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James Boland, et al v. Southern Minnesota Masonry

October 17, 2012

JAMES BOLAND, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SOUTHERN MINNESOTA MASONRY, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alan Kay United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of Default Judgment and Incorporated Memorandum in Support Thereof ("Motion") [6] by Plaintiffs James Boland, Henry Kramer, Ken Lambert, Gerard Scarano, Timothy Driscoll, John J. Flynn, Gerald O'Malley, Eugene George, Robert Hoover, Matthew Aquiline, Gregory R. Hess, William McConnell, Charles Costella, John Trendell, and Fred Kinateder (collectively, "Plaintiffs") as Trustees of, and on behalf of, the Bricklayers & Trowel Trades International Pension Fund ("IFP"). No opposition to the Motion has been filed by Defendant Southern Minnesota Masonry, Inc. ("Defendant").*fn1

I. Background

The IPF is an "employee benefit plan" within the meaning of Section 3(3) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §1002(3), and a "multiemployer plan" within the meaning of Section 3(37) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §1002(37). (Complaint [1] ¶3.) See generally Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), as amended by the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act ("MPPAA"), 29 U.S.C. §1451. Plaintiffs, acting in their capacity as fiduciaries of and for the benefit of the participants of the IPF, seek employer withdrawal liability under ERISA and pursuant to the Withdrawal Liability Procedures adopted by the IPF pursuant to statute. (Motion at 2.); see 29 U.S.C. §1383(b).

On June 29, 2012, the Clerk of the Court made an Entry of Default [5] as to Defendant Southern Minnesota Masonry, Inc. On August 9, 2012, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Entry of Default Judgment [6], including affidavits in support of the default judgment sum requested. That Motion was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for determination pursuant to LCvR72.2(a) [7]. This Court held an evidentiary hearing on the Motion on October 9, 2012, at which time Plaintiffs presented a witness to attest to the outstanding withdrawal liability.*fn2

Defendant did not appear at the hearing nor did Defendant proffer any evidence disputing the requested sum prior to the hearing.

II. Legal Standard for Default Judgment

The clerk of the court must enter a default "[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise." Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Where the plaintiff's claim is not for a sum certain, the party must apply to the court for a default judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2). "The determination of whether default judgment is appropriate is committed to the discretion of the trial court." Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Auxier Drywall, LLC, 531 F. Supp. 2d 56, 57 (D.D.C. 2008) (citing Jackson v Beech, 636 F. 2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980)).

The standard for default judgment is satisfied where the defendant makes no request to set aside the default and no suggestion that it has a meritorious defense. J.D. Holdings, LLC v. BD Ventures, LLC, 766 F. Supp. 2d 109, 113 (D.D.C. 2011).

Upon entry of default by the clerk of the court, the "defaulting defendant is deemed to admit every well-pleaded allegation in the complaint." U.S. v. Bentley, 756 F. Supp. 2d 1,3 (D.D.C. 2010) (citation omitted). The court must then make a determination of the sum to be awarded. Id. "[T]he court may rely on detailed affidavits or documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum for the default judgment." Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Auxier Drywall, Inc., 239 F. Supp. 2d 26, 30 (D.D. C. 2002) (citation omitted),

Under ERISA, a pension fund which has obtained liability against a delinquent employer may seek damages of (1) the unpaid contributions; (2) interest on the unpaid contributions; (3) liquidated damages as provided in the pension plan but not exceeding 20 percent of the unpaid contributions; (4) reasonable attorneys fees and costs; and (5) other legal or equitable relief that the court finds appropriate. 29 U.S.C. §1132(g)(2).

III. Analysis of the Sum Claimed by Plaintiffs

A. Employer Withdrawal Liability

Withdrawal liability requires an employer who withdraws from a multiemployer pension plan to contribute its proportionate share of the plan's unfunded vested liabilities. 29 U.S.C.ยง1381. The purpose of withdrawal liability is to protect the remaining employers in a pension plan from having to cover for a withdrawn employer or risk not being able to pay the full amount of benefits promised to employees. See Milwaukee Brewery Workers' Pension Plan v. Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co., 513 U.S. 414, 416-17 (1995). A ...


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