United States District Court, D. Columbia.
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION NATIONAL INDUSTRY PENSION FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
BRISTOL MANOR HEALTHCARE CENTER, INC., Defendant
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION NATIONAL INDUSTRY
PENSION FUND, STEPHEN ABRECHT, ROD BASHIR, KEVIN DOYLE,
MYRIAM ESCAMILLA, DAVID STILWELL, STEVEN W. FORD, EDWARD J.
MANKO, FRANK A. MAXSON, JOHN J. SHERIDAN, LARRY T. SMITH, on
behalf of and as Trustees of The Service Employees
International Union National Industry Pension Fund,
Plaintiffs: Lauren Powell McDermott, LEAD ATTORNEY, MOONEY,
GREEN, SAINDON, MURPHY & WELCH, P.C., Washington, DC; Mark J.
Murphy, MOONEY, GREEN, BAKER & SAINDON, Washington, DC.
BRISTOL MANOR HEALTHCARE CENTER, Defendant: Carissa D.
Siebeneck, LEAD ATTORNEY, BIRCH HORTON BITTNER & CHEROT, PC,
Washington, DC; Ronald Gilbert Birch, LEAD ATTORNEY, BIRCH,
HORTON, BITTNER & CHEROT, Washington, DC; David F. Jasinski,
PRO HAC VICE, JASINSKI, P.C., Newark, NJ.
Document No.: 36
OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.
Service Employees International Union National Industry
Pension Fund is an " employee benefit plan" and a
" multiemployer plan" under the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The Fund provides
pension benefits to eligible employees of contributing
employers. Defendant Bristol Manor Healthcare Center, Inc. is
one of the Fund's contributing employers. Claiming that
Bristol Manor failed to pay the Fund contributions, interest,
liquidated damages, and audit documents required under the
applicable collective bargaining and trust agreements, the
Fund and its Trustees brought suit against Bristol Manor
under ERISA and the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947
have now moved for summary judgment on their claims for
unpaid contributions, interest, liquidated damages,
outstanding remittance reports, and attorney's fees and
costs. Because Bristol Manor does not, in its opposition to
Plaintiffs' motion, show a genuine dispute as to any
material fact impacting Plaintiffs' claims or requested
remedies, the Court will grant the Plaintiffs' motion for
Bristol Manor's Contribution Obligations to the
Bristol Manor is a New Jersey corporation. Pls.'
Statement of Material Facts ¶ 3, ECF No. 36 [hereinafter
Pls.' Statement]; Def.'s Resp. to Pls.' Statement
of Undisputed Material Facts ¶ 3, ECF No. 37-2
[hereinafter Def.'s Resp.]. In 2010, Bristol Manor
entered a collective bargaining agreement with 1199 SEIU
United Healthcare Workers East, New Jersey Region.
See Pls.' Statement Ex. 1, at 8, 40, ECF No.
36-1 [hereinafter Collective Bargaining
collective bargaining agreement required Bristol Manor to
make contributions to the Fund based on the number of paid
hours worked by employees covered by the agreement.
See id. at 31. Covered employees included
" C[ertified] N[ursing] A[ssistant]s, dietary,
housekeeping, recreational aides, L[icensed] P[ractical]
N[urse]s, and all other employees excluding professional
employees, registered nurses, cooks, confidential, office
clerical employees, supervisors, watchmen and guards."
Id. at 8. For contribution purposes, paid hours
worked excluded overtime pay, allowances given to employees
to aid them in furnishing and maintaining their own uniforms,
and pay in recognition of unused sick leave. Id. at
the collective bargaining agreement, Bristol Manor also
agreed to be bound to the trust agreement establishing the
Fund, and to the Fund's collection policies. See
id. at 33. See generally Pls.'
Statement Ex. 2, ECF No. 36-2 [hereinafter Trust Agreement];
Pls.' Statement Ex. 3, ECF No. 36-3 [hereinafter
Collections Policy]. The trust agreement affirmed Bristol
Manor's obligation to send required contributions to the
Fund, accompanied by any reports the Fund might require.
Trust Agreement Art. III, § 3.1.
" employee benefit plan" and " multiemployer
plan" under ERISA, the Fund provides pension benefits to
eligible employees of contributing employers. Am. Compl.
¶ 4, ECF No.13; Pls.' Statement ¶ 1; Def.'s
Resp. ¶ 1; see also 29 U.S.C. § §
1002(3), 1002(37). On April 30, 2009, the Fund issued a
notice announcing that it was in " critical
status," as defined under the Pension Protection Act of
2006 (PPA). See Pls.' Statement Ex.
4, at 2-3, ECF No. 36-4 [hereinafter Critical Status
Notices]. The PPA requires plans in critical
status to adopt a rehabilitation plan that, among other
things, imposes surcharges on contributing employers. 29
U.S.C. § 1085(e)(1), (7); Critical Status Notices 1-2.
