United States District Court, District of Columbia
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION HEALTH AND WELFARE FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
NORTH AMERICAN CLEANING SERVICES CO. INC. d/b/a Turtle Bay Building Services, Defendant.
RANDOLPH D. MOSS United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for
Default Judgment. Dkt. 7. Plaintiffs are the Service
Employees International Union Health and Welfare Fund
(“the Fund”), and its trustees. Dkt. 1 at 2-3
(Compl. ¶¶ 5-6). The Fund is an employee benefit
plan that provides health and welfare benefits to eligible
employees, including some who work for Defendant, North
American Cleaning Services Co., Inc. (“NACS”).
Id. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 9). According to
Plaintiffs, Defendant agreed in its collective bargaining
agreement with the Service Employees International Union
Local 26 (“SEIU”) to make certain monthly
payments into the Fund and open its books to auditing to
confirm compliance. Id. at 4-6 (Compl. ¶¶
12-16). Defendant, however, failed to respond to
Plaintiffs' request for documents after it was selected
for an audit. As a result, Plaintiffs brought this suit
pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of
1974 (“ERISA”) and the Labor Management Relations
Act of 1947 to compel Defendant to turn over the required
records. Id. at 5-6 (Compl. ¶¶ 19-25).
Plaintiffs also seek attorney's fees and costs incurred
in bringing this suit. Id. at 7 (Compl. ¶¶
3-4). Defendant has not appeared or responded to the
Complaint. For the reasons explained below, the Court hereby
GRANTS the Plaintiffs' motion for
April 1, 2013, SEIU entered into a collective bargaining
agreement (“CBA”) with Defendant NACS, which was
doing business as “Turtle Bay Building Services.”
See Dkt. 1-1; Dkt. 1 at 3 (Compl. ¶ 8). The CBA
obligates NACS to make certain monthly contributions for
eligible employees to the Fund. Dkt. 1 at 4 (Compl.
¶12); Dkt. 1-1 at 9. The CBA also binds Defendant to the
Health Trust Agreement (“Trust Agreement”), which
governs the Fund. Dkt. 1 at 4 (Compl. ¶ 13); Dkt. 1-1 at
10. The Trust Agreement subjects employers to several
reporting requirements, two of which are relevant here.
First, it requires employers to “submit complete
remittance reports to the . . . Fund with [their]
contributions, ” which “contain the names of each
covered employee and the number of compensable hours for each
employee during the reporting month.” Dkt. 1 at 4
(Compl. ¶ 14). Second, the “Trust Agreement
empowers the Trustees to audit the payroll records and books
of any participating employer, ” which means the
“employer is required to make its payroll records and
books available to the Fund.” Id. (Compl.
¶15); Dkt. 1-2 at 51-52.
Fund selected NACS for an audit covering 2014 and 2015, and
made requests on June 14, 2016, August 9, 2016, and September
19, 2016, for the information the Trust Agreement requires
all covered employers to provide. Dkt. 1 at 5 (Compl.
¶19). NACS did not responded to these requests, nor did
it acknowledge Plaintiffs' “final demand”
letter sent on February 16, 2016. Id. After waiting
several months, Plaintiffs filed suit in this Court on April
24, 2017, seeking an order that would “requir[e] the
Defendant to timely provide such information as requested by
the Fund in order to perform an audit of the Defendant,
” along with a declaration that the Defendant was out
of compliance with the CBA and Trust Agreement. Id.
at 6-7 (Compl. ¶¶ 1-2). Plaintiffs also seek
attorney's fees and other costs. Id. at 7
(Compl. ¶¶ 3-4).
has failed to appear or to respond to the Complaint. As
previously recounted, see Dkt. 10, Plaintiffs served
the Complaint on Defendant's Chief Executive Officer on
May 10, 2017, Dkt. 4 at 2. Defendant's answer was due on
May 31, 2017. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1)(A)(i). On
June 1, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an affidavit for default, Dkt.
5, and the Clerk entered a default the next day, Dkt. 6. On
June 6, 2017, Plaintiffs moved for (1) an entry of default
judgment; (2) an order that Defendant deliver certain records
for audit; (3) an order that Defendant pay any delinquent
amounts found as a result of that audit; and (4) an order
that Defendant pay Plaintiffs for their attorney's fees
and costs. See generally Dkt. 7; Dkt. 7-3.
Plaintiffs served their motion on Defendant via first class
mail. Dkt. 7 at 13.
the Court issued three orders to show cause. First, the Court
ordered that Plaintiffs make at least a prima facie
showing that personal jurisdiction over the absent defendant
existed. See Dkt. 8. On June 13, 2017, the
Plaintiffs replied, arguing that the nationwide service of
process provisions in ERISA, the administration of the Fund
within the District of Columbia, and the Defendant's
contacts with the United States by virtue of its operation in
Minnesota justified the Court's exercise of personal
jurisdiction. The Court next ordered the Defendant to show
cause on or before July 6, 2017, why the Court should not
enter a default judgment against it, and ordered Plaintiffs
to effect service of that order on the Defendant. Dkt. 10.
