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International Painters and v. Mike Nelson Company

February 22, 2011

INTERNATIONAL PAINTERS AND ALLIED TRADES INDUSTRY PENSION FUND ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MIKE NELSON COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANT.*FN1



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

: Re Document No.: 11

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE THE PLAINTIFFS'MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the plaintiffs' motion for default judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). The plaintiffs, the International Painters and Allied Trades Industry Pension Fund ("the Pension Fund") and Gary J. Meyers, a fiduciary of the Pension Fund, allege that the defendant failed to make contributions to employee benefit funds in violation of a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1145. The defendant, though properly served, has not responded to the complaint. Accordingly, the plaintiffs now seek entry of default judgment and request monetary damages. Because the plaintiffs' have not established the defendant's liability for the entire time period at issue, the court denies without prejudice the plaintiffs' motion for default judgment.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 20, 2008, the defendant entered into a CBA with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, AFL-CIO ("the Union"), effective until June 30, 2011. Compl., Ex. 1. Pursuant to the CBA, the defendant is required to submit timely reports and contribution payments to the Pension Fund on behalf of the employees covered by the agreement. Pl.'s Mot., Ex. 1, Montemore Decl. ¶ 6.

In March 2010, the plaintiffs commenced this action to recover delinquent contribution payments and other additional relief available under the ERISA. Compl. at 5. The plaintiffs served the defendant with the summons and complaint on April 14, 2010. See generally Return of Service (May 18, 2010).

At some point after filing their complaint, the plaintiffs conducted an audit of the defendant for the time period of January 2007 through June 2010. Pls.' Mot., Montemore Decl. ¶ 7. According to the plaintiffs, this audit and the available reports submitted by the defendant show that the defendant failed to make the required contributions to the Pension Fund during the January 2007 through June 2010 time period and owes $4,640.31 in contribution payments. Id. ¶¶ 7-8.

After the defendant failed to respond to the complaint, the plaintiffs requested an entry of default on May 20, 2010, serving the defendant with a copy of their declaration in support of default. See Decl. in Supp. for Default at 3. On May 21, 2010, the Clerk of the Court entered the default, see generally Entry of Default, and shortly thereafter, the plaintiffs filed this motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2),*fn2 which they also served on the defendant, see Pl.'s Mot. at 7. Through the motion, the plaintiffs seek an order awarding them a total of $12,361.81 for delinquent contribution payments, interest, liquidated damages and legal fees and costs. Id. at 21. The court turns now to the applicable legal standard and the plaintiffs' requests for relief.

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 ...


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