United States District Court, District of Columbia
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION NATIONAL INDUSTRY PENSION FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
PALISADES OPERATIONS, LLC, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION ADOPTING REPORT &
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MICHAEL HARVEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Service Employees International Union National Industry
Pension Fund (“the Fund”) and the Fund's
trustees (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a
complaint against Defendant Palisades Operations, LLC,
alleging that Palisades had failed to contribute to the Fund
between September 2015 and April 2017 in accordance with the
terms of a collective bargaining agreement. (See
Compl., ECF No. 1, at 4-5, 7.) Plaintiffs sought to recover
unpaid contributions, interest, and liquidated damages under
section 515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act,
29 U.S.C. § 1145 (see id. at 2, 8-10), and
moved for summary judgment (see Plaintiffs'
Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 12, at 1). On July 24,
2018, this Court granted Plaintiffs' motion and awarded
them $24, 943.26 for all delinquent contributions, accrued
interest, and liquidated damages. (See Order, ECF
No. 16, at 1.)
subsequently filed a motion for attorneys' fees and costs
in the amount of $8, 865.00. (See Pls.' Pet. For
Attys.' Fees and Costs (“Pls.' Pet.”),
ECF No. 19, at 3.) The Court referred this motion to a
magistrate judge (see Minute Order of October 24,
2018); it was randomly assigned to Magistrate Judge G.
Michael Harvey on October 24, 2018.
this Court at present is the Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) that Magistrate Judge Harvey filed on
December 21, 2018, with respect to Plaintiffs' motion for
attorneys' fees and costs. (See R&R, ECF No.
The R&R reflects Magistrate Judge Harvey's opinion
that Plaintiffs should be awarded costs and fees in the
amount of $8, 826.00. (See Id. at 1, 11.)
Specifically, Magistrate Judge Harvey recommends that this
Court find that the hourly rates Plaintiffs' attorneys
have charged are “reasonable and are at or below the
prevailing market rate for ERISA services in the Washington,
D.C. area.” (Id. at 6.) Magistrate Judge
Harvey further concludes that Plaintiffs have met their
burden of demonstrating that the No. of hours billed in this
litigation is reasonable. (See Id. at 7-11.) In
support of this conclusion, Magistrate Judge Harvey relies on
Plaintiffs' comprehensive documentation, as well as the
No. of hours courts in this district have found reasonable in
other, similar cases. (See Id. at 7-9.) Magistrate
Judge Harvey further rejects Defendant's generalized
request for an across-the-board reduction in fees as well as
each of Defendant's challenges to specific billing
entries in turn, except a billing entry for 0.2 hours that
Plaintiffs concede is unrelated to the present litigation and
should not have been included. (See Id. at 7-11.)
addition to providing explanations for Magistrate Judge
Harvey's conclusions, the R&R also advises the
parties that the “failure to file timely objections to
the findings and recommendations set forth in this report may
waive their right of appeal from an order of the District
Court that adopts such findings and recommendation.”
(Id. at 12 (citing Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154
(1985)).) Under this Court's local rules, any party who
objects to a report and recommendation of a magistrate judge
must file a written objection with the Clerk of the Court
within 14 days of the party's receipt of the report, and
any such written objection must specify the portions of the
findings and recommendations to which each objection is made
and the basis for each such objection. See LCvR 72.3(b).
Here, timely objections would have been due by January 4,
2019, and as of the date of the instant Memorandum Opinion,
neither party has filed any such objection.
Court has reviewed Magistrate Judge Harvey's R&R and
agrees with its careful and thorough analysis and
conclusions. Specifically, the Court agrees with the
Magistrate Judge-and also, presumably, Defendants-that the
rates Plaintiffs' attorneys have charged are reasonable.
(See R&R at 4-6; see also Def.'s Opp'n to
Pls.' Pet. (“Def.'s Opp'n”), ECF No.
22, at 6-7.) The Court also agrees with the Magistrate
Judge's finding that the No. of hours requested are
reasonable. (See R&R at 7-11.) In particular, the Court
agrees that an across-the-board reduction is not warranted
(see Id. at 7-9); that the contested 3.8 hours that
Mooney Green associate Matthew Watts billed were reasonable
(see Id. at 10); and that the 1.9 hours that
attorneys and paralegals spent correcting and refiling the
motion for summary judgment were reasonable and not
duplicative (see id.).