Plaintiffs did so, see Dkts. 13, 14, and NACS's
the Court ordered the Fund and its trustees show cause for
awarding them attorney's fees and costs. Dkt. 11. The
Court noted that, although ERISA authorizes “reasonable
attorney's fees, ” the “declaration setting
forth [Plaintiffs'] attorneys' respective rates and
hours billed on this matter, along with the relevant
timesheets . . . lack[ed] sufficient detail for the Court to
assess [the] factors” required by the statute. Dkt. 11
at 1. In response, Plaintiffs have submitted an additional
declaration and exhibits that offer more evidence about the
prevailing rates for similar legal work in the community and
greater detail as to the costs of this litigation.
a default judgment requires two steps. At the first step, the
plaintiff requests the Clerk of the Court to enter a default.
If the Clerk determines that the “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, the [C]lerk must enter the party's
default.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a) (emphasis added). Upon
entry of the default, the factual allegations of the
complaint are deemed admitted, which usually establishes the
defendant's liability. See, e.g., Robinson
v. Ergo Solutions, LLC, 4 F.Supp.3d 171, 178 (D.D.C.
2014); Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indus.
Pension Fund v. Auxier Drywall, LLC, 531 F.Supp.2d 56,
57 (D.D.C. 2008). At the second step, the plaintiff must
apply for a default judgment, either to the Clerk “for
a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by
computation, ” or to the Court in “all other
cases.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(1), (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, 531 F.Supp.2d at 57 (citing Jackson v.
Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980)). However,
prior to entering a default judgment, the Court must assure
itself that personal jurisdiction exists. Mwani v. bin
Laden, 417 F.3d 1, 6 (D.C. Cir. 2005). Here, Plaintiffs
have properly obtained a default from the Clerk of the Court.
For the reasons explained below, the Court now concludes that
judgment by default should also be entered in favor of the
Fund and its trustees.
initial matter, Plaintiffs have made the requisite prima
facie showing that the Court has personal jurisdiction
over NACS. See Mwani, 417 F.3d at 7; Edmond v.
United States Postal Serv. Gen. Counsel, 949 F.2d 415,
424 (D.C. Cir. 1991). This suit is brought under ERISA, which
provides that an action “may be brought in the district
where the plan is administered, where the breach took place,
or where a defendant resides or may be found, and process may
be served in any other district where a defendant resides or
may be found.” 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2). Under this
standard, NACS is subject to suit in this district. First,
the Fund is administered in Washington, D.C. Dkt. 9 at 2.
Second, although Plaintiffs do not allege any contacts
between NACS and this district, “ERISA's venue
provision ‘has been interpreted to authorize nationwide
service of process.'” Mazzarino v. Prudential
Ins. Co. of Am., 955 F.Supp.2d 24, 28 (D.D.C. 2013)
(quoting Flynn v. Ohio Bldg. Restoration, Inc., 260
F.Supp.2d 156, 170-71 (D.D.C. 2003)). As this Court has
previously explained, “jurisdiction over a defendant
served pursuant to a federal statute with a
nationwide-service-of-process provision is proper as long as
the defendant has minimum contacts with the United States as
a whole.” See Bally Gaming, Inc. v. Kappos,
789 F.Supp.2d 41, 46 (D.D.C. 2011) (collecting cases);
see also SEC v. Bilzerian, 378 F.3d 1100, 1106 n.8
(D.C. Cir. 2004). Here, sufficient contacts with the United
States as a whole exist because NACS is headquartered in
Minneapolis, Minnesota, and conducts its business there. Dkt.
9 at 2; Dkt. 1 at 3 (Compl. ¶ 8). Plaintiffs have thus
made a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction.
“satisf[ied] itself that it has personal
jurisdiction” over the absent defendant,
Mwani, 417 F.3d at 6-7, the Court turns to the
substance of the Plaintiffs' ERISA claims. The statute
provides that “[e]very employer who is obligated to
make contributions to a multiemployer plan . . . under the
terms of a collectively bargained agreement shall, to the
extent not inconsistent with law, make such contributions in
accordance with the terms and conditions of . . . such
agreement.” 29 U.S.C. § 1145. The facts alleged in
the Complaint-which are taken as true by virtue of NAC's
default-establish that NACS has failed to comply with the
Trust Agreement and the CBA by refusing to provide the books
and records necessary to conduct an audit covering January
2014 to December 2015. Dkt. 1 at 5 (Compl. ¶ 18); Dkt.
1-2 at 51 (“The Trustees shall have the authority, at
the expense of the Trust Fund, to audit the payroll books and
records of a participating employer . . . as they may deem
necessary in the administration of the Trust Fund.”).
breach of the Trust Agreement and the CBA provide ample bases
for the limited relief Plaintiffs seek. As in previous cases
brought in this Court, “equitable relief is warranted
because defendant ‘has demonstrated no willingness to
comply with either its contractual or statutory obligations
or to participate in the judicial process.'”
Serv. Employees Int'l Nat'l Indus. Pension Fund
v. Tandem Dev. Grp., LLC, No. CV 16-2524, 2017 WL
3530358, at *3 (D.D.C. Aug. 16, 2017) (quoting Fanning v.