United States District Court, District of Columbia
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION NATIONAL INDUSTRY PENSION FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
BRISTOL MANOR HEALTHCARE CENTER, INC., Defendant. Re Document No. 43
Plaintiffs’ Petition for Attorneys’ Fees and
Costs and Additional Damages
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge.
action, Plaintiffs Service Employees International Union
Industry Pension Fund (“the Fund”) and associated
trustees seek an award of attorneys’ fees and costs and
additional damages incurred in the course of a claim against
Defendant Bristol Manor Healthcare Center, Inc.
(“Bristol Manor”) for failure to pay required
contributions to the Fund, as required under the
parties’ collective bargaining and trust agreements, in
violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of
1974 (“ERISA”) and the Labor Management Relations Act
of 1947 (“LMRA”). See Pls.’ Pet. For
Att’ys’ Fees and Costs & Add’l Damages,
ECF No. 43 [hereinafter Pls.’ Pet.]. Plaintiffs also
request attorneys’ fees associated with preparing their
reply to Defendant’s opposition. See Id.
Defendant disputes Plaintiffs’ entitlement to
attorneys’ fees and, in the alternative, the
reasonableness of the fee request and the request for
additional damages. See Def.’s Br. Supp.
Opp’n Pls.’ Appl. Att’ys’ Fees &
Costs & Add’l Damages, ECF No. 46 [hereinafter
Def.’s Opp’n]. The Court concludes that
Plaintiffs are entitled to attorneys’ fees for their
original litigation, that their request is reasonable, and
that they are entitled to the additional damages. Plaintiffs
are also entitled to attorneys’ fees for preparation of
their reply. To correct minor inconsistencies in
Plaintiffs’ request, the Court uses amounts found in
Plaintiffs’ original petition (minus a deduction for a
duplicative entry) to award fees. Accordingly, the Court
grants Plaintiffs’ petition for attorneys’ fees
and costs and additional damages in the amount of $33,
Court set out extensive factual background in its Memorandum
Opinion granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary
Judgment, and only salient facts are laid out here. See
SEIU Nat’l Indus. Pension Fund v. Bristol Manor
Healthcare Ctr., No. 12-1904, 2016 WL 354873 (D.D.C.
Jan. 28, 2016); see also Jan. 28, 2016 Mem. Op., ECF
No. 42 [hereinafter Mem. Op.]. Defendant Bristol Manor
entered into 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 Agreement]. The
agreement required Bristol Manor to make contributions to the
Fund based on the number of hours worked by employees,
including Certified Nursing Assistants; dietary,
housekeeping, and recreational aides; Licensed Practical
Nurses; and other employees. See Id. at 8. Pursuant
to the collective bargaining agreement, Bristol Manor agreed
to be bound to a trust agreement that established the Fund
and the Fund’s collection polices, which obligated
Bristol Manor to send required contributions and remittance
reports to the Fund. See Id. at 33; see
also Pls.’ Statement Ex. 2, ECF No. 36-2
[hereinafter Trust Agreement]; Pls.’ Statement Ex. 3,
ECF No. 36-3 [hereinafter Collections Policy].
Fund set procedures for collecting contributions through a
“Statement of Policy for Collection of Delinquent
Contributions.” See generally Collections
Policy. Contributions had to be made “by the 15th of
the month following the month in which work was performed for
which the contributions are owed” and be accompanied by
remittance reports. Id. §§ 2.1, 2.2. Both
the Trust Agreement and Collections Policy declared that the
Fund could collect interest and liquidated damages on
delinquent contributions in addition to attorneys’ fees
and costs in the event a lawsuit was filed. See
Trust Agreement Art. III, § 3.2; Collections Policy
§§ 2.4, 5.1-5.4. Both policies stated that these
obligations were “contractual in nature and independent
of provisions of ERISA” that governed awards of
attorneys’ fees, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g).
Collections Policy § 5.5. Between May 2010 and June
2015, the Fund received many of the required contributions
late, and some contributions were not received at all.
See Anderson Decl. Exs. A-C, ECF No. 36-6; Janinski
Decl. Ex. A, ECF No. 37-4. The Fund accordingly assessed
interest and liquidated damages on Bristol Manor’s late
and unpaid contributions. See Anderson Decl. Exs.