Accordingly, the Fund adopted its rehabilitation plan in
November 2009. See Pls.' Statement Ex. 5, at 1,
ECF No. 36-5 [hereinafter Rehabilitation Plan Notice].
Manor negotiated its collective bargaining agreement in 2010,
the year after the Fund reached critical status and adopted
its rehabilitation plan. Hence, the 2010 collective
bargaining agreement set Bristol Manor's contribution
rates " in accordance with the Pension Fund Preferred
Schedule" detailed in the fund's rehabilitation
plan. Collective Bargaining Agreement 33; see also
Rehabilitation Plan Notice (discussing the rehabilitation
plan's " Preferred" and " Default"
schedules for employer surcharges). Starting on April 1,
2010, the collective bargaining agreement required Bristol
Manor to contribute to the Fund an amount equal to 2.2% of
its hourly salary payments to covered employees. See
Collective Bargaining Agreement 31. The next year, on April
1, 2011, Bristol Manor's contribution amount increased to
2.37% of hourly salary payments. See id. And on
April 2, 2012, the contribution amount became 2.55% of hourly
salary payments. See id. In later years, the
rehabilitation plan's Preferred Schedule provided for
additional increases. See Rehabilitation Plan Notice
App. B, at 3.
The Fund's Collection Procedures
Fund's " Statement of Policy for Collection of
Delinquent Contributions" set procedures for collecting
Bristol Manor's contributions. See Collections
Policy. That policy declared that contributions are due
" by the 15th day of the month following the month in
which the work was performed for which the contributions are
owed." Id. § 2.1. Supporting remittance
reports had to accompany the contributions. Id.
§ 2.2; see also Trust Agreement Art. III,
§ 3.1 (" Each Employer . . . shall make such
reports to the Fund as may be required by the Trustees."
). Contributions were not timely made unless they were
accompanied by these supporting remittance reports.
Collections Policy § 2.2.
Additional Remedies Available to the Fund for Late or
Fund's trust agreement and collection policy declared
that, if Bristol Manor did not submit its contributions and
remittance reports by the due dates set each month, the Fund
could collect interest and liquidated damages on Bristol
Manor's delinquent contributions, as well as
attorney's fees and costs if a lawsuit or other legal
action was filed. See Trust Agreement Art. III,
§ 3.2; Collections Policy § § 2.4, 5.1-5.4.
The Fund's collection policy also specified that "
[t]he obligations to pay interest, liquidated damages and
fees chargeable under this policy are contractual in nature
and independent of the provisions of ERISA Section
502(g)." Collections Policy § 5.5; cf. 29
U.S.C. § 1132(g) (stating, in the codified version of
ERISA section 502(g), that in actions for delinquent
contributions, a court shall award prevailing plans their
unpaid contributions, interest on the unpaid contributions,
additional interest or liquidated damages, attorney's
fees and costs, and other legal or equitable relief the court
the Fund's collection policy, Bristol Manor was required
to pay interest on contributions " not received by the
end of the month in which they are due." Collections
Policy § 2.4. This meant that, typically, the Fund
provided " a 15-day grace period prior to assessing
interest on amounts owed." Anderson Decl. ¶ 21, ECF
No. 36-6. When an interest payment was required, the
collections policy specified that interest should be "
calculated from the due date for the delinquent contributions
through and including the date payment is actually received
ty the Fund Office." Id. § 5.1. The
collections policy set the interest rate at ten percent (10%)
per annum. Id. If a month's interest was
calculated to be less than one dollar, however, the
collections policy excepted that month's interest from
being charged. Id. § 2.4.
collection policy also allowed the Fund to claim liquidated
damages from Bristol Manor " [i]f contributions and
supporting remittance report(s) are not received by the 15th
day of the month following the month in which contributions
are due." Id. ; see also Trust
Agreement Art. III, § 3.2 (giving the Fund the power to
assess " liquidated damages (which . . . shall not be
deemed to be a penalty) as the Trustees deem
appropriate" when the Fund receives contributions after
their due date). Accordingly, the Fund typically provided
" a 30-day grace period to employe[r]s before assessing
liquidated damages." Anderson Decl. ¶ 22. In cases,
such as this one, in which " a lawsuit or other legal
action is filed," the collections policy set the amount
of liquidated damages as the greater of (1) the interest on
the late contributions, as calculated under the collections
policy, or (2) " 20% of the delinquent
contributions." Collections Policy § 5.2.
Attorney's Fees and Costs
the collection policy entitled the Fund to its attorney's
fees and costs incurred in collection efforts against
delinquent employers. See id. § § 5.3,
Bristol Manor's Alleged Late and Unpaid
May 2010 and June 2015, the Fund's records show that it
received many of Bristol Manor's required contributions
after the dates on which the contributions were due.
