The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICARDO URBINA, District Judge
GRANTING THE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
AGAINST DEFENDANT THIBODEAUX MASONRY, INC. AND GRANTING
THE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AGAINST
DEFENDANTS THIBODEAUX MASONRY AND THOMAS THIBODEAUX
This matter comes before the court on the plaintiffs' motions for
default judgment and for summary judgment. The plaintiffs, fiduciaries
and trustees of the Bricklayers & Trowel Trades International Pension
Fund (the "IPF"),*fn1
bring suit under the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., against the
pro se defendants, Thomas Thibodeaux ("Thibodeaux"), Thibodeaux Masonry,
and Thibodeaux Masonry, Inc. ("TMI") (collectively "the defendants") for
delinquent pension contributions. Because TMI has not retained counsel,
the court enters default judgment against TMI. Because the plaintiffs
have identified an absence of evidence proffered by Thibodeaux and
Thibodeaux Masonry regarding
their delinquent contributions, the court grants summary judgment
to the plaintiffs with regard to those defendants.
Thomas Thibodeaux and his wife Lura have run a masonry business in
Louisiana since January of 1998. Pls.' Statement of Undisputed Material
Facts ("SUF") ¶ 11.*fn2 Initially, the Thibodeauxs operated their
masonry business through "Thibodeaux Masonry," a sole proprietorship.
Id. On May 1, 1998, Thomas Thibodeaux, acting as president of Thibodeaux
Masonry, signed a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with the
International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers ("the
Union").*fn3 Id. ¶ 12. The CBA required Thibodeaux and Thibodeaux
Masonry to make payments on behalf of his employees to the IPF, the
Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers ("BAC"), the International Health
Fund ("IHF"), and the International Masonry Institute ("IMI). Id. ¶¶
13-14.*fn4 On May 4, 1999, Thibodeaux merged Thibodeaux Masonry into
TMI. Id. ¶ 16. On May 1, 2000, Thibodeaux, acting as president of
TMI, signed a second CBA on behalf of TMI that imposed the same payment
requirements on TMI as the first CBA imposed on Thibodeaux Masonry. Id.
¶ 17. At some point after Thibodeaux had
incorporated TMI, the plaintiffs requested an audit of Thibodeaux Masonry
and TMI, which the payroll auditing firm of Guenther, Guenther &
Gillane performed. Id. UK 34-35. The plaintiffs' allege that the audit
and subsequent calculations revealed an outstanding delinquency of
$68,945.18. Pls.' Mot. at 9; Stupar Supplemental Decl. ¶ 3.
The plaintiffs filed their complaint on April 15, 2002. The defendants
filed a motion to transfer venue on May 28, 2002. On October 28, 2002,
the court denied the defendants' motion to transfer venue. Order dated
October 28, 2002. Because it appeared that corporate defendants were
proceeding pro se, on May 13, 2003, the court ordered the Pro se corporate
defendants to retain counsel, specifically warning that failure to comply
could result in the court imposing default judgment as a sanction for
non-compliance. Order dated May 13, 2003. On June 9, 2003, Thibodeaux
responded to the court's order stating that TMI would not retain
counsel. Defs.' Resp. to Order. On June 18, 2003, the plaintiffs filed a
motion for default judgment against Thibodeaux Masonry and TMI. In the
defendants' opposition to the motion for default judgment, the defendants
clarified that only TMI was a corporation, but reiterated that TMI would
not retain counsel. Defs.' Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. For Default J. ("Defs.'
Default J. Opp'n") at 1. On July 11, 2003, the plaintiffs filed a motion
for summary judgment against the defendants, recognizing that the motion
would be moot if the court granted default judgement against either
Thibodeaux Masonry or TMI. Pls.' Mot. For Summ. J. ("Pls.' Mot.") at 2
n.1. Given the defendants' pro se status, the court issued an order
directing the defendants to respond to the plaintiffs' motion for summary
judgment and providing notice of the consequences of a failure to file an
opposition. Order dated Dec. 17, 2003.
Thus, the two motions currently before the court are: 1) the
plaintiffs' motion for default judgment against Thibodeaux Masonry and TMI
and 2) the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment against Thibodeaux
Masonry, TMI, and Thomas Thibodeaux. The court now turns to those
A. Legal Standard for Entry of Default Judgment For
Failure to Comply With a Court
Order Pursuant to Rules 37(b)(2)(C) and 16(f)
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may impose
sanctions for failure to comply with various court orders. Under Rule
37(b)(2)(C), if a party "fails to obey an order to provide or permit
discovery," the court may render judgment by default against the
disobedient party. FED. R. CIV. P. 37(b)(2)(C). Under Rule 16(f), if a
party "fails to obey a scheduling or pretrial order, or if no appearance
is made on behalf of a party at a scheduling or pretrial conference," the
court may, in its discretion, levy various sanctions against the
disobedient party, including a Rule 37 judgment by default. FED. R. CIV.
P. 16(f). Sanctions are integral to the operation of the judicial
system. Bristol Petroleum Corp. v. Harris, 901 F.2d 165, 167 (D.C. Cir.
1990). As the D.C. Circuit has stated, sanctions "have been entrusted to
the district courts to enable district judges to discharge efficiently
their front-line responsibility for operating the judicial system." Id.
(citing Rules 37 and 11 in upholding dismissal for a plaintiff's failure
to appear at a status conference). The most severe sanctions "must be
available to the district court in appropriate cases, not merely to
penalize those whose conduct may be deemed to warrant such a sanction, but
to deter those who might be tempted to such conduct in the absence of
such a deterrent." Nat'l Hockey League v. Metro. Hockey Club, 427 U.S. 639
643 (1976) (upholding
the trial court's dismissal under Rule 37 for violations of pretrial
That said, a default judgment is a drastic sanction. Generally, the
imposition of less severe sanctions, such as the award of attorney's
fees, may be "sufficiently effective in alerting an irresponsible
litigant to the seriousness of his or her neglect, protecting the
interests of the other litigants in the case, and vindicating the
integrity of the court." C.K.S. Eng'rs, Inc. v. White Mountain Gypsum
Co., 726 F.2d 1202, 1209 (7th Cir. 1984). In those cases where a court
orders a dismissal or enters a default judgment, the disobedient party
typically has engaged in a pattern of noncompliance with court orders so
that no lesser sanction is warranted. Secs. & Exch. Comm'n v.
Hollywood Trenz, Inc., 202 F.R.D. 3, 7 (D.D.C. 2001) (citing 6A FED.
PRAC. & PROC., § 1531). Accordingly, courts have granted default
judgment when parties have not complied with court orders or have missed
hearings. Eagle Assocs. v. Bank of Montreal, 926 F.2d 1305, 1310 (2d
Cir. 1991) (upholding entry of default judgment where a defendant
partnership ignored a court order directing that it retain counsel).
B. Legal Standard for a Motion for Summary
Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317
, 322 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540
(D.C. Cir. 1995). To determine which facts are "material," a court must
look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242
, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one
whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and,
therefore, affect the outcome of the action.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all
justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the
nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A
nonmoving party, however, must establish more than "the mere existence of
a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. To
prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that
the nonmoving party "fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which
that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at
322. By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the nonmoving
party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Id.
In addition, the nonmoving party may not rely solely on allegations or
conclusory statements. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir.
1999); Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 154 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Rather, the
nonmoving party must present specific facts that would enable a
reasonable jury to find in its favor. Greene, 164 F.3d at 675. If the
evidence "is merely colorable, or is not significantly ...