United States District Court, District of Columbia
U.S. ENGINEERING COMPANY, Petitioner,
UNITED SHEET METAL, INC., Respondent.
S. CHUTKAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
U.S. Engineering Company (“U.S. Engineering”)
brings this suit seeking the confirmation of an arbitration
award against Respondent United Sheet Metal, Inc.
(“Sheet Metal”). Sheet Metal has not filed an
appearance in this matter. Before the court is U.S.
Engineering's motion for default judgment. (ECF No. 9.)
For the reasons stated herein, the court will GRANT the
motion for default judgment.
Engineering is a mechanical contractor that performed
“mechanical contracting services” as part of a
renovation project for the Embassy of the Republic of South
Africa. (ECF No. 1-1 (“Mem. in Supp. of Pet.”) at
1.) In February 2012, U.S. Engineering entered into a
subcontract with Sheet Metal to “fabricate and install
sheet metal and duct work in the HVACsystem” for the embassy
renovation project. (Id. at 1; ECF No. 1-3
(“Subcontract”).) The agreement contained a
clause whereby all disputes concerning the agreement were to
be addressed in binding arbitration. (Mem. in Supp. of Pet.
at 2 (quoting Subcontract ¶ 26).)
point after entering into the agreement, a dispute arose
regarding the quality of Sheet Metal's work.
(Id. at 2.) The parties then entered into
arbitration proceedings before the International Centre for
Dispute Resolution (“ICDR”), in which U.S.
Engineering sought an award of $338, 877.00 from Sheet Metal,
alleging breach of contract due to “incomplete and
defective work, ” and developed a record in support of
its claim. (Id.) Sheet Metal, on the other hand,
asserted claims and defenses but abandoned the arbitration in
December 2014. (Id. at 3.) According to U.S.
Engineering, a Sheet Metal representative informed U.S.
Engineering that Sheet Metal “went out of
business” in March 2014. (Id.)
ICDR issued its “Final Award” on July 26, 2017,
noting Sheet Metal's failure to participate in the
proceedings. (Id.) ICDR awarded U.S. Engineering the
entire $338, 877.00 it claimed in damages for breach of
contract and an additional $83, 267.85 for attorney's
fees, costs, and expenses, for a total award of $417, 144.85.
(Id.) U.S. Engineering now seeks judicial
confirmation of the arbitration award. (Id.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
may “enter default judgment [under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 55] when a defendant fails to defend its case
appropriately or otherwise engages in dilatory
tactics.” Peak v. District of Columbia, 236
F.R.D. 13, 15 (D.D.C. 2006) (quoting Keegel v. Key West
& Caribbean Trading Co., 627 F.2d 372, 375 n.5 (D.C.
Cir. 1980)). Rule 55 establishes a two-step procedure that a
plaintiff must follow to obtain default judgment. First, the
plaintiff must ask the Clerk of Court to enter default based
on a defendant's failure “to plead or otherwise
defend” in response to the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(a). Upon entry of default, “the defaulting defendant
is deemed to admit every well-pleaded allegation in the
complaint.” Robinson v. Ergo Sols.,
LLC, 4 F.Supp.3d 171, 178 (D.D.C. 2014) (citation
and quotation marks omitted); see also Adkins v.
Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001). Second, after
the Clerk has entered default, if applying to the court for
default judgment, the plaintiff must “prove its
entitlement to the amount of monetary damages
requested” by submitting “detailed affidavits or
documentary evidence” on which the court may rely.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2); Fanning v. Permanent Sol. Indus.,
Inc., 257 F.R.D. 4, 7 (D.D.C. 2009). Once a plaintiff
has satisfied those procedural requirements, “[t]he
determination of whether default judgment is appropriate is
committed to the discretion of the trial court.”
Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension
Fund v. Auxier Drywall, LLC, 531 F.Supp.2d 56, 57
(D.D.C. 2008) (citing Jackson v. Beech, 636 F.2d
831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980)).
judgments are disfavored resolutions to controversies because
courts prefer to resolve disputes on the merits rather than
on procedural technicalities. See Jackson, 636 F.2d
at 835. This is especially true when a party seeks an
undetermined amount in damages against a silent respondent.
