United States District Court, D. Nebraska
RONDA L. MARSH, Plaintiff,
LOUIS P. CAMPANA, JR., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. Gerrard United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on the plaintiffs motion for
default judgment (filing 22). The Court will hold the
plaintiffs motion in abeyance for a hearing on damages,
pending disposition of the plaintiffs appeal with respect to
her claims against the other defendants.
default judgment is entered, facts alleged in the complaint-
except as to damages-may not be later contested. Marshall
v. Baggett, 616 F.3d 849, 852 (8th Cir. 2010);
Murray v. Lene, 595 F.3d 868, 871 (8th Cir. 2010).
It remains for the Court to consider whether the unchallenged
facts constitute a legitimate cause of action, since a party
in default does not admit mere conclusions of law.
Id. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Court to
ensure that the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate
cause of action before entering final judgment.
Marshall, 616 F.3d at 852-53. And then, even though
the allegations of the plaintiffs complaint are admitted,
see id., it is still necessary for the Court to
determine the plaintiffs damages based upon the evidence.
See, Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2)(B); Brown v.
Kenron Aluminum & Glass Corp., 477 F.2d 526, 531
(8th Cir. 1973).
task for the Court is, first, to consider the allegations of
the complaint to ensure that the plaintiff has stated a
legitimate cause of action with respect to each of her claims
for relief. Then, the Court must consider whether the
plaintiffs damages can be determined based on the evidence
that has been presented in support of its motion.
defendant was a corrections officer for Phelps County,
Nebraska. Filing 1-1 at 3. The plaintiff was incarcerated in
the Phelps County Jail. Filing 1-1 at 4. She alleges that
while she was incarcerated, the defendant sexually assaulted
her. Filing 1-1 at 6. Her complaint asserts a claim against
the defendant based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Eighth
Amendment. Filing 1-1 at 9.
Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment and
provides a right to safe and humane conditions of
confinement. Brown v. Fortner, 518 F.3d 552,
558 (8th Cir. 2008). A claim under the Eighth Amendment
requires the plaintiff to show a denial of safe and humane
conditions resulting from an officer's deliberate
indifference to a prisoner's safety. Id.
Deliberate indifference requires more than mere negligence,
but does not require acting for the purpose of causing harm
or with knowledge that harm will result. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994).
or other assaults are not a legitimate part of a
prisoner's punishment, and the substantial physical and
emotional harm suffered by a victim of such abuse are
compensable injuries. Berryhill v. Schriro, 137 F.3d
1073, 1076 (8th Cir. 1998); see Williams v. Prudden,
67 F.App'x 976, 977 (8th Cir. 2003). And while the
assault is not described in detail in the complaint, that
information is in the record, and the defendant's conduct
was highly abusive. See filing 11-19 at 3-4. The
Court finds that the plaintiff has stated a claim for relief.
See Williams, 67 F.App'x at
in a § 1983 case are ordinarily determined according to
principles derived from the common law of torts. Memphis
Cmty. Sch. Dist. v. Stachura, 477 U.S. 299, 306 (1986).
Compensatory damages may include not only out-of-pocket loss
and other monetary harms, but also such injuries as personal
humiliation, and mental anguish and suffering. Id.
at 307; Coleman v. Rahija, 114 F.3d 778, 786 (8th
Cir. 1997). Evidence of physical pain and suffering may
support an award of compensatory damages in excess of any
actual out-of-pocket expenses. Coleman, 114 F.3d at
786-87. And punitive damages may be assessed when the
defendant's conduct is shown to be motivated by evil
motive or intent, or when it involves reckless or callous
indifference to the federally protected rights of others.
Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 56 (1983); see
Schaub v. VonWald, 638 F.3d 905, 924 (8th Cir.
such injuries are essentially subjective. Coleman,
114 F.3d at 786. Accordingly, while the Court will grant the
plaintiffs motion for default judgment, the Court must hold a
hearing to determine the amount of damages. See Rule
55(b)(2)(B). But the question is, when should such a hearing
be held? A default judgment against one defendant does not
preclude a codefendant from contesting the plaintiffs claim.
Pfanenstiel Architects, Inc. v. Chouteau Petroleum
Co., 978 F.2d 430, 432 (8th Cir. 1992). So,
[w]hen there are multiple defendants who may be jointly and
severally liable for damages alleged by plaintiff, and some
but less than all of those defendants default, the better
practice is for the district court to stay its determination
of damages against the defaulters until plaintiffs claim
against the nondefaulters is resolved. This is not because
the nondefaulters would be bound by the damage determination
against the defaulters, but to avoid the problems of dealing
with inconsistent damage determinations against jointly and
severally liable defendants.
Id. at 433. The plaintiffs claims against the
nondefaulters have been disposed of on summary judgment,
see filing 23, but that decision has been appealed,
see No. 4:16-CV-3032 filing 31. And a successful
appeal would put the Court in the position the Eighth
Circuit, in Pfanenstiel, cautioned
against. It is better to have the codefendants'
liability finally established, one way or the other, before
making any determination as to the plaintiffs damages.
See Id. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED:
plaintiffs motion for default judgment (filing 22) will be
held in abeyance.
plaintiff shall promptly advise the Court upon filing of the
Eighth Circuit's mandate in Ma ...