See Anderson Decl. Exs. A--C (listing the Fund's
due dates and receipt dates for Bristol Manor's
contributions); Jasinski Decl. Ex. A, ECF No. 37-4 (same).
The Fund's records also show that Bristol Manor often
made contributions in amounts less than the amounts the Fund
calculated were actually due; these alleged underpayments
occurred with increasing frequency over time. See
Anderson Decl. Exs. A--C (listing the amounts Bristol Manor
paid as well as the amounts the Fund calculated to be due);
Jasinski Decl. Ex. A (same). Accordingly, the Fund assessed
interest and liquidated damages on Bristol Manor's
allegedly late and unpaid contributions. See
Anderson Decl. Exs. A--C (including columns for interest,
liquidated damages, and additional interest due); Jasinski
Decl. Ex. A (same, though the numbers in the columns differ).
November 26, 2012, Plaintiffs filed suit under ERISA and the
LMRA to collect the unpaid contributions, interest, and
liquidated damages Bristol Manor allegedly owed and to obtain
audit documents from Bristol Manor. See Compl. 1-2,
6, ECF No. 1. For more than one year afterward, little
progress was made in this case because of difficulties
serving Bristol Manor and the parties' inactivity during
their settlement negotiations. See SEIU
Nat'l Indus. Pension Fund v. Bristol Manor Healthcare
Ctr., 307 F.R.D. 37, 39-40 (D.D.C. 2014) (recounting
this case's history).
January 13, 2014, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that
sought the same relief but alleged more specific damages.
See Am. Compl. 1-2, 8-10. After Bristol Manor failed
to respond within twenty-one days of service as required by
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a)(1)(A), Plaintiffs filed
for an entry of default, the clerk entered the default, and
Plaintiffs filed a motion for partial default judgment.
See Pls.' Aff. for Clerk's Entry of Default,
ECF No. 18; Default, ECF No. 19; Pls.' Mot. Partial
Default J., ECF No. 20. On its review of the matter, the
Court found that Bristol Manor did not willfully default,
that setting aside the entry of default would not prejudice
Plaintiffs, and that Bristol Manor asserted a meritorious
defense to Plaintiffs' claims. SEIU Nat'l Indus.
Pension Fund, 307 F.R.D. at 41-43. Accordingly, the
Court vacated the entry of default, denied Plaintiffs'
motion for default judgment, and allowed the case to proceed
to resolution on the merits. Id. at 43.
parties then conducted discovery over a six-month period.
See Scheduling Order, ECF No. 32 (setting the
discovery schedule). Plaintiffs now move for summary judgment
on their claims against Bristol Manor. See Pls.'
Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 36. As before, Plaintiffs seek
judgment on all known outstanding contributions Bristol Manor
owes, as well as liquidated damages and interest. Pls.'
Mem. P. & A. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 1, ECF No. 36. Plaintiffs
allege that both ERISA and the Fund's trust agreement and
collections policy authorize their requested damages.
See id. at 8 (citing 29 U.S.C. §
1132(g)(2)). Plaintiffs also seek attorney's fees, court
costs, as well as injunctive relief in the form of an order
requiring Bristol Manor to submit missing remittance reports
for June 2015. Id. Lastly, Plaintiffs ask that the
Court retain jurisdiction over the matter to order Bristol
Manor to pay any amounts due based on the June 2015 reports,
as well as any additional attorney's fees and costs
accrued. Id. 
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court must
grant summary judgment if " the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A " material" fact is one
capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the
litigation. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202
(1986). A dispute is " genuine" if there is enough
evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the
non-movant. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). The inquiry
under Rule 56 is essentially " whether the evidence
presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a
jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must
prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S.
principal purpose of summary judgment is to streamline
litigation by disposing of factually unsupported claims or
defenses and determining whether there is a genuine need for
trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The
movant bears the initial burden of identifying portions of
the record that demonstrate the absence of any genuine issue
of material fact. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1);
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. In response, the
non-movant must point to specific facts in the record that
reveal a genuine issue that is suitable for trial.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); Celotex, 477
U.S. at 324. The non-movant may not rest upon mere
allegations or denials but must instead present affirmative
evidence. Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236,
1241, 259 U.S.App.D.C. 115 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257).
considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must
" eschew making credibility determinations or weighing
the evidence," Czekalski v. Peters, 475 F.3d
360, 363, 374 U.S.App.D.C. 351 (D.C. Cir. 2007), and all
underlying facts and inferences must be analyzed in the light
most favorable to the non-movant, seeAnderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Nevertheless, conclusory
assertions offered without any evidentiary support do not
establish a ...