Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Crabtree v. Island Breeze Marine, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 21, 2019

MICHAEL A. CRABTREE, Plaintiff,
v.
ISLAND BREEZE MARINE, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Michael A. Crabtree, the Chief Executive Officer of the Central Pension Fund of the International Union of Operating Engineers and Participating Employers, filed suit against Defendant Island Breeze Marine, Inc., alleging the Defendant failed to pay contributions owed to the Central Pension Fund. Presently before the Court is the Plaintiff's [12] Motion for Entry of Judgment by Default and to Close Case (“Pl.'s Mot.”).

         Upon consideration of the pleadings, the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds the Plaintiff is entitled to a monetary award for unpaid contributions, interest, liquidated damages, reasonable attorney's fees, and costs. But the Court finds that some components of the Plaintiff's requested award must be adjusted. Accordingly, the Plaintiff's [12] Motion for Entry of Judgment by Default is GRANTED-in-PART and DENIED-in-PART. The Court shall enter a JUDGMENT for the Plaintiff against the Defendant in the amount of $29, 525.88, shall recognize the Plaintiff's entitlement to post-judgment interest, and shall CLOSE this case and DISMISS it.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 4, 2018, the Plaintiff filed suit asserting the Defendant is required to “pay certain sums of money to the Central Pension Fund for certain hours worked by employees of the Defendant performing work covered by” a collective bargaining agreement between the Defendant and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 25. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 6-7. But the Defendant allegedly “failed to report hours worked and pay all contributions owing to the Central Pension Fund as required by” that agreement for work during May 2017 through March 2018. Id. ¶ 9. Accordingly, the Plaintiff seeks: (1) a monetary award covering the “unpaid contributions due and owing to the Plaintiff for unreported work performed pursuant to the Agreement”; (2) liquidated damages for “any late paid and unpaid contributions”; (3) interest on “any late paid and unpaid contributions”; and (4) reasonable attorney's fees and costs. Id. at 4-5. In the Complaint, the Plaintiff also makes an ancillary request “[f]or such contributions, interest and liquidated damages that may accrue and/or are found to be due and owing to the Plaintiff . . . up to the date of judgment.” Id. at 4.

         Thereafter the Plaintiff experienced difficulties in perfecting service on the Defendant but ultimately purported to achieve substituted service via the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation. See Aff. of Attorney R. Richard Hopp, ECF No. 6-1 (“Hopp Aff.”).

         When the Defendant failed to appear in the case, the Court prompted further action by the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff sought default, which the Clerk of Court entered on August 24, 2018. Again at the Court's prompting, the Plaintiff then moved for default judgment.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) provides that the Clerk of the Court must enter a party's request for a 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 by the Clerk, a party may move the court for a default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2).

         “The 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) (citation omitted); 10A Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure Civil § 2685 (4th ed.). Factual allegations in a well-pleaded complaint against a defaulting defendant are taken as true. Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. R.W. Amrine Drywall Co., Inc., 239 F.Supp.2d 26, 30 (D.D.C. 2002) (citation omitted). Where there is a complete “absence of any request to set aside the default or suggestion by the defendant that it has a meritorious defense, it is clear that the standard for default judgment has been satisfied.” Auxier Drywall, LLC, 531 F.Supp.2d at 57 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Once that standard has been met, the court must independently determine the amount of damages to be awarded, unless the amount of damages is certain. Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Davanc Contracting, Inc., 808 F.Supp.2d 89, 94 (D.D.C. 2011) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.) (citing Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001)).[1] In instances where the amount of damages is not certain, “the court may conduct a hearing” but “is not required to do so . . . as long as it ensures that there is a basis for the damages specified in the default judgment.” Flynn v. Extreme Granite, Inc., 671 F.Supp.2d 157, 160 (D.D.C. 2009) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In making an independent determination, “the court may rely on detailed affidavits or documentary evidence.” Breaking the Chain Found., Inc. v. Capitol Educ. Support, Inc., 589 F.Supp.2d 25, 28 (D.D.C. 2008) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.) (quoting Adkins, 180 F.Supp.2d at 17) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Plaintiff, as a designated fiduciary of the Central Pension Fund, filed suit to enforce the Defendant's obligations to the fund, as provided by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). See 29 U.S.C. §§ 1002(21), 1132(a)(3) & (g), 1145; Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 1. The Court has federal-question jurisdiction over this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331; 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(1).

         After attempting service on the Defendant's registered agent in Maryland, and finding that the registered agent had sold that residence, the Plaintiff properly turned to, and perfected, substituted service upon Maryland's State Department of Assessments and Taxation. See Hopp Aff. ¶¶ 2-7, 12-13 & Exs. 1-2, 5-6; Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e)(1), 4(h)(1); Md. Rule 2-124(o)(ii) (providing for such service on a corporation if, inter alia, “(ii) the resident agent . . . is no longer at the address for service of process maintained with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation”).

         In light of the Defendant's default, the Court accepts the Plaintiff's allegations as true. R.W. Amrine Drywall Co., Inc., 239 F.Supp.2d at 30. The Court finds that the Plaintiff's Complaint sufficiently alleges facts to support his claims. The Plaintiff is thus entitled to default judgment as to the Defendant's liability for its failure to make contributions, or full contributions, owed to the Central Pension Fund for certain work performed by the Defendant's employees.

         The Plaintiff has not argued that the award he seeks consists of sums certain, though perhaps he could have. See Boland v. Yoccabel Constr. Co., Inc., 293 F.R.D. 13, 18, 19 (D.D.C. 2013) (citing Flynn v. Mastro Masonry Contractors, 237 F.Supp.2d 66, 70 (D.D.C. 2002)). Accordingly, the Court shall make its independent determination of the monetary award to which the Plaintiff is entitled. Davanc Contracting, Inc., 808 F.Supp.2d at 94. Under ERISA, that award “shall” include the following:

(A) the unpaid contributions,
(B) interest on the unpaid contributions,
(C) an amount equal to the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.