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Parker v. Dall-Leighton

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 25, 2018

BRIDGET PARKER, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSH DALL-LEIGHTON, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

          George Z. Singal United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 46), which was filed on January 19, 2018. Default entered against Defendant, Josh Dall-Leighton, on September 11, 2017, for his failure to file a responsive pleading. Thereafter, following its resolution of all other claims in this case, the Court held a hearing to ascertain the amount of damages, if any, owed to Plaintiff.[1] In accordance with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 52 and 55(b), the Court now GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment and makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to Rule 55(b), a plaintiff seeking default judgment “must apply to the court” whenever the amount of damages claimed is not a “sum certain.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). It is settled law that, upon entry of default, the defaulted party concedes the well-pleaded facts in the complaint. See Quirindongo Pacheco v. Rolon Morales, 953 F.2d 15, 16 (1st Cir. 1992). As long as those facts are sufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the defendant's liability is established at the moment of default. See Hooper-Haas v. Ziegler Holdings, LLC, 690 F.3d 34, 41 (1st Cir. 2012); Brockton Savings Bank v. Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., 771 F.2d 5, 13 (1st Cir. 1985). However, it is also settled that a defendant's default does not establish the amount of damages owed to the plaintiff for purposes of default judgment. See G. & C. Merriam Co. v. Webster Dictionary Co., Inc., 639 F.2d 29, 34 n.7 (1st Cir. 1980). Therefore, where a plaintiff's claim for damages is not ascertainable from the pleadings, the court should hold a post-default hearing to appraise the damage total. See Graham v. Malone Freight Lines, Inc., 314 F.3d 7, 16 n.12 (1st Cir. 1999). Here, as briefly outlined below, Plaintiff's Complaint has adequately pleaded multiple claims, thereby establishing Defendant's liability. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (explaining that a plaintiff must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face”). Since Plaintiff's Complaint does not claim damages for a sum certain, the Court now resolves the amount of damages owed to her in light of the evidence presented at the hearing.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         On approximately September 26, 2014, Plaintiff Bridget Parker (“Parker”) was sent to the Southern Maine Re-entry Center in Alfred, Maine, as part of a state prison sentence. At that time, Defendant Josh Dall-Leighton (“Dall-Leighton”) was employed as a corrections officer at the Reentry Center. Shortly after Parker arrived, Dall-Leighton began to make comments about her appearance, which Parker considered inappropriate but, at that point, did not find concerning. By November, 2015, however, Parker could tell that Dall-Leighton had taken a serious sexual interest in her.

         In December, 2015, Dall-Leighton initiated the first of several encounters in which he performed non-consensual sex acts on Parker. One of Dall-Leighton's official duties was to drive Parker and other inmates to and from off-site locations where they attended work and school. On approximately December 10, while driving Parker home from work, Dall-Leighton pulled his Department of Corrections van off to the side of the road, parked, and exited. He then opened the passenger door to gain access to where Parker was sitting, kissed her, removed her pants, and performed oral sex on her. Parker did not consent to this touching, and felt compelled to comply with Dall-Leighton because of his position of power and control over her. After returning to the Re-entry Center that day, Dall-Leighton continued to touch Parker's buttock and grab her arm, making Parker uncomfortable.

         The next incident occurred on the following Saturday, December 12, as Dall-Leighton transported Parker to school. This time, Dall-Leighton pulled off on a dirt road, and instructed Parker to get in the back of the van, where he kissed Parker and performed oral sex on her. Again, Parker did not consent to this touching. She was frightened and nervous so she pretended to orgasm hoping that Dall-Leighton would stop and drive her to school, which he did. On another transport a few days later, Dall-Leighton repeatedly tried to touch Parker but she pushed him away each time. Parker felt she could not verbally protest these advances due to the power disparity in their relationship. Another incident occurred on December 30, 2015, after Parker returned from a furlough. On this occasion, Dall-Leighton picked Parker up from work in the evening and drove to get fuel. Afterwards, when it had become dark outside, he returned the van to Parker's employer's parking lot. Dall-Leighton then took Parker to the back of the van, removed Parker's pants as well as his own and penetrated Parker while wearing a condom. Parker did not consent and was forced to have sex with Dall-Leighton.

         The next time Dall-Leighton drove Parker to school, he informed her that he carries the sexually transmitted disease, herpes. Thereafter, Dall-Leighton forced Parker into non-consensual sexual intercourse twice more. Like the earlier encounters, both of these incidents occurred in a Department of Corrections van. However, unlike the third incident, Parker did not see Dall-Leighton use a condom either time. Following the last incident, Parker was so desperate to escape Dall-Leighton's conduct that she acquired a bottle of alcohol and became intoxicated so that she could be sent back to prison. Upon returning to prison, Parker confided in another inmate who reported Dall-Leighton's behavior to the authorities.

         As a result of these non-consensual sexual encounters, Dall-Leighton transmitted the herpes virus to Parker. In July, 2015, before leaving the re-entry center, Parker was diagnosed with genital herpes and received treatment for it. Genital herpes, or HSV-2, is incurable and, in many cases, manifests itself in the form painful lesion outbreaks on and around the genitals. On average, a person with HSV-2 endures four outbreaks per year, although the frequency varies by individual. Since July, 2015, Parker has had several such outbreaks, which have been severe enough to cause scarring. Not only is it likely that these outbreaks will continue to occur and require treatment going forward, but also, Parker will be forced to navigate the burden of disclosing her condition to all future sexual partners. Indeed, her condition has already put such strain on her romantic relationships, that she is unsure whether she can continue to pursue these types of relationships at all.

         Dall-Leighton's actions have also generated serious mental health issues for Parker. Since the ordeal, she has struggled with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks all related to Dall-Leighton's behavior. These problems have interfered with Parker's sobriety, caused her to lose sleep, hindered her focus in school, and impaired her relationship with her family. She now fears all men who wear uniforms similar to those worn by corrections officers, and dislikes being touched to the point that she has had difficulty hugging her children. Counseling has helped Parker make progress on some of these issues, but her suffering is such that she considers it necessary to continue treatment into the foreseeable future. Even though she has been released from prison, Parker feels that the psychological repercussions of Dall-Leighton's behavior have stopped her from being able to move forward with her life.

         III. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant's actions amounted to: (1) civil assault and battery; and (2) a violation of her Eighth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The facts alleged in the Complaint (ECF No. 1) are sufficient to state a claim for both offenses.[2]

         A. Assault and ...


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