A-C; Janinski Decl. Ex. A.
filed suit under ERISA and LMRA to collect the unpaid
contributions, interest, and liquidated damages owed them by
Bristol Manor and to obtain audit documents. See
Compl. 1-2, 6, ECF No. 1. After over nearly a year of delay
due to difficulties serving Bristol Manor, the clerk entered
default in favor of Plaintiffs; the Court later vacated the
entry of default and allowed the case to proceed to
discovery. See SEIU Nat’l Indus. Pension Fund v.
Bristol Manor Healthcare Ctr., 307 F.R.D. 37, 39-43
(D.D.C. 2014) (spelling out this case’s history in
greater detail). After discovery, Plaintiffs moved for
summary judgment on their claims against Bristol Manor.
See Pls.’ Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 36.
Plaintiffs sought outstanding contributions, liquidated
damages, interest, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
See Pls.’ Mem. P. & A. Supp. Mot. Summ. J.
at 1, 8, ECF No. 36. The Court granted Plaintiffs’
motion and directed both parties to “submit briefing on
the appropriate award of fees and costs.” See
Mem. Op. at 29.
now petition for attorneys’ fees and costs and
additional damages. See generally Pls.’ Pet.
Following their reply, Plaintiffs ultimately seek $19, 023.60
in attorneys’ fees and costs and $14, 014.25 in
additional damages for the period of June 2015 through
December 2015. See Pls.’ Reply at 9, ECF
Plaintiffs’ Entitlement to Attorneys’ Fees
parties dispute whether Plaintiffs are entitled to
attorneys’ fees under ERISA. A court “in its
discretion” may award “a reasonable
attorney’s fee and costs of action to either
party” for any action arising under ERISA. 29 U.S.C.
§ 1132(g)(1). If the action is brought under section
1145 to recover contributions to a multiemployer plan
pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, however,
“the court shall award the plan . . .
reasonable attorney’s fees and costs of the
action” if the plan receives a judgment in its favor.
Id. § 1132(g)(2)(D) (emphasis added). The award
of attorneys’ fees under section 1132(g)(2) is
mandatory and “does not fall to the discretion”
of a court. Connors v. Brady-Cline Coal Co., 668
F.Supp. 5, 10 (D.D.C. 1987); see also United Retail &
Wholesale Emps. Teamsters Union v. Yahn & McDonnell,
Inc., 787 F.2d 128, 134 (3d Cir. 1986) (“[T]he
language of [section 1132(g)(2)] is mandatory.”);
Trs. of Amalgamated Ins. Fund v. Geltman Indus., 784
F.2d 926, 931 (9th Cir. 1986) (“[F]ees are mandatory .
. . under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2).”); 4 Alba Conte,
Attorney Fee Awards § 27:3 (3d ed. 2016)
(explaining that “§ 1132(g)(2) is
mandatory”). The purpose of this provision is to
“encourage enforcement of employer contributions”
and protect funds from “the high cost of litigation and
collection expenses.” Sheet Metal Workers Health
& Welfare Tr. Fund v. Big D Serv. Co., 876 F.2d 852,
854 (10th Cir. 1989) (per curiam).
argues that section 1132(g) requires a two-step test. Under
the first step, a court must first decide if a party is
entitled to attorneys’ fees at all using five factors
described in Eddy v. Colonial Life Insurance Co. of
America, 59 F.3d 201 (D.C. Cir. 1995). See
Def.’s Opp’n at 4. If the court finds that the
party is entitled to fees, Defendant argues, then a court
must apply the lodestar analysis by multiplying the number of
reasonable hours by the reasonable hourly rate to determine
the amount of the award. See id. Defendant asserts
that Plaintiffs are not entitled to attorneys’ fees
because they cannot demonstrate bad faith or that such an
award is “necessary as a deterrent.” See
Id. at 5. Finally, Defendant states that Plaintiffs
should not be “rewarded . . . for muddying the
waters” by providing inconsistent amounts of what was
owed to Plaintiffs in contributions to the Fund. See
Plaintiffs correctly state in their reply, Defendant fails to
consider the applicability of section 1132(g)(2) to
Plaintiffs. Pls.’ Reply at 1-2. Plaintiffs have brought
their action under section 1145 and received a judgment in
their favor. Thus, they fulfill the requirements of section
1132(g)(2) and are entitled to “reasonable
attorney’s fees and costs of the action.” 29
U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2)(D). Because an award under section
1132(g)(2) is mandatory, ...