See Id. (noting that a hearing is required when a
claim for damages is “unliquidated”). See
also Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S. 601, 611-12
(1949) (“default judgments for money damages where
there is any uncertainty as to the amount must ordinarily be
supported by actual proof”). However, although it is a
disfavored remedy, default judgment is appropriate where
“the adversary process has been halted because of an
essentially unresponsive party, ” and “the
diligent party must be protected lest it be faced with
interminable delay and continued uncertainty as to its
rights.” Swiss Inst. Of Bioinformatics v. Glob.
Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, 49 F.Supp.3d
92, 96 (D.D.C. 2014) (citations and alterations omitted).
have limited discretion in reviewing an arbitration award.
See United Paperworkers Int'l Union, AFL-CIO v.
Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 36-37 (1987). Indeed, a
“court must confirm an arbitration award where some
colorable support for the award can be gleaned from the
record.” Int'l Trading & Indus. Inv. Co. v.
DynCorp Aerospace Tech., 763 F.Supp.2d 12, 20 (D.D.C.
2011) (quotation marks and citation omitted). And “in
the absence of a legal basis to vacate, [a] court has no
discretion but to confirm the award.” Int'l
Thunderbird Gaming Corp. v. United Mexican States, 473
F.Supp.2d 80, 83 (D.D.C. 2007) (citation omitted).
this directive, courts confirm arbitration awards via default
judgment where the petitioner's request is consistent
with the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”), 9
U.S.C. § 1 et seq. See e.g. Non-Dietary Exposure
Task Force v. Tagros Chems. India, Ltd., 309 F.R.D. 66
(D.D.C. 2015) (confirming an arbitration award of $169,
091.67 by default judgment); Adkins, 180 F.Supp.2d
15 (confirming an arbitration award of $572, 000.00 by
default judgment). Pursuant to the FAA, an arbitration award
shall be confirmed if: (1) the parties' agreement
provides that a court judgment shall be entered following an
arbitration award; (2) the petition is filed either in the
court specified in the parties' agreement or, if no court
is specified, in the district within which the arbitration
award was made; (3) the petition is filed within one year of
the arbitration award; and (4) notice is served on the
adverse party to establish the court's jurisdiction. 9
U.S.C. § 9.
case, all these statutory requirements are satisfied. First,
the agreement between the parties allows for judicial
confirmation of an arbitration award. (See
Subcontract ¶ 26 (“The award rendered by the
arbitrator(s) hereunder shall be conclusive and binding upon
the parties and shall be enforceable in any court of
competent jurisdiction.”) (emphasis added).) Second,
because the agreement does not designate a specific court to
confirm an arbitration award, (see id.), this court
is the proper court to petition as it is located in the
district within which the arbitration award was made.
(See ECF No. 1-4 (“Final Award”) at 4
(noting that the Final Award was made in Washington, D.C.).)
Third, the petition to confirm the Final Award was filed
within one year of the time the award was made.
(Compare Final Award with Mem. in Supp. of
Pet. (noting that the Final Award was made on July 26, 2017,
and U.S. Engineering filed its Petition with the court on
September 28, 2017).) Fourth, proper notice was given to
Sheet Metal because U.S. Engineering served summonses upon
both Sheet Metal's former agent for service and the
Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation.
(See ECF No. 5; ECF No. 6.)
the amount claimed by U.S. Engineering is certain. U.S.
Engineering claims that it is owed $417, 144.85, an amount
identical to ICDR's Final Award. (Compare Mem.
in Supp. of Pet. at 3 with Final Award at 3.) The
Subcontract provides that the arbitrator may award the
prevailing party “reasonable attorney fees, costs, . .
. and all expenses” (Subcontract ¶ 26); therefore,
the fact that the Final Award includes $83, 267.85 of
attorney's fees, costs, and expenses is of no issue
because of the court's limited discretion over the
arbitrator's factual findings. See Misco, Inc.,
484 U.S. at 36-37 (“The function of the court is very
limited when the parties have agreed to submit all questions
of contract interpretation to the arbitrator. . . . In these
circumstances the moving party should not be deprived of the
arbitrator's judgment, when it was his judgment and all
that it connotes that was bargained for.”). On ...