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Flynn v. Mastro Masonry Contractors

December 28, 2002

JOHN FLYNN ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MASTRO MASONRY CONTRACTORS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge.

Document No.: 5

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This case is currently before the court on the plaintiffs' motion for a default judgment in accordance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. The trustees of the Bricklayers & Trowel Trades International Pension Fund ("the plaintiffs" or "the Pension Fund"), a multi-employer employee pension plan subject to the terms of ERISA. The defendant, Mastro Masonry Contractors, employs members of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and its affiliated local unions (collectively, "the Union"). This action began after the defendant entered into collective bargaining agreements with the Union regarding payments to the Pension Fund. Claiming that the defendant failed to comply with the collective bargaining agreements, the plaintiffs initiated this action to enforce the terms of the agreements. For the following reasons, the court grants the plaintiffs' motion for default judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

As noted, the Pension Fund is a multi-employer employee pension plan governed by ERISA. Stupar Decl. ¶ 2. The collective bargaining agreements between the defendant and the Union authorize the Pension Fund to provide retirement income to the defendant's employees. Id. ¶ 3. Toward that end, the collective bargaining agreements require the defendant to submit monthly remittance reports to the Pension Fund describing the work performed by employees. Id. ¶¶ 5, 7. The agreements further require the defendant to submit monthly pension and benefit contributions or dues checkoff *fn1 to the Pension Fund on behalf of its employees. Id. If the defendant fails to comply with the collective bargaining agreements, the plaintiffs have a fiduciary duty under ERISA to collect the delinquent employer contributions. Id. ¶ 3.

During the August, November, and December 2001, and January through June 2002, the defendant failed to submit to the Pension Fund the required remittance reports, pension and benefit contributions, and dues checkoff for its employees. Id. ¶¶ 9-18, 27. The defendant owes $61,067.86 in unpaid pension and benefit contributions and dues checkoff for that period. Mitzner Decl. ¶ 4.

Turning to the procedural history of this case, on May 10, 2002, the plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging the defendant's failure to submit remittance reports, pension and benefit contributions, and dues checkoff to the Pension Fund as required by the collective bargaining agreements. Compl. ¶¶ 7-10. The plaintiffs' complaint requests relief, pursuant to ERISA, for these and any subsequent violations of the collective bargaining agreements. Id. at 4-6. On May 22, 2002, the plaintiffs executed service of a summons and the complaint on the defendant. Decl. of Serv. The record reflects that the defendant has not filed an answer to the plaintiffs' complaint. Consequently, on July 2, 2002 the plaintiffs filed an affidavit in support of default, and on July 3, 2002 the clerk of the court entered default for the plaintiffs.

On August 19, 2002, the plaintiffs filed a motion for entry of default judgment. As anticipated in the complaint, the plaintiffs modified the damages claim in the complaint to include delinquent contributions and interest that accrued subsequent to the filing of the complaint. Compl. at 6; Mot. for Default J. at 2.

The plaintiffs' motion for default judgment first requests $61,067.86 for unpaid pension and benefit contributions and dues checkoff owed to the Pension Fund for August, November, and December 2001, and January through June 2002. Mitzner Decl. ¶ 4. Second, the plaintiffs move for $3,078.92 for interest assessed on the delinquent contributions and dues checkoff, calculated from the due date through August 8, 2002. Id. Third, the plaintiffs argue for $9,951.13 in liquidated damages, calculated at a rate of 20 percent of the unpaid contributions. Id. Fourth, the plaintiffs seek attorney's fees and costs in the following amounts: $157.75 for service, $150.00 for filing, $895.00 for attorney's fees, and $700.00 for anticipated future attorney's fees (four attorney hours) for executing the judgment. Id. ¶¶ 5-6.

On October 16, 2002, the court issued a final order instructing the defendant to show cause on or before October 25, 2002 as to why the court should not enter default judgment. The court instructed that "failure to respond to this order may result in the entry of default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs." The deadline for the response has come and gone. The record reflects that the defendant still has not responded to the court's show cause order.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Default Judgment Pursuant to ERISA

Rule 55(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for entry of default "[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend." FED R. CIV. P. 55(a). Upon request of the plaintiffs and an affadavit regarding the amount due, Rule 55(b) authorizes the clerk or court (depending on the circumstances) to enter against the defendant a default judgment for the amount claimed and costs. FED R. CIV. P. 55(b). Just as a court can dismiss a case when faced with dilatory tactics by the plaintiffs, a court has the discretion to enter ...


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