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Service Employees International Union National Industry Pension Fund v. ABC Window Cleaning Co., Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 16, 2017

SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION NATIONAL INDUSTRY PENSION FUND, Plaintiffs,
v.
ABC WINDOW CLEANING COMPANY, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMY BERMAN JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs Service Employees International Union National Industry Pension Fund and the Trustees for the SEIU Pension Fund brought this action against defendant ABC Window Cleaning Company, Inc. ("ABC Window") pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 1132 et seq Compl. [Dkt. #1]. They allege that defendant failed to submit reports to the SEIU Pension Fund and contribute the proper amounts owed under the relevant collective bargaining agreement. Id.¶¶lO, 12-13. Because defendant has not fulfilled its obligations, plaintiffs ask the Court to enforce the reporting requirement, and they allege that they are entitled to collect unpaid contributions, interest, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. Id. ¶ 1.

         Now pending before the Court is plaintiffs' motion for entry of default judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). Pis.' Mot. for Default J. [Dkt. # 9] ("Pis.' Mot."); Pis.' Mem. in Supp. of Pls.' Mot. [Dkt. # 9] ("Pis.' Mem."). Plaintiffs request that the Court order defendant to submit delinquent remittance reports, and that the Court retain jurisdiction to enter judgment for any contributions, interest, or liquidated damages determined to be owed based on those remittance reports. Pis.' Mem. at 9. Plaintiffs have also asked the Court to enter an order requiring defendant to pay plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs. Id.

         Having considered plaintiffs' submissions, applicable case law, statutory authority, and the record of the case as a whole, the Court will grant plaintiffs' motion for default judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         In July 2009, plaintiffs and defendant entered into a collective bargaining agreement through their bargaining representatives, Service Employees International Union Local 1 and Illinois Association of Building Maintenance Contractors, respectively. Compl. ¶ 10; Ex. 2 to Compl. [Dkt. # 1-2] ("CBA"). As part of the CBA, defendant agreed to abide by a Trust Agreement, under which employers must "contribute to the [SEIU Pension] Fund the required contributions and shall make such reports to the Fund as may be required by the Trustees." Ex. 3 to Compl. [Dkt. # 1-3] ("Trust Agreement") at 2; CBA at 16-17; see also Compl. ¶ 14. Under the Trust Agreement, an employer must submit "remittance reports" that contain "the names of each covered employee and the number of compensable hours for each employee during the reporting month, " along with the corresponding contributions. Compl. ¶ 15. Pursuant to the Trust Agreement and the CBA, "[defendant was required to contribute $1.05 per hour for each hour worked by covered employees." Id. ¶ 12. "[T]his amount increased to $1.10 per hour for each hour worked, " effective January 1, 2010. Id.

         Employers who fail to submit the required remittance reports and contributions are "liable for interest at the rate often percent (10%) per annum, liquidated damages at the greater of the interest on the delinquent contributions or twenty percent (20%) of the delinquent contributions . . ., and attorneys' fees and costs." Compl. ¶ 16. Defendant would also owe additional surcharges and contributions pursuant to the Pension Protection Act ("PPA") if the SEIU Pension Fund was deemed to be in critical status, which was the case from 2009 to 2016. Id. ¶¶ 17-18;see 29 U.S.C.§ 1081et seq.

         Plaintiffs filed a complaint in this case on September 29, 2016, seeking "to collect unpaid collectively bargained remittance reports, contributions . . . [PPA] supplemental contributions, interest, liquidated damages and attorneys' fees and costs" allegedly owed by defendant pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1145. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs allege that for the months of February 2015, April 2015, June 2015, and February 2016, defendant did not "remit certain required reports and contributions" and "failed to pay certain interest charges and liquidated damages owed to the SEIU Pension Fund." Id.¶ 20.

         On December 20, 2016, the summons and complaint were served on the Illinois Secretary of State, in accordance with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 4(c) and 4(h)(1). See Summons Returned Executed [Dkt. # 6]. Defendant failed to file an answer or otherwise respond to plaintiffs' complaint, so plaintiffs filed an affidavit for default on January 18, 2017, Pis.' Aff for Clerk's Entry of Default [Dkt. # 7], and the Clerk of Court entered default against defendant on January 19, 2017. Clerk's Entry of Default [Dkt. # 8]. Plaintiffs then filed this motion on March 1, 2017. Pis.'Mot.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) provides that the clerk of the court must enter a party's 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, a court may enter a default judgment order pursuant to Rule 55(b). Whether default judgment is appropriate is in the discretion of the trial court. Keegel v. Key West & Caribbean Trading Co., 627 F.2d 372, 375 n.5 (D.C. Cir. 1980); Jackson v. Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 835 (D.C. Cir. 1980). Upon entry of default by the clerk of the court, the "defaulting defendant is deemed to admit every well-pleaded allegation in the complaint." Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. R.W. Amrine Drywall Co., Inc., 239 F.Supp.2d 26, 30 (D.D.C. 2002), citing Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hughes, 449 F.2d 51, 63 (2d Cir. 1971). "Although the default establishes a defendant's liability, the court is required to make an independent determination of the sum to be awarded unless the amount of damages is certain." Id., citing Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001). Accordingly, when moving for a default judgment, the plaintiff must prove its entitlement to the amount of monetary damages requested. Id. (citation omitted). "In ruling on such a motion, the court may rely on detailed affidavits or documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum for the default judgment." Id. (citation omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         Given "the absence of any request to set aside the default or suggestion by the defendant that it has a meritorious defense, " the Court concludes that default judgment is appropriate in this case. Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Auxier Drywall, LLC, 531 F.Supp.2d 56, 57 (D.D.C. 2008), quoting Gutierrez v. Berg Contracting Inc., No. 99-3044, 2000 WL 331721, at *1 (D.D.C. Mar. 20, 2000). The Clerk of Court has already entered defendant's default, so the factual allegations in the complaint are therefore taken as true. See R.W Amrine Drywall Co., 239 F.Supp.2d at 30. The Court finds that plaintiffs' complaint sufficiently alleges facts to support its claims, and therefore, plaintiffs are entitled to default judgment on the question of defendant's liability for its failure to pay contributions under the terms of the CBA and related agreements. The Court further finds that plaintiffs are entitled to receive the requested delinquent remittance reports.

         I. Plaintiffs are entitled to the delinquent ...


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