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Service Employees International Union National Industry Pension Fund v. Scientific and Commercial Systems Corp.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 10, 2017




         Plaintiff Service Employees International Union's National Industry Pension Fund and its trustees brought this action in 2013 against Defendant Scientific and Commercial Systems Corporation, claiming that SCSC never paid withdrawal liability under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. SCSC then brought a cross-claim against Tessada & Associates, Inc., seeking indemnification for any amount it was found to owe SEIU. See ECF No. 8. The Court ultimately awarded SEIU summary judgment on its suit against SCSC and then stayed SCSC's cross-claim against TAI on account of TAI's bankruptcy. SEIU now moves the Court to direct entry of judgment against SCSC under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) by certifying that there is no just reason for delay. Plaintiffs may then press to enforce this judgment without awaiting the fate of TAI. Believing that such certification is warranted, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. Background

         An account of the relevant factual background appears in the Court's prior Opinion in this case. See Serv. Emps. Int'l Union Nat'l Indus. Pension Fund v. Sci. & Commercial Sys. Corp. (SEIU I), 2015 WL 4078006, at *1-2 (D.D.C. July 2, 2015). To briefly summarize, SCSC was a subcontractor to TAI and hired members of SEIU to perform janitorial work at a government facility. This obligated SCSC to contribute to an SEIU pension plan under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq, and its later amendments. TAI eventually terminated its contract with SCSC, which led SCSC to cancel its union contract. Such cancellation gave rise to a withdrawal penalty under ERISA. See 29 U.S.C. § 1399. After unsuccessfully dogging SCSC for the money, Plaintiffs brought this suit, which then led to SCSC's cross-claim against TAI. After a number of stays in the hopes of an administrative resolution, SEIU moved forward with its case against SCSC and prevailed in full at the summary-judgment stage. See Serv. Emps. Int'l Union Nat'l Indus. Pension Fund v. Sci. & Commercial Sys. Corp. (SEIU II), 2016 WL 5313006, at *10 (D.D.C. Sept. 22, 2016). Although the date of filing is uncertain, TAI is currently in bankruptcy, see ECF No. 61 (Status Report); as a result, the Court stayed the remainder of the action. See Minute Order of Oct. 11, 2016. Rather than wait for a resolution of the bankruptcy proceedings and the SCSC-TAI battle, SEIU now moves under Rule 54(b) for entry of judgment against SCSC, the sole defendant.

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 54(b) states:

When an action presents more than one claim for relief - whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party claim - or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay.

         Courts follow a two-step process under this rule: “A district court must first determine that it is dealing with a ‘final judgment.' . . . Once having found finality, the district court must go on to determine whether there is any just reason for delay.” Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 7-8 (1980). At the first step, a court must consider if its decision is an ultimate disposition regarding a party's claim for relief. Id. at 7 (“It must be a ‘judgment' in the sense that it is a decision upon a cognizable claim for relief, and it must be ‘final' in the sense that it is ‘an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action.'”) (quoting Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427, 436 (1956)).

         If the decision in question is indeed a final judgment, the inquiry turns next to the reasons for delay and employs a list of five relevant factors that were originally set out in Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Phila. Elec. Co., 521 F.2d 360 (3d Cir. 1975):

(1) the relationship between the adjudicated and unadjudicated claims; (2) the possibility that the need for review might or might not be mooted by future developments in the district court; (3) the possibility that the reviewing court might be obliged to consider the same issue a second time; (4) the presence or absence of a claim or counterclaim which could result in a set-off against the judgment sought to be made final; (5) miscellaneous factors such as delay, economic and solvency considerations, shortening the time of trial, frivolity of competing claims, expense, and the like.

Id. at 364 (footnotes omitted). These factors are not deemed all-inclusive but represent the main considerations courts focus on in making Rule 54(b) determinations. See Downing v. Riceland Foods, Inc., 810 F.3d 580, 585-86 (8th Cir. 2016); MCI Constructors, LLC v. City of Greensboro, 610 F.3d 849, 855 (4th Cir. 2010); Akers v. Alvey, 338 F.3d 491, 495 (6th Cir. 2003).

         Broadly stated, the determination under Rule 54(b) “weighs both ‘justice to the litigants' and ‘the interest of sound judicial administration.'” Brooks v. Dist. Hosp. Partners, L.P., 606 F.3d 800, 806 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (quoting Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 6, 8). The Rule “mediates between the sometimes antagonistic goals of avoiding piecemeal appeals and giving parties timely justice.” Taylor v. FDIC, 132 F.3d 753, 760 (D.C. Cir. 1997). “The factors affecting ‘justice to the parties' will inevitably differ from case to case, but the factors pertaining to judicial administration include ‘whether the claims under review [are] separable from the others remaining to be adjudicated and whether the nature of the claims already determined [is] such that no appellate court [will] have to decide the same issues more than once even if there [are] subsequent appeals.'” Brooks, 606 F.3d at 806 (quoting Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 8).

         III. Analysis

         In seeking entry of judgment here, Plaintiffs argue that both prongs of Rule 54(b) are met. In opposition, Defendant primarily contests the first prong of the analysis. See ECF No. 64 (Opposition) at 2 (“SEIU's summary judgment order is not a final order due to a few considerations.”) (emphasis added). As ...

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