United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO SET ASIDE
CLERK'S ENTRY OF DEFAULT AND DISMISS CASE (DKT. 17) AND
DENYING, AS MOOT, PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
TERRENCE G. BERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case concerns a mechanic's lien that had been placed
against the title to an aircraft in Florida. Plaintiff
N314MG, LLC is a Michigan limited liability company and the
registered owner of a 1978 Cessna 340A airplane (the
“Plane”) (Dkt. 1 ¶ 1, Compl.). According to
the Federal Aviation Administration, Plaintiff resides in Au
Gres, Michigan, Arenac County.
Benjamin and Lisa Kitchens are husband and wife. Benjamin
Kitchens is an aircraft mechanic from Florida, conducting
business as “CPR Aviation Window Repairs” (Dkt.
1, Ex. 1, Florida Fictitious Name Registration, Pg IDs 9-11).
It is not entirely clear why Defendant Lisa Kitchens has been
named as a Defendant in this lawsuit. Defendant Benjamin
Kitchens claims that he performed $41, 245.94 in repair work
in Florida on the Plane when it was owned by a previous owner
- Tilgent Marine, LLC, a Florida limited liability
company. Defendant Benjamin Kitchens claims that he
was never paid for this work, so he filed a lien on the title
of the Plane in Florida (Dkt. 1, Ex. 2, Lien, Pg ID 13-15).
September 28, 2017, Plaintiff sued Defendants in this Court
to discharge the lien from the Plane, and for money damages
for slander of title (Dkt. 1). Before that happened, however,
Defendant Benjamin Kitchens sued Plaintiff in the
Pinellas County Circuit Court in Florida (No. 17-005666-CI).
The Florida lawsuit was filed on September 15, 2018, and
sought to foreclose (i.e., enforce) the lien on the Plane.
The named defendants in the Florida state lawsuit included
Plaintiff, Tilgent Marine, LLC, and the Plane. That litigation
is ongoing (Dkt. 20).
to the procedural complexity of this case, Defendants filed
for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in the Middle District of Florida on
December 8, 2017. Plaintiff in this case sought leave from
the Bankruptcy Court in Florida to lift the automatic stay.
On February 13, 2018, the Bankruptcy Court granted
Plaintiff's motion, but only permitted Plaintiff to
attempt to clear the lien from the Plane, and barred
Plaintiff's claim for money damages against Defendants
(Dkt. 9, Pg IDs 50-51). Thus, this litigation was back on
track, but Defendants never filed a responsive pleading to
the Complaint. Accordingly, Plaintiff filed requests for
clerk's entry of default against Defendants on February
21, 2018 (eight days after the Bankruptcy Court lifted the
stay) (Dkt. 11), which the clerk promptly granted (Dkts. 12,
the Court are Plaintiff's motion for entry of a default
judgment against Defendants (Dkt. 14) and Defendants'
motion to vacate the clerk's entry of default and motion
to dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,
lack of personal jurisdiction, and Colorado River
abstention (Dkt. 17). The Court has concluded that oral
argument would not be beneficial to the resolution of either
of the pending motions. Accordingly, both motions will be
decided solely on the basis of the parties' written
submissions. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f).
reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss
(Dkt. 17) will be GRANTED, and
Plaintiff's motion for default judgment will be
DENIED AS MOOT. Consequently, this case will
be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
noted above, Defendants raise three challenges to this
Court's ability to preside over this case - (1) lack of
subject matter jurisdiction; (2) lack of personal
jurisdiction; and (3) that Colorado River abstention
bars Plaintiff's claims. The Court finds Defendant's
second and third arguments are well-taken, and will dismiss
the case on those grounds. As such, the Court does not
consider the merits of Defendants' subject matter
jurisdiction over a defendant is a threshold issue that must
be present to support any subsequent order of the district
court, including entry of a default judgment. See Kroger
Co. v. Malease Foods Corp., 437 F.3d 506, 510 (6th Cir.
2006). Subject matter jurisdiction in this case is based upon
diversity. To determine whether personal jurisdiction exists
over an out-of-state defendant, the court must find: (1)
whether the forum state's long-arm statute authorizes
jurisdiction; and (2) if so, whether exercising that
jurisdiction comports with constitutional due process.
See Air Products & Controls, Inc. v. Safetech Int'l,
Inc., 503 F.3d 544, 550 (6th Cir. 2007).
relevant question under the Due Process Clause is whether the
nonresident defendant possessed such “minimum
contacts” with the forum state that exercising
jurisdiction would comport with “traditional notions of
fair play and substantial justice.” SFS Check, LLC
v. First Bank of Delaware, 774 F.3d 351, 356
(6th Cir. 2014) (internal quotations omitted). The Sixth
Circuit has its own three-pronged test for assessing the
existence of “minimum contacts”:
First, the defendant must purposefully avail himself of the
privilege of acting in the forum state or causing a
consequence in the forum state. Second, the cause of action
must arise from the defendant's activities there.
Finally, the acts of the defendant or consequences caused by
the defendant must have a substantial enough connection with
the forum state to make the exercise of jurisdiction over the
defendant reasonable. Id.
survive a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), a plaintiff must prove that
jurisdiction is proper over each defendant
individually.” Id. In deciding such a motion,
a court may decide the motion “on the basis of
affidavits alone; or it may permit discovery in aid of the
motion; or it may conduct an evidentiary hearing on the
merits of the motion.” Serras v. First Tenn., Bank
Nat'l Ass'n, 875 F.2d 1212, 1214 (6th Cir. 1989)
(internal quotation marks omitted). Here, no party has
requested further discovery or an evidentiary hearing, and