Court further concurs with the Magistrate Judge that any
challenge to the No. of hours based on Defendant's
representations regarding this case's similarity to past
litigation is so vague and unspecific that it must be waived.
(See Id. at 9-10.) Not only does Defendant fail to
reference the four other matters it is relying upon (see
Def.'s Opp'n at 4, 6), Defendant does not even
attempt to explain why any substantive similarities to other
disputes renders unreasonable the thirty hours the attorneys
here have reported with respect to the drafting of both an
18-page motion for summary judgment that includes more than
100 pages of exhibits (see Pls.' Mem. in Support of
Pls.' Mot. for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 12-7, and
accompanying exhibits), and a 19-page reply (see Pls.'
Reply in Support of Pls.' Mot. for Summary Judgment, ECF
No. 15). As Magistrate Judge Harvey recommends, this Court
finds that the amount of time reported to prepare these
filings is reasonable, especially given the factual
differences that necessitate individualized motions and
responses. (See Pls.' Reply in Support of Pls.' Pet.,
ECF No. 23, at 4 (explaining that attorneys “cannot
simply copy and paste a motion for summary judgment and a
reply in support verbatim from one matter to the
next”).) Moreover, to the extent that the repetitive
nature of the litigation is frustrating to Defendant, the
Court reminds Defendant that the reason these same legal
arguments are raised repeatedly between these same parties is
because Defendant persists in refusing to make timely
contributions to the Fund as the parties' collective
bargaining agreement requires. (See Tr. of Proceedings, July
24, 2018, ECF No. 17, at 3:18-4:22, 16:3-18:3.)
in the absence of any timely-filed objection, and after
conducting its own review of this matter, this Court accepts
Magistrate Judge Harvey's analysis in full, and thus will
ADOPT the Report and Recommendation in its entirety.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Petition for Attorneys' Fees
and Costs will be GRANTED, and Plaintiffs are awarded $8,
826.00 in attorneys' fees and costs.
separate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
matter was referred to the undersigned for a Report and
Recommendation. Pending before the Court is a motion for
attorney's fees. Service Employees International Union
National Industry Pension Fund and its Trustees
(“Plaintiffs” or “the Fund”) filed
this motion to recover $8, 865.00 in attorney's fees and
costs expended litigating its claims under sections 502 and
515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132, 1145,
against Palisades Operations, LLC (“Defendant”).
After reviewing the entire record the undersigned recommends
finding that Plaintiffs are eligible for an award of
attorney's fees and that, with the exception of a single
billing entry, their request for fees and costs is
reasonable. The undersigned therefore recommends that the
Court grant Plaintiffs' motion and award them $8, 826.00
in attorney's fees and costs.
Fund is an employee pension benefit plan and multiemployer
pension plan under ERISA. ECF No. 1 at 2; see also
29 U.S.C. § 1002. In 2010, Defendant entered into a
collective bargaining agreement with Service Employees
International Union Local 1199 United Health Care Workers
East. ECF No. 1 at 4. Pursuant to that agreement, Defendant
was obligated to remit contributions to the Fund in
accordance with the Fund's trust agreement, collections
policies, and rehabilitation plan. Id. at 4-5.
Between September 2015 and April 2017, Defendant failed to
remit certain of these contributions. Id. at 7.
Thereafter, Plaintiffs initiated this action, seeking to
recover, inter alia, delinquent contributions,
accrued interest, and liquidated damages under 29 U.S.C.
§ 1145. Id. at 2, 8-10. Plaintiffs moved for
summary judgment, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson granted the
motion, awarding Plaintiffs $24, 943.26 for all delinquent
contributions, accrued interest, and liquidated damages. ECF
No. 12; ECF No. 16 at 1. Plaintiffs then moved to recover $8,
865.00 in attorney's fees and costs. ECF No. 19 at 3.
multiemployer plan sues to recover delinquent contributions
under ERISA section 515, 29 U.S.C. § 1145, and obtains a
judgment in its favor, “the court shall award
the plan . . . reasonable attorney's fees and costs of
the action.” Serv. Emps. Int'l Union Nat'l
Indus. Pension Fund v. Bristol Manor Healthcare Ctr.,
Inc., Civil Action No. 12-1904 (RC), 2016 WL 3636970, at
*2 (D.D.C. June 30, 2016) (alteration in original) (quoting
29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2)); see also Connors v. Petitte
Bros. Min. Co., 70 F.3d 637, at *2 ...