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National Shopmen Pension Fund v. Builders Metal Supply, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 3, 2014

NATIONAL SHOPMEN PENSION FUND, et al, Plaintiff,
v.
BUILDERS METAL SUPPLY, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

The National Shopmen Pension Fund (“the Fund”) and its Trustees, Walter Wise and Timothy O’Connell (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed suit against Builders Metal Supply, Inc. seeking legal and equitable relief under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), as amended by the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980, 29 U.S.C. § 1145. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant failed to submit remittance reports and contributions to the Fund for the months of June 2012 through August 2013. Compl. ¶ 12. Plaintiffs seek to recover unpaid contributions, liquidated damages, interest, and attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the Fund pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(g)(2)(A)-(D) and a collective bargaining agreement. Although properly and timely served, Defendant has failed to respond to Plaintiffs’ lawsuit, and the Clerk of the Court, upon request by Plaintiffs, has since entered default against Defendant. See Clerk’s Entry of Default, ECF No. [9]. Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs’ [11] Motion for Default Judgment. Having considered Plaintiffs’ Complaint, Plaintiffs’ submissions and attachments thereto, the applicable case law, statutory authority, and the record of the case as a whole, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiffs’ [11] Motion for Judgment by Default, for the reasons stated below.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff National Shopmen Pension Fund is a multiemployer employee benefit plan within the meaning of Sections 3(3) and 3(37) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1002(3) and 1002(37), and a joint labor-management pension fund established pursuant to Section 302(c) of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. §186(c). Compl. ¶ 3. Its purpose is to provide pension, retirement and related benefits to the eligible employees of employers who contribute to the Fund pursuant to various collective bargaining agreements with affiliated Shopmen’s Local Unions of the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers, AFL-CIO. Id. Plaintiffs Walter Wise and Timothy O’Connell are Trustees of the Fund. The Trustees are fiduciaries of the Fund within the meaning of Section 3(21) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1002(21). Id. ¶ 4.

On September 12, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Defendant Builder Metal Supply, Inc. At all times relevant to Plaintiffs’ Complaint, Defendant employed employees represented for the purposes of collective bargaining by Shopmen’s Local Union No. 468 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers. Id. ¶ 6. Defendant and Local 468 were parties to and bound by a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”). Id. ¶ 7. The CBA obligates Defendant to make monthly contributions to the Fund on behalf of Defendant’s employees for all hours of work covered by the CBA and to submit monthly remittance reports to the Fund showing the hours paid to each employee covered by the CBA for the month. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiffs allege in their Complaint that for the months of June 2012 through August 2013, Defendant failed to pay the Fund an estimated amount of $9, 585.00 in required contributions owed under the terms of the CBA and the Amended and Restated Agreement and Declaration of Trust (“Trust Agreement”). Id. ¶ 11. Defendant also failed to produce the remittance reports for the same time period. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff further alleges that pursuant to the Trust Agreement and Section 502(g)(2) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2), Defendant owes the Fund interest on the delinquent contributions at the rate specified under Internal Revenue Code Section 6621, liquidated damages equal to the greater of the interest or 20% of the contributions, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs of this action. Id. ¶ 13.

Defendant was served with the Complaint on September 18, 2013. See Cert. of Service, ECF No. [5]. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(3), Defendant was required to file an answer or otherwise respond to the Amended Complaint by no later than October 9, 2013. Defendant failed to do so, however, and, at Plaintiffs’ request, the Clerk of the Court entered default against Defendant on November 1, 2013. See Clerk’s Entry of Default, ECF No. [9]. Subsequently, Plaintiffs filed the now-pending Motion for Default Judgment. See Pl.s’ Mot. for Def. J., ECF No. [11]. In their motion, Plaintiffs move for default judgment seeking judgment for $17, 419.72 in delinquent contributions, interest, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) provides that the Clerk of the Court must enter a party’s request for 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). After a default has been entered by the Clerk, a party may move 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)). Where, as here, there is a complete “absence of any request to set aside the default or suggestion by the defendant that it has a meritorious defense, it is clear that the standard for default judgment has been satisfied.” Auxier Drywall, 531 F.Supp.2d at 57 (citation omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

The Clerk of the Court entered a default as to Defendant on November 1, 2013, therefore the factual allegations in the Complaint are taken as true. Int’l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. R.W. Amrine Drywall Co., 239 F.Supp.2d 26, 30 (D.D.C. 2002). The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ Complaint sufficiently alleges facts to support their claims. Plaintiffs are thus entitled to default judgment as to Defendant’s liability for its failure to pay certain charges in connection with late contributions, and for its failure to submit remittance reports and contributions for June 2012 through August 2013.

While the entry of default establishes Defendant’s liability, the Court is required to make an independent determination of the amount of damages to be awarded, unless the amount of damages is certain. Int’l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Davanc Contracting, Inc., 808 F.Supp.2d 89, 94 (D.D.C. 2011) (citing Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F.Supp. 2d. 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001)). Under section 515 of ERISA, “[e]very employer who is obligated to make contributions to a multiemployer plan under the terms of the plan or under the terms of a collectively bargained agreement shall . . . make such contributions in accordance with the terms and conditions of such plan or such agreement.” 29 U.S.C. § 1145. When an employer fails to make such contributions, ERISA provides that the fiduciary for a plan may bring an action and obtain a mandatory award for the plan consisting of:

(A) the unpaid contributions,
(B) interest on the unpaid contributions,
(C) an amount equal to the greater ...

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