United States District Court, District of Columbia
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION NATIONAL INDUSTRY PENSION FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
M.R. OF AMBOY, LLC, et al., Defendants.
L. FRIEDRICH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment.
Dkt. 9. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be
plaintiffs in this case are the Service Employees
International Union National Industry Pension Fund (Pension
Fund), an employee pension benefit plan, and its trustees.
Compl. ¶¶ 5-6. The Pension Fund is a multiemployer
pension plan organized under the Employee Retirement Security
Act (ERISA). Id. ¶ 5; see 29 U.S.C.
§ 1002(2), (3), (37)(A). The defendants, M.R. of Amboy,
LLC and H.W. of Amboy, LLC, are limited liability companies
registered in the state of New Jersey. Compl. ¶¶
8-9. The plaintiffs allege the companies are “in effect
alter egos” that operate and do business under the name
Amboy Care Center. Id. ¶¶ 10- II. They
also allege that the defendants are “employer[s] in an
industry affecting commerce” as defined by ERISA.
Id. ¶ 7; see 29 U.S.C. § 1002(5),
Service Employees International Union Local 1199 United
Healthcare Workers East, N.J. Region (the Union) is the
exclusive bargaining representative for certain employees at
Amboy Care Center. Id. ¶ 12. As relevant here,
Amboy's obligations are primarily governed by the
collective bargaining agreement between the Union and Amboy.
See id. ¶ 13. Under the terms of the agreement,
Amboy must contribute certain amounts to the Pension Fund
based on the number of hours worked by its employees covered
by the agreement. Id. ¶ 16. Amboy must also
submit remittance reports to the Pension Fund detailing the
names and number of compensable hours for each covered
employee. Id. ¶ 18. Pursuant to both the
agreement and the Pension Protection Act of 2006,
see 29 U.S.C.§ 1085, Amboy is required to pay
supplemental contributions if the Pension Fund is deemed to
be in “critical status” to help correct the
Pension Fund's financial situation. Id. ¶
collective bargaining agreement also binds Amboy to the
Pension Fund's Agreement and Declaration of Trust (Trust
Agreement). Id. ¶ 17. Under the Trust
Agreement, Amboy is liable for interest on delinquent
contributions; liquidated damages; and attorneys' fees
and costs. Id. ¶ 19. In this action, the
plaintiffs seek a total judgment of $23, 623.80 based on
allegations that the defendants failed to make required
contributions and $6, 240.43 in attorneys' fees and
costs. See Pls.' Mot. at 1. The plaintiffs
also seek equitable relief directing the defendants to submit
missing remittance reports from August to September 2019 and
to repay the corresponding contributions, interest and
liquidated damages for these months. See Pls.'
Mot. at 14-15.
plaintiffs filed this action on May 15, 2019. Dkt. 1. The
defendants were duly served with the complaint and summons on
May 20, 2019. Aff. of Service, Dkt. 5. Because the defendants
did not answer or otherwise respond to the complaint within
the time period allotted by Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, the plaintiffs requested an entry of
default. Dkt. 6. The Clerk of Court entered default on June
13, 2019. Dkt. 7; Dkt. 8. On October 8, 2019, the plaintiffs
moved this Court to enter a default judgment against the
defendants under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2).
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure empower a federal district
court to enter a default judgment against a defendant who
fails to defend its case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2); Keegel
v. Key W. & Caribbean Trading Co., 627 F.2d 372, 375
n.5 (D.C. Cir. 1980). While federal policy generally favors
resolving disputes on their merits, default judgments are
appropriate “when the adversary process has been halted
because of an essentially unresponsive party.”
Mwani v. bin Laden, 417 F.3d 1, 7 (D.C. Cir. 2005)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
a default judgment is a two-step process. First, the
plaintiff must request that the Clerk of Court enter default
against a party who has failed to plead or otherwise defend.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). The Clerk's default entry establishes
the defaulting defendant's liability for the well-pleaded
allegations of the complaint. See Boland v. Providence
Constr. Corp., 304 F.R.D. 31, 35 (D.D.C. 2014). Second,
if the plaintiff's claim is not for a “sum certain,
” the plaintiff must apply to the court for a default
judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). At that point, the plaintiff
“must prove his entitlement to the relief requested
using detailed affidavits or documentary evidence on which
the court may rely.” Ventura v. L.A. Howard Constr.
Co., 134 F.Supp.3d 99, 103 (D.D.C. 2015) (internal
quotation marks and alterations omitted).
ruling on a motion for default judgment, a court “is
required to make an independent determination of the sum to
be awarded.” Fanning v. Permanent Sol. Indus.,
Inc., 257 F.R.D. 4, 7 (D.D.C. 2009) (internal quotation
marks omitted). In that inquiry, the court has
“considerable latitude.” Ventura, 134
F.Supp.3d at 103 (internal quotation marks omitted). The
court may conduct a hearing to determine damages,
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2), but the court is not required to do so
“as long as it ensures that there is a basis for the
damages specified in the default judgment, ”
Ventura, 134 F.Supp.3d at 103 (internal quotation
marks and alterations omitted).
the Clerk's default entry in this case, the defendants
are deemed liable for the well-pleaded allegations in the
complaint, including the allegation that the company failed
to make timely contributions to the benefit plans.
Providence Constr., 304 F.R.D. at 35. With liability
established, the Court must independently determine the
amount owed by the defendants.
defendants' obligations are set forth in Amboy's
collective bargaining agreements with the Union. ERISA §
515 mandates that “[e]very employer who is obligated to
make contributions to a multiemployer plan . . . [shall] make
such contributions in accordance with the ...