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Bricklayers & Trowel Trades International Pension Fund v. Connecticut Stone Industries, LLC

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 11, 2018

BRICKLAYERS & TROWEL TRADES INTERNATIONAL PENSION FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CONNECTICUT STONE INDUSTRIES, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMY BERMAN JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Bricklayers & Trowel Trades International Pension Fund ("IPF") and International Masonry Institute ("IMF), by and through their Trustees, brought this action against defendant Connecticut Stone Industries, LLC pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), as amended, 29 USC § 1132 et seq. See Compl. [Dkt. #1]. They allege that defendant failed to submit reports to them and contribute the proper amounts owed under the relevant collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs"). Id. ¶ 10.

         Because defendant failed to respond to the complaint, the Clerk of the Court filed an entry of default against defendant on December 28, 2017 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a). Clerk's Entry of Default! [Dkt. # 5]. Now pending before the Court is plaintiffs'motion for default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2). Mot. for Entry of J. by Default and to Close Case [Dkt. # 7] ("Pls.' Mot."); Mem. in Supp. of Pls.' Mot. [Dkt. # 7-1] ("Pls.' Mem."). Plaintiffs seek unpaid contributions, interest, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees and costs, in addition to equitable relief in the form of injunctions compelling defendant to submit to a payroll audit and to comply with its reporting and contribution obligations under the CBAs moving forward. Compl. ¶ 41; Pls.'Mem. at 4-16.

         Having closely reviewed 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

         IPF and IMI are employee benefit plans subject to ERISA that provide retirement, disability, and related benefits to employees working in the construction industry as bricklayers and related trades. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2; Decl. of David F. Stupar [Dkt. # 7-3] ("Stupar Decl.") ¶ 3; Pls.' Mem. at 2. The benefits provided by plaintiffs are financed by contributions made by employers, such as the defendant, who are signatories to collective bargaining agreements with International Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and its affiliated local unions. Pls.' Mem. at 2; see Compl. ¶¶ 7-8. At all times relevant to this lawsuit, defendant has been bound to CBAs with International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local Union No. 65 - Connecticut. Compl. ¶ 7. Those CBAs "govern the wages, benefits and terms and conditions of employment of certain employees performing work for the [d]efendant." Id. Pursuant to the CBAs, defendant is obligated to make contributions to plaintiffs in order to fund the benefits provided to defendant's employees. Id. ¶ 8; Stupar Decl. ¶ 3; see also Ex. 1 to Stupar Decl. [Dkt. # 7-3] ("Collection Procedures").

         Plaintiffs' Trustees adopted the Collection Procedures to govern the collection of employer contributions and reports. Stupar Decl. ¶ 4; see Collection Procedures. Under these procedures, contributions and reports are due on or before the fifteenth day of each month, following the month in which the work is performed. Stupar Decl. ¶ 5; Collection Procedures at 1. The Collection Procedures dictate that if an employer is delinquent, it may be assessed interest at the rate of fifteen percent per annum from the due date of each monthly payment. Compl. ¶ 11; see also Stupar Decl. ¶ 5; Collection Procedures at 2. Further, an employer may be liable for an amount equal to the greater of an additional calculation of interest on the unpaid contributions at the rate of fifteen percent per annum from the due date of each monthly payment, or liquidated damages in the amount of twenty percent of the total contributions owed. Compl. ¶ 12; Stupar Decl. ¶ 5; Collection Procedures at 2.

         After defendant failed to submit the required remittance reports and pay the necessary contributions for several months, plaintiffs filed a complaint in this Court on November 7, 2017 seeking to collect "all contributions, interest, liquidated damages and attorneys' fees and costs." Compl. ¶ 31. They allege that for the months of December 2016, January 2017, and February 2017, defendant submitted reports, but failed to pay $5, 533.69 in contributions owed to plaintiffs under the CBAs. Compl. ¶ 16. Plaintiffs also claim that defendant failed to submit reports and to pay the contributions owed to plaintiffs between March 2017 and September 2017, and that based on estimated contribution rates, defendant owes plaintiff IPF $21, 611.55 and plaintiff IMI $1, 516.90. Id. ¶¶ 20-27. Further, they allege that defendant has failed to pay interest or any additional damages owed based on these delinquent payments. Id. ¶¶ 16, 28.

         On November 13, 2017, a private process server served the summons and complaint on defendant's registered agent. Aff of Serv. [Dkt. # 3]. Defendant failed to answer or otherwise respond to plaintiffs' complaint, so plaintiffs filed a request for the Clerk's entry of default on December 27, 2017, which was supported by an affidavit for default. See Req. for Clerk's Entry of Default [Dkt. # 4]; Aff. in Supp. of Default [Dkt. # 4-1]. The Clerk entered default against defendant the next day, see Clerk's Entry of Default [Dkt. # 5], and plaintiffs subsequently filed this motion for default judgment on January 30, 2018. Pls.' 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 W. & 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., 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." R.W. Amrine Drywall Co., 239 F.Supp.2d at 30, 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)."

         A court granting default judgment against a defendant covered by ERISA for failure to pay contributions owed under CBAs must award: (1) the unpaid contributions; (2) interest on the unpaid contributions; (3) liquidated damages; (4) reasonable attorneys' fees and costs; and (5) any other legal or equitable relief it deems appropriate. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2); R.W. Amrine Drywall Co., 239 F.Supp.2d at 31. "The unpaid contributions, interest, and liquidated damages generally are considered 'sums certain' pursuant to the calculations mandated in ERISA and the parties' ...


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