United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER (1) GRANTING DEFENDANT SUSAN
SAWYER'S MOTION TO SET ASIDE CLERK'S ENTRY OF DEFAULT
(DKT. 32), (2) ACCEPTING IN PART AND REJECTING IN
PART THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION (DKT. 31), AND (3) GRANTING IN PART AND
DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ENTRY OF DEFAULT
JUDGMENT AS TO DEFENDANTS SUSAN SAWYER AND KENNETH HENKE, JR.
A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (“MetLife”)
filed this interpleader action against Defendants after
receiving rival claims for the proceeds of decedent Kenneth
Henke's life insurance policy. See Compl. (Dkt.
1). MetLife received timely answers from Defendants Sheryl
Fisher and Brenda Henke, two of decedent's children, and
Riverside Chapel/Simpson-Modetz Funeral Home, but failed to
receive any responsive pleadings from Defendant Kenneth
Henke, Jr. (“Kenneth”), decedent's son, or
Susan Sawyer, a friend of decedent. MetLife subsequently filed
requests for clerk's entry of default as to Sawyer and
Kenneth (Dkts. 14, 15), which were granted (Dkts. 16, 17).
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, MetLife filed
the instant motion for entry of default judgment as to Sawyer
and Kenneth (Dkt. 23). Sawyer thereafter filed both an answer
to the complaint and a response to the motion (Dkt. 27), to
which MetLife filed a reply (Dkt. 28). The matter was then
referred to Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub for all pretrial
proceedings. See Order of Referral (Dkt. 29).
magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) (Dkt. 31), recommending that
MetLife's motion for default judgment be granted as to
both Sawyer and Kenneth. Sawyer filed an objection to the
magistrate judge's R&R (Dkt. 26), which the Court now
construes as a motion to set aside the clerk's entry of
default. To date, Kenneth has not filed an objection or
motion of any kind. The Court reviews de novo any portion of
the R&R to which specific objections are filed.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). For the reasons discussed below, the
Court accepts the recommendation contained in the R&R as
to Kenneth, and accepts in part and rejects in part the
recommendation as to Sawyer. The Court grants MetLife's
motion for entry of default judgment as to Kenneth, grants in
part and denies in part the motion as to Sawyer, and grants
in part and denies in part Sawyer's motion to set aside
the clerk's entry of default.
to listing her objections, Sawyer makes a request to set
aside the default judgment entered against her, which the
Court now construes as motion to set aside an entry of
default under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(c). See
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (“A
document filed pro se is to be liberally construed.”)
(internal citation and quotations omitted). Rule 55(c) states
that “[t]he court may set aside an entry of default for
good cause.” “In determining whether good cause
exists, the district court must consider: (1) [w]hether
culpable conduct of the defendant led to the default, (2)
[w]hether the defendant has a meritorious defense, and (3)
[w]hether the plaintiff will be prejudiced.” United
States v. $22, 050.00 U.S. Currency, 595 F.3d 318, 324
(6th Cir. 2010) (internal citation and quotations omitted).
“In general, our cases discussing motions to set aside
default under Rule 55(c) are extremely forgiving to the
defaulted party and favor a policy of resolving cases on the
merits instead of on the basis of procedural missteps.”
Id. at 322.
with Sawyer's conduct, “[t]o be treated as
culpable, the conduct of a defendant must display either an
intent to thwart judicial proceedings or a reckless disregard
for the effect of its conduct on those proceedings.”
Dassault Systemes, SA v. Childress, 663 F.3d 832,
841 (6th Cir. 2011). There is no indication that Sawyer
intended to thwart these proceedings. However, her conduct
can fairly be described as reckless. It is undisputed that
she was served with summons, and notified twice by MetLife of
the consequences of failing to respond. While Sawyer now
states that her failure to respond was attributable to health
issues, see Objs. at PageID.174, there is no
indication that these issues rendered her completely unable
to notify MetLife or this Court of her condition, seek an
extension to answer, or file some paper to show her interest
in participating in this action.
next factor, whether Sawyer has a meritorious defense, weighs
in her favor. As the designated beneficiary on the
decedent's policy, Sawyer appears to have a legitimate
claim to the proceeds.
final factor, prejudice to MetLife, weighs in favor of
MetLife. On October 26, 2017, this Court entered an
authorizing the deposit of life insurance benefits into the
Court. See 10/26/2017 Order (Dkt. 26). In the order,
the Court released MetLife, the General Motors Life and
Disability Benefits Program (“the Plan”), and
General Motors from all liability with respect to payment of
the insurance proceeds, and restrained Defendants from
instituting any action to recover the proceeds. Id.
at 3-4. In its motion for default judgment, MetLife now
requests that the Court enter an order releasing it from
liability as to Sawyer and restraining her from bringing any
action to recover the insurance proceeds. Failure to
discharge MetLife, the Plan, and General Motors from
liability as to Sawyer and restrain her from bringing suit at
this late stage would certainly prejudice those companies.
Furthermore, there is no benefit to Sawyer to remain free to
sue the companies, given that her only legitimate interest is
in the proceeds of the policy.
the Court grants in part and denies in part Sawyer's
motion to set aside the entry of default. To avoid any
prejudice to MetLife, the Plan, and General Motors, the
motion is denied to the extent Sawyer seeks to maintain any
future claim against the companies. However, Sawyer is
permitted to remain a party to this action in order to assert
her rival claim to the proceeds against Fisher, Brenda Henke,
and Riverside Chapel/Simpson-Modetz Funeral Home.
noted, Kenneth has filed to file any objection to the
R&R, and has not moved to set aside the clerk's entry
of default. The failure to file a timely objection to an
R&R constitutes a waiver of the right to further judicial
review. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985)
(“It does not appear that Congress intended to require
district court review of a magistrate's factual or legal
conclusions, under a de novo or any other standard,
when neither party objects to those findings.”);
Cephas v. Nash, 328 F.3d 98, 1078 (2d Cir. 2003)
(“As a rule, a party's failure to object to any
purported error or omission in a magistrate judge's
report waives further judicial review of the point.”);
Smith v. Detroit Fed'n of Teachers, 829 F.2d
1370, 1373-1374 (6th Cir. 1987) (failure to file objection to
R&R “waived subsequent review of the
matter”); Lardie v. Birkett, 221 F.Supp.2d
806, 807 (E.D. Mich. 2002) (“As to the parts of the
report and recommendation to which no party has objected, the
Court need not conduct a review by any standard.”).
There is some authority that a district court is required to
review the R&R for clear error. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
72 Advisory Committee Note Subdivision (b) (“When no
timely objection is filed, the court need only satisfy itself
that there is no clear error on the face of the record in
order to accept the recommendation.”). Therefore, the
Court has reviewed the R&R for clear error as to Kenneth.
On the face of the record, the Court finds no clear error and
adopts the recommendation.
foregoing reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in
part Sawyer's motion to set aside clerk's entry of
default (Dkt. 32), accepts in part and rejects in part the
magistrate judge's R&R (Dkt. 31), and grants
MetLife's motion for entry of default judgment as Kenneth
Henke, Jr., and grants in part and denies in part the motion
as to Sawyer (Dkt. 23).
case remains referred to the magistrate judge, who should set
a schedule for future proceedings, including ...