United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
HONORABLE SEAN F. COX JUDGE.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO ENTER A DEFAULT JUDGMENT
AGAINST DEFENDANT BYRON TAULTON
ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
se plaintiff Steve Smith brought this 42 U.S.C. §
1983 prisoner civil rights case in June 2017 alleging a
violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. [ECF No. 1]. The
Honorable Sean F. Cox referred the case to the undersigned to
resolve all pretrial matters under 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A) and (B). [ECF No. 7]. Defendant Byron Taulton
was served on June 28, 2018, [ECF No. 17], and twice ordered
to file an answer or other responsive pleading. [ECF Nos. 19,
22]. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2) (“The
court may require any defendant to reply to a complaint
brought under this section if it finds that the plaintiff has
a reasonable opportunity to prevail on the merits.”).
The orders warned Taulton that a failure to respond could
result in a default judgment against him. [ECF Nos. 19, 22].
The deadlines given to Taulton have expired, and he has not
responded to the complaint. The Court thus recommends that a
default judgment be entered against him in an amount to be
determined by Judge Cox.
Dell, Inc. v. Advicon Computer Servs., Inc., the
court noted that, although no rule or statute authorizes
entry of default judgment for failure to obey court orders in
general, a court has the inherent authority to do so. No.
06-11224, 2007 WL 2021842, at *5 (E.D. Mich. July 12, 2007)
(Lawson, J.). The Dell court cited several examples:
See In re Sunshine Jr. Stores, Inc., 456 F.3d 1291,
1304-06 (11th Cir. 2006) (upholding entry of default judgment
as proper use of court's inherent authority where party
failed to respond to court orders, failed to appear before
the court, and failed to engage in court-ordered discovery);
Thomas, Head, & Griesen Employees Trust v.
Buster, 95 F.3d 1449, 1457-59 (9th Cir. 1996) (upholding
entry of default judgment based on inherent authority where
party completely ignored the terms of an injunctive order and
other court orders); Shepherd v. American Broadcasting
Cos., Inc., 62 F.3d 1469, 1472 (D.C. Cir. 1995)
(‘As old as the judiciary itself, the inherent power
enables courts to protect their institutional integrity and
to guard against abuses of the judicial process with contempt
citations, fines, awards of attorneys' fees, and such
other orders and sanctions as they find necessary, including
even dismissals and default judgments.'); see also
Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 47-50, 111 S.Ct.
2123, 115 L.Ed.2d 27 (1991) (discussing the broad scope of a
court's inherent authority).
Id. With no Sixth Circuit authority establishing the
appropriate circumstances for entering a default judgment for
failure to abide by court orders, the Dell court
relied on the Sixth Circuit test for entering a default
judgment as a discovery sanction:
(1) whether the conduct at issue was the result of
willfulness, bad faith, or fault; (2) whether the adversary
was prejudiced by the disobedient party's conduct; (3)
whether the disobedient party was warned that failure to
cooperate could lead to default judgment; and (4) whether
less drastic sanctions were imposed or considered before
entry of default judgment.
Id., (citing Bank One of Cleveland, N.A. v.
Abbe, 916 F.2d 1067, 1073 (6th Cir. 1990)).
United States v. Griffin, the court relied on
Dell to recommend a default judgment against the
defendant. No. 12-13927, 2013 WL 1843779 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 20,
2013), adopted, 2013 WL 1831323 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 30,
2013). The defendant in Griffin had failed to
respond to a motion for summary judgment despite being
ordered to do so and warned about possible sanctions,
including a grant of summary judgment in the plaintiff's
favor. Id. at *1. The defendant failed to respond to
both the motion for summary judgment and a show cause order.
the four factors, the Griffin court found that the
defendant's failures were her fault and emphasized that
“the Court does not expect plaintiff to either wait
indefinitely or continue to incur litigation expenses when it
is clear that defendant has abandoned all defense of this
matter.” Id. at *2. The Griffin court
also saw “no utility in considering or imposing lesser
sanctions” since the defendant had not filed responses
as ordered, including her failure to respond to the show
cause order. Id. The court thus recommended that a
default judgment be entered in an amount to be determined by
the district court, and that all pending motions be
terminated as moot. Id.
of the four factors outlined in Dell to this case
renders the same recommendation as in Griffin.
Taulton failed to respond to the complaint despite being
ordered to do so in October 2018 and again in April 2019, and
despite being warned that his failure to do so could result
in a default judgment. Taulton's failure to respond to
this Court's orders results from willfulness, bad faith
or, at the very least, his fault. Taulton's failure to
engage in this litigation has also prejudiced Smith because
the matter has now been pending for over a year without
progressing beyond the point of service. Smith's
injuries, to the extent that they are actionable, remain
unremedied. Smith should not be expected to wait indefinitely
until Taulton is somehow compelled to participate in this
litigation. Finally, like the court in Griffin, this
Court sees no utility in considering or imposing lesser
sanctions given Taulton's complete failure to respond as
directed to previous orders. Thus, all the factors outlined
in Dell weigh in favor of entering a default
judgment against Taulton.