsels against a
judgment of default at this point. See Frow, 82 U.S. 552; see
also In re Uranium Antitrust Litigation, 617 F.2d 1248, 1257
(7th Cir. 1980) (implying that Frow still applies when
different results as to different parties would be logically inconsistent); Gulf Coast Fans, Inc. v.
Midwest Elec. Importers, Inc., 740 F.2d 1499, 1512 (11th Cir.
1984); Farzetta v. Turner & Newall, Ltd., 797 F.2d 151, 154 (3d
Cir. 1986). Because of this possibility of inconsistency the
Court declines to enter default judgment against Ribbing and
Reimbursement at this time. Plaintiff's motion for default
judgment is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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