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McFarland v. Crownline Boats

March 15, 2010

LONNIE MCFARLAND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CROWNLINE BOATS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Reagan, District Judge

A. Introduction and Procedural Overview

In June 2009, Lonnie McFarland filed suit in this United States District Court against his former employer, Crownline Boats, Inc. ("Crownline"). McFarland alleged that Crownline subjected him to discriminatory treatment and terminated his employment based on his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., as amended. Personal service was made on Crownline's registered agent in July 2009, and proof of service was filed with this Court. On December 17, 2009, McFarland obtained a clerk's entry of default (Doc. 16). McFarland then moved for default judgment against Crownline (Doc. 17).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) governs default judgments which are not based on a claim for a sum certain. Assuming the defendant is not a minor or an incompetent person, Rule 55(b)(2) provides that after the plaintiff applies for default judgment, the Court may hold a hearing to (A) conduct an accounting, (B) determine the amount of damages, (C) establish the truth of any allegation by evidence, or (D) investigate any other matter.

In the instant case, on January 6, 2010, the Court scheduled a hearing to establish the truth of the complaint allegations and to determine the amount of damages, if any, due McFarland. Defendant Crownline had not appeared, so Rule 55 did not require Plaintiff to serve written notice prior to the hearing. In an abundance of caution, however, the Court directed McFarland's counsel to do so and to file proof of that service with the Court. McFarland's counsel timely complied with the Court's directives.

On February 5, 2010, the undersigned Judge conducted an evidentiary hearing on the motion for default judgment. Defendant Crownline did not appear. Plaintiff McFarland appeared and testified, along with his wife. Plaintiff's counsel presented argument at the close of the evidence.

Having reviewed the pleadings, carefully considered the testimonial and documentary evidence, and heard the arguments of counsel, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion for default judgment (see Doc. 21), thereby establishing liability against Crownline, and took under advisement the issue of damages. The Court now resolves that issue, FINDING and CONCLUDING as follows, beginning with a preliminary note as to the relief sought by McFarland.

The prayer for relief in McFarland's complaint includes an award of compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial, an award of punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, reasonable attorney's fees and costs, an injunction prohibiting further acts of discrimination, and an Order placing McFarland "into the position he would have held if there had been no discrimination" (Doc. 2, p. 3).

At the February evidentiary hearing, the request for an injunction was dropped. Additionally, when directly queried as to what forms of relief were being pursued, counsel clarified that McFarland was "waiving" his claim to be returned to his job or restored to the position he held prior to termination from Crownline -- in part because Crownline apparently is in receivership and/or largely insolvent,*fn1 and in part because McFarland had secured a new job in the interim. So McFarland seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

B. Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

1. This Court enjoys subject matter jurisdiction over this action under the federal question statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue lies in this District as well.

2. At all times relevant to this action, Crownline was an employer within the meaning of (and covered by) the ADEA.

3. Lonnie McFarland worked for Crownline's facility in Franklin County, Illinois (within this Judicial District) from 1993 ...


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