United States District Court, District of Columbia
BRICKLAYERS & TROWEL TRADES INTERNATIONAL PENSION FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
MIAMI VALLEY MASONRY, INC., Defendants.
L. FRIEDRICH United States District Judge
the Court is the Plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of Judgment
by Default. Dkt. 8. For the reasons that follow, the Court
will grant the motion.
are fiduciaries of two benefit plans: the Bricklayers &
Trowel Trades International Pension Fund and the
International Masonry Institute. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2,
Dkt. 1. Both plans are multiemployer employee-benefit plans
organized under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”). Id.; 29 U.S.C. §§
1002(1), (2), (37). The plans provide retirement, disability,
death, and other benefits to individuals who work in the
construction industry as bricklayers or as similar tradesmen.
Pls.' App. at 002, Dkt. 8-3. Defendant Miami Valley is an
Ohio corporation and an “employer in an industry
affecting commerce” as defined by ERISA. Compl. ¶
3; 29 U.S.C. §§ 1002(5), (11), (12). Under its
collective bargaining agreements and ERISA, Miami Valley is
required to make contributions to the benefit plans based on
the number of hours worked by its employees in covered
employment. Compl. ¶¶ 7-9. In this action,
Plaintiffs seek a judgment of $50, 714.14 based on
allegations that Miami Valley failed to make required
contributions. Id. ¶¶ 4, 7, 15-25.
Plaintiffs also seek equitable relief, namely orders
directing Miami Valley to submit to an audit and comply with
its contractual and statutory obligations. Id.
filed the complaint in this action on March 3, 2017.
Id. Miami Valley was duly served with the complaint
and summons on March 6, 2017. Aff. of Service, Dkt. 3; Proof
of Service, Dkt. 3-1. On the same day, Plantiffs' counsel
emailed a copy of the complaint to Miami Valley's
Treasurer. App. at 028, 037-040. Because Miami Valley did not
answer or otherwise respond to the complaint within the time
period allotted by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12,
Plaintiffs requested an entry of default. Dkt. 4. Plaintiffs
also mailed a copy of their request to Miami Valley. Dkt.
4-2. The Clerk of the Court entered default on April 4, 2017,
Dkt. 5, and served a copy of the default entry on Miami
Valley, Dkt. 7. On April 19, 2017, Plaintiffs moved this
Court to enter a default judgment against Miami Valley under
Rule 55(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dkt.
8. The case was reassigned to the undersigned judge on
December 4, 2017.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure empower a federal district
court to enter a default judgment against a defendant who
fails to defend its case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2); Keegel
v. Key West & Caribbean Trading Co., 627 F.2d 372,
375 n.5 (D.C. Cir. 1980). While federal policy generally
favors resolving disputes on their merits, default judgments
are appropriate “when the adversary process has been
halted because of an essentially unresponsive party.”
Mwani v. bin Laden, 417 F.3d 1, 7 (D.C. Cir. 2005)
(quotation marks omitted).
a default judgment is a two-step process. First, the
plaintiff must request that the Clerk of Court enter default
against a party who has failed to plead or otherwise defend.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). The Clerk's default entry establishes
the defaulting defendant's liability for the well-pleaded
allegations of the complaint. Boland v. Providence
Constr. Corp., 304 F.R.D. 31, 35 (D.D.C. 2014). Second,
if the plaintiff's claim is not for a “sum certain,
” the plaintiff must apply to the court for a default
judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). At that point, the plaintiff
“must prove his entitlement to the relief requested
using detailed affidavits or documentary evidence on which
the court may rely.” Ventura v. L.A. Howard Constr.
Co., 134 F.Supp.3d 99, 103 (D.D.C. 2015) (internal
quotation marks and alterations omitted).
ruling on a motion for default judgment, a court “is
required to make an independent determination of the sum to
be awarded.” Fanning v. Permanent Sol. Indus.,
Inc., 257 F.R.D. 4, 7 (D.D.C. 2009) (quotation marks
omitted). In that inquiry, the court has “considerable
latitude.” Ventura, 134 F.Supp.3d at 103
(quotation marks omitted). The court may conduct a hearing to
determine damages, Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2), but the court is
not required to do so “as long as it ensures that there
is a basis for the damages specified in the default judgment,
” Ventura, 134 F.Supp.3d at 103 (quotation
marks and alterations omitted).
the Clerk's default entry in this case, Miami Valley is
deemed liable for the well-pleaded allegations in the
complaint, including the allegation that Miami Valley failed
to make timely contributions to the benefit plans.
Providence Constr., 304 F.R.D. at 35. With liability
established, the Court must independently determine the
amount owed by Miami Valley to the Plaintiffs and whether
equitable relief is appropriate.
Valley's obligations are set forth in a number of
agreements: its collective bargaining agreements with
Bricklayers Local Union No. 22 Ohio, a Memorandum of
Understanding between the benefit plans and Miami Valley, and
the benefit plans' trust agreement and collection
procedures. Compl. ¶¶ 7-9, 12-14; App. 002-003.
These agreements obligate Miami Valley to pay (1)
contributions based on the number of hours worked by
employees in covered employment; (2) interest on unpaid
contributions at a rate of 15% per annum; (3) the higher of
either an additional interest payment on unpaid contributions
at a rate of 15% per annum, or liquidated damages calculated
as 20% of the total contributions owed; and (4) related
attorney's fees and costs. Id. If an employer
like Miami Valley does not comply with such agreements,
Section 502 of ERISA directs courts to award the amounts
owed. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g) (stating that, if
judgment is entered in favor of a benefit plan, the court
shall award unpaid contributions, interest at the rate set by
the plan, liquidated damages, and reasonable attorney's
fees and costs).
Valley disregarded its obligations, so Plaintiffs now seek to
recover the amounts owed. Compl. ¶¶ 16, 21;
Pls.' Mem. at 2, 15, Dkt. 8-1. In support of their motion
for default judgment, Plaintiffs have submitted (1) the
declaration of David F. Stupar, the Executive Director of the
Bricklayers & Trowel Trades International Pension Fund
and an authorized representative of the International Masonry
Institute, see App. at 001-026; and (2) the
declaration of R. Richard Hopp, counsel for the Plaintiffs,
see Id. at 027-040. The declarations and their
accompanying exhibits set forth the Plaintiffs'
calculations with specificity. Stupar's declaration
details the contributions, interest, and court costs owed by
Miami Valley. Id. at 003- 005. Hopp's
declaration details attorney's fees and costs.
Id. at 027-028. In particular, the declarations and
the entire record establish that Miami Valley owes the
following amounts totaling $50, 741.14:
• $20, 234.98 for unpaid contributions to the benefit
plans from January 2016 through June 2016, ...