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International Painters and Allied Trades Industry Pension Fund v. Rose City Glass Co.

August 9, 2010

INTERNATIONAL PAINTERS AND ALLIED TRADES INDUSTRY PENSION FUND ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROSE CITY GLASS CO., INC., DEFENDANT.



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

Re Document No.: 5

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE PLAINTIFFS'MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the plaintiffs' motion for entry of default judgment. The plaintiffs, authorized collection fiduciaries and agents for a group of employee funds ("the Funds"), allege that the defendant failed to make contributions to the Funds as required by collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs") and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq. The plaintiffs commenced this action on August 7, 2009, and served the defendant with the complaint on September 10, 2009. To date, the defendant has not responded to the complaint. Upon consideration of the plaintiffs' submissions, the court grants the plaintiffs' motion for default judgment and awards them $26,354.76 in damages.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 7, 2009, the plaintiffs commenced this action to recover delinquent contributions to the Funds.Compl. ¶¶ 21-22, 26-27.*fn1 They claim that the defendant entered into a series of CBAs with the plaintiffs,*fn2 which they violated by failing to file remittance reports and make monthly payments. Id. ¶¶ 18, 21-22, 26-27. As alleged in the declaration of Thomas Montemore, Assistant to the Fund Administrator, an audit revealed a consistent pattern of underpayment from January 2004 through July 2008. Pls.' Mot., Ex. 1 ("Montemore Decl.") ¶ 8. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that the defendant failed to submit remittance reports or make monthly payments for the months of May, June, August and September 2009. Id. ¶ 12. The plaintiffs assert that the defendant's delinquency entitles them to interest, liquidated damages, audit costs and attorney's fees and costs. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 23, 28. Finally, the plaintiffs assert that the defendant's failure to comply with the CBAs also violates ERISA. Id. ¶¶ 1, 21, 26.

The plaintiffs served the complaint on the defendant on September 10, 2009. See Pls.' Aff. for Entry of Default, Ex. 1 (Decl. of Philip Lozano ("Lozano Decl. I")) ¶ 2. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a), the plaintiffs requested that the Clerk of the Court enter default against the defendant for failure to plead or otherwise defend itself in this action. See Pls.' Aff. for Entry of Default. The Clerk of the Court entered default on October 2, 2009, see Entry of Default, and the plaintiffs filed this motion on November 12, 2009, see generally Pls.' Mot.*fn3 To date, the defendant has not responded to the complaint or otherwise defended itself in this action.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Entry of Default Judgment Under Rule 55(b)(2)

A court has the power to enter default judgment when a defendant fails to defend its case appropriately or otherwise engages in dilatory tactics. Keegel v. Key W. & Caribbean Trading Co., 627 F.2d 372, 375 n.5 (D.C. Cir. 1980). 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 as provided by these rules." FED. R. CIV. P. 55(a).

Upon request of the party entitled to default, Rule 55(b)(2) authorizes the court to enter against the defendant a default judgment for the amount claimed and costs. Id. 55(b)(2).

Because courts strongly favor resolution of disputes on their merits, and because "it seems inherently unfair" to use the court's power to enter judgment as a penalty for filing delays, modern courts do not favor default judgments. Jackson v. Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 835 (D.C. Cir. 1980). Accordingly, default judgment usually is available "only when the adversary process has been halted because of an essentially unresponsive party . . . [as] the diligent party must be protected lest he be faced with interminable delay and continued uncertainty as to his rights." Id. at 836 (quoting H. F. Livermore Corp. v. Aktiengesellschaft Gebruder Loepfe, 432 F.2d 689, 691 (D.C. Cir. 1970)).

Default establishes the defaulting party's liability for the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint. Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F. Supp. 2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001); Avianca, Inc. v. Corriea, 1992 WL 102999, at *1 (D.D.C. Apr. 13, 1992); see also Brock v. Unique Racquetball & Health Clubs, Inc., 786 F.2d 61, 65 (2d Cir. 1986) (noting that "default concludes the liability phase of the trial"). Default does not, however, establish liability for the amount of damage that the plaintiff claims. Shepherd v. Am. Broad. Cos., 862 F. Supp. 486, 491 (D.D.C. 1994), vacated on other grounds, 62 F.3d 1469 (D.C. Cir. 1995). Instead, "unless the amount of damages is certain, the court is required to make an independent determination of the sum to be awarded." Adkins, 180 F. Supp. 2d at 17; see also Credit Lyonnais Secs. (USA), Inc. v. Alcantara, 183 F.3d 151, 155 (2d Cir. 1999) (stating that the court must conduct an inquiry to ascertain the amount of damages with reasonable certainty). The court has considerable latitude in determining the amount of damages. Jones v. Winnepesaukee Realty, 990 F.2d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 1993). To fix the amount, the court may conduct a hearing. ...


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