United States District Court, District of Columbia
MICHAEL R. FANNING, Plaintiff,
AMF MECHANICAL CORPORATION, Defendant.
TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Michael R. Fanning, the CEO of the Central Pension Fund of
the International Union of Operating Engineers and
Participating Employers (“Central Pension Fund”),
has filed suit against Defendant AMF Mechanical Corporation
(“AMF Mechanical”) for failure to pay its
required contributions to the fund from January 2013 through
December 2015, in violation of applicable collective
bargaining agreements and the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), Pub. L. No.
93-406, 88 Stat. 829. ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”). To
date, AMF Mechanical has failed to answer or otherwise defend
this action. Fanning has moved for a default judgment, asking
the Court to enter judgment in the amount of $73, 924.13 and
to order AMF Mechanical to submit to an audit of its payroll
records from January 2016 through May 2016. ECF No. 8;
see also ECF No. 8-1 (“Pl.'s Br.”);
ECF No. 8-3 (“Pl.'s App”). For the reasons
stated in this Opinion, the motion will be granted.
is a designated fiduciary of the Central Pension Fund, which
is a multiemployer plan and an employee benefit plan, as
those terms are defined under ERISA. Compl. ¶ 1 (citing
29 U.S.C. § 1002(1), (21), (37)); see also 29
U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3). The fund provides retirement,
disability, death, and other benefits to operating engineers
working in various industries, Pl.'s App. 001-004
(“Fanning Decl.”) ¶ 6, and is governed by
its Restated Agreement and Declaration of Trust (the
“Trust Agreement”), Pl.'s App. 005-009. AMF
Mechanical is a Maryland corporation and an
“employer” in an “industry or activity
affecting commerce, ” as those terms are defined by
ERISA. See Compl. ¶ 2 (citing 29 U.S.C.
§§ 1001a, 1002(5), (9), (11), (12)). AMF Mechanical
and the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local
Union Nos. 399 and 564, entered into collective bargaining
agreements (“CBAs”), Pl.'s App. 010-023,
that, among other things, bind AMF Mechanical to the terms of
the Trust Agreement, see Id. at 012, 016. Under
these agreements, AMF Mechanical was required to make monthly
contributions to the fund based on the number of hours worked
by its employees in covered employment. Compl. ¶ 7;
Fanning Decl. ¶ 7.
27, 2017, Fanning filed suit against AMF Mechanical asserting
that, based on the results of a December 2016 payroll audit,
the company underreported the number of qualifying hours
worked from January 2013 through December 2015 and, as a
result, failed to pay in full its owed contributions during
that time period. Compl. ¶¶ 14-15; Fanning Decl.
¶¶ 10-11. In his complaint, Fanning requests that
the Court require the company to (1) pay the owed
contributions, accrued interest, liquidated damages, and
related audit costs, legal costs, and attorney's fees;
and (2) submit to an audit of its payroll records from
January 2016 through May 2016. Compl. at 5-6. On August 29,
2017, AMF Mechanical was served with the complaint, making
its answer due 21 days later, on September 19. ECF No. 4;
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1)(A)(i). AMF Mechanical
did not timely file an answer. On September 26, Fanning
requested an entry of default. ECF No. 5. The next day,
September 27, the Clerk of Court entered default, ECF No. 6,
and Fanning served AMF Mechanical with a copy of the entry of
default, ECF No. 7. AMF Mechanical did not move to set aside
the entry of default. On October 2, Fanning moved for a
default judgment, and served AMF Mechanical with a copy of
the motion. ECF Nos. 8, 8-5. AMF Mechanical has not filed any
opposition to the motion, or made any other appearance in
court has the power to enter default judgment when a
defendant fails to defend its case appropriately or otherwise
engages in dilatory tactics.” Boland v. Elite
Terrazzo Flooring, Inc., 763 F.Supp.2d 64, 66-67 (D.D.C.
2011) (citing Keegel v. Key W. & Caribbean Trading
Co., 627 F.2d 372, 375 n. 5 (D.C. Cir. 1980)). However,
“[b]ecause courts strongly favor resolution of disputes
on their merits, ” a default judgment “usually is
available ‘only when the adversary process has been
halted because of an essentially unresponsive
party.'” Id. at 67 (quoting Jackson v.
Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980)).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, there is a
“two-step procedure” in obtaining a default
judgment. Ventura v. L.A. Howard Constr. Co., 134
F.Supp.3d 99, 102 (D.D.C. 2015). First, after a defendant
“has failed to plead or otherwise defend, ” the
plaintiff may request that the Clerk of the Court enter
default against that defendant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Second,
after default is entered, the plaintiff may move for a
default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). “By providing
for a two-step process, Rule 55 allows the defendant the
opportunity to move the court to set aside the default before
the court enters default judgment.” Int'l
Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Zak
Architectural Metal & Glass, LLC, 635 F.Supp.2d 21,
23 n.1 (D.D.C. 2009); see Fed. R Civ. P. 55(c).
entry of default “establishes the defaulting
party's liability for the well-pleaded allegations of the
complaint.” Elite Terrazzo Flooring, 763
F.Supp.2d at 67 (collecting cases). However, this “does
not automatically establish liability in the amount claimed
by the plaintiff.” Carazani v. Zegarra, 972
F.Supp.2d 1, 12 (D.D.C. 2013). Rather, the Court “is
required to make an independent determination of the sum to
be awarded, ” Int'l Painters & Allied
Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. R.W. Amrine Drywall Co.,
239 F.Supp.2d 26, 30 (D.D.C. 2002), and is afforded
“considerable latitude” in making its
determination, Elite Terrazzo Flooring, 763
F.Supp.2d at 67. In his motion for default judgment, the
plaintiff must prove to the Court his requested damages
“to a reasonable certainty.” Id. at 68.
In support, the plaintiff may offer “detailed
affidavits or documentary evidence” on which the Court
may rely, and is “entitled to all reasonable inferences
from the evidence [he] offer[s].” Amrine
Drywall, 239 F.Supp.2d at 30. The Court may conduct a
hearing to determine damages, Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2), but is
not required to do so “as long as it ensure[s] that
there [is] a basis for the damages specified in the default
judgment, ” Elite Terrazzo Flooring, 763
F.Supp.2d at 67 (alterations in original) (internal quotation
filed his complaint on July 27, 2017, and served AMF
Mechanical by private process server on August 29. ECF Nos.
1, 4. On September 26, Fanning requested an entry of default
on the ground that AMF Mechanical had not timely filed an
answer to the complaint. ECF No. 5. The Clerk of Court
declared AMF Mechanical to be in default on September 27, and
subsequently sent AMF Mechanical a copy of the default entry
by first-class mail. ECF Nos. 6, 7. On October 2, Fanning
moved for a default judgment, and sent AMF Mechanical a copy
of the motion by first-class mail. ECF Nos. 8, 8-5. To date,
AMF Mechanical has not filed an answer, moved to vacate the
default entry, opposed the motion for default judgment, or
otherwise defended this action.
default has been entered, AMF Mechanical is liable for the
well-pleaded allegations in Fanning's complaint. See
Amrine Drywall, 239 F.Supp.2d at 30. Upon review of the
complaint and the relevant law, the Court concludes that
Fanning's allegations are, in fact, well-pleaded.
“ERISA requires employers to make contributions to
multiemployer plans ‘in accordance with the terms and
conditions of' the relevant collective-bargaining
agreements.” Boland v. Smith & Rogers Constr.
Ltd., 201 F.Supp.3d 144, 147-48 (D.D.C. 2016) (quoting
29 U.S.C. § 1145). Here, AMF Mechanical was required by
the CBAs to contribute “certain sums of money to the
Central Pension Fund for certain hours paid to
employees” in covered employment. Compl. ¶¶
6-8. According to Fanning, from January 2013 through December
2015, AMF Mechanical failed to contribute the full amount
owed under the CBAs to the Central Pension Fund. Id.
¶¶ 14-15, 17. These delinquent contributions
apparently total $48, 927.21 and remain unpaid. Id.
¶¶ 15, 17. Because default has been entered and
Fanning's allegations are well-pleaded, AMF Mechanical is
liable for its failure to pay its required contributions to
the Central Pension Fund.
a defendant makes no request ‘to set aside the
default' and gives no indication of a ‘meritorious
defense, '” the Court may enter a default judgment
against the defendant. Smith & Rogers Constr.,
201 F.Supp.3d at 148 (quoting Fanning v. Permanent Sol.
Indus., Inc., 257 F.R.D. 4, 7 (D.D.C. 2009)). Here, AMF
Mechanical was served in August 2017 and, since then, has not
responded to the complaint, moved to set aside the default
entry, opposed Fanning's motion for default ...