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Lee v. Walgreens Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

October 28, 2019

TERRENCE LEE, Plaintiff,
v.
WALGREENS COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on self-represented plaintiff Terrence Lee's third motion for default judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). Doc. 15. For the following reasons, this motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         On June 24, 2019, plaintiff filed this lawsuit against defendant Walgreens Company (“Walgreens”), using the Court's pre-printed Employment Discrimination Form. Doc. 1. Plaintiff alleges he was discriminated against on the basis of race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. Plaintiff seeks “2 years worth of salary for severance pay.” Id. at 7.

         Plaintiff filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, which the Court granted. Docs. 2, 4. In plaintiff's motion, he reported “Chapter 13 bankruptcy - $115.00 monthly” as a “debt or financial obligation.” Doc. 2 at 2.

         On September 4, 2019, this Court issued an Order stating defendant Walgreens had been served with summons and complaint, but failed to timely file an answer or responsive pleading in this case. Doc. 8. Plaintiff was directed to file an appropriate motion for entry of default by the Clerk of Court under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a). Plaintiff filed a motion for entry of clerk's default on September 13, 2019 followed by a second, duplicative motion on September 16, 2019. Docs. 9, 10. On September 19, 2019, plaintiff's first motion for entry of clerk's default was granted, and the second motion was denied as moot. Doc. 11. On September 20, 2019, plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). Doc. 12.

         The Court denied plaintiff's motion for default judgment without prejudice. Doc. 13. The Order stated:

[The Court] will not consider any such motion until it is satisfied that plaintiff has disclosed the claims in this lawsuit in his bankruptcy case. See Jones v. Bob Evans Farms, Inc., 811 F.3d 1030, 1033 (8th Cir. 2016) (party who filed for bankruptcy may be judicially estopped from pursuing a claim for monetary damages if he failed to amend his bankruptcy schedules to include the claims in a pending lawsuit). This is because a debtor's failure to list an employment discrimination or other claim in the bankruptcy is “tantamount to a representation that no such claim existed.” Stallings v. Hussmann, 447 F.3d 1041, 1047 (8th Cir. 2016).
Therefore, plaintiff will be directed to file documentation in this matter showing: (1) that he disclosed the claims in this action to the bankruptcy court before he filed the instant lawsuit; or (2) that his bankruptcy filings were amended after this case was filed or are in the process of being amended to include the claims in this action.
If plaintiff is unable to furnish the required documentation, this Court may preclude plaintiff from proceeding with this case and dismiss his claims without prejudice pursuant to the doctrine of judicial estoppel.

         Doc. 13 at 2.

         On October 3, 2019, plaintiff filed a Response to the Court Order including “documentation that his bankruptcy filings were amended after this case was filed[.]” Doc. 14 at 1 (emphasis added). Plaintiff attached his Official Form 106A/B Amended Schedule of Property, signed and dated October 2, 2019, which amended paragraph 33 of his Chapter 13 bankruptcy schedules to disclose a pre-petition claim for the instant lawsuit, which plaintiff's bankruptcy attorney stated was “inadvertently omitted.” Id. at 9.

         II. Discussion

         Judicial estoppel is an equitable doctrine that “prevents a party from asserting a claim in a legal proceeding that is inconsistent with a claim taken by that party in a previous proceeding[.]” New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 749 (2001). “A party who has filed for [Chapter 13] bankruptcy may be judicially estopped from pursuing a claim not disclosed in his or her bankruptcy filings.” Jones v. Bob Evans Farms, Inc., 811 F.3d 1030, 1033 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing Stallings, 447 F.3d at 1047). This is because “a Chapter 13 estate includes not only the property the debtor had at the time of filing, but also wages and property acquired after filing but before discharge[, ]” and failure to ...


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