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Board of Trustees Sheet M Workers' Nat'l Pension Fund v. N.W. Sign Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

July 25, 2014

BOARD OF TRUSTEES SHEET M WORKERS' NAT'L PENSION FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
NW SIGN INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

IVAN D. DAVIS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Sheet M Workers' National Pension Fund ("NPF"), International Training Institute for the Sheet M and Air Conditioning Industry ("ITI"), Sheet M Workers. International Association Scholarship Fund ("Scholarship Fund"), and National Stabilization Agreement of the Sheet M industry Trust Fund (SASMI") (collectively, "Funds" or "Plaintiffs") Motion for Default Judgment against N.W. Sign Industries, Inc. ("Defendant") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). (Dkt. No. 7.) After a licensed attorney for Defendant failed to appear at the hearing on June 6. 2014, the undersigned Magistrate Judge took this matter under advisement. Upon consideration of the Complaint, Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment, and the supporting affidavits, the undersigned Magistrate Judge makes the following findings and recommends that default judgment be entered against Defendant.

I. INTRODUCTION

On April 17, 2014, Plaintiffs filed this action under Sections 502 and 515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132 and 1145, and under Sections 301 and 302 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185-86. (Comp. ¶ 1.) These acts allow parties to enforce provisions of their collective bargaining agreements. In filing their Complaint, Plaintiffs seek unpaid contributions, interest on unpaid contributions, liquidated damages, late fees, and attorneys' fees and costs, pursuant to ERISA, LMRA, and the collective bargaining agreements executed between Plaintiffs, Sheet M Workers' International Association Local Union No. 15 and Local Union No. 19 ("Local Union No. 15" and "Local Union No. 19"), and Defendant. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 10.)

A. Jurisdiction and Venue

This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §§ 185(a), 1132, and 1145 because the funds are administered from Plaintiffs' principal place of business in Fairfax, Virginia. (Compl. ¶¶ 2-3.) Where an action is brought in a district court of the United States under Sections 502 and 515 of ERISA, it may be brought in the district where the plan is administered, where the breach took place, or where a defendant resides or may be found. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2). Moreover, "a suit for violation of a contract between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce, may be brought in any district court having jurisdiction over the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a).

This Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant under the decision in Board of Trustees, Sheet M Workers' National Pension Fund v. McD Metals, Inc., 964 F.Supp. 1040, 1045 (E.D. Va. 1997).[1] Additionally, this Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant pursuant to Section 502 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2). (Compl. ¶ 2.) Venue is also properly situated in this District because the breach of the collective bargaining agreements and consequential breach of Section 515 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1145, occurred within this District. (Compl. ¶ 4.)

B. Service of Process

Under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2), service of process is proper in any district where a defendant resides or may be found. When a plaintiff fails to serve the defendant properly under federal or state law, a court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendant and may not enter default judgment against him. Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd. v. Wolff & Co., 484 U.S. 97, 104 (1987), superseded by statute on other grounds, Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k), (stating that "[s]ervice of summons is the procedure by which a court having venue and jurisdiction of the subject matter of the suit asserts jurisdiction over the person of the party served" (quoting Miss. Pultil, Corp. v. Murphee, 326 U.S. 438, 44445 (1946))); Cent. Operating Co. v. Util. Workers of Am., 491 F.2d 245, 249 (4th Cir. 1974) (reversing district court's entry of default judgment against a non-resident defendant union because the court lacked personal jurisdiction where the plaintiff failed to effectively serve the union with summons and complaint).

Although § 1132(e) states where a defendant may be served, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide the manner in which service must occur. Under Rule 4(h), service upon a corporation, partnership, or other unincorporated association shall be effectuated "in the matter prescribed by Rule 4(e)(1) for serving an individual; or by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to an officer, a managing or general agent, or any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(h).

On April 25, 2014, a private process server served Jeff Bolls, Corporate Controller of Defendant company, with a true and correct copy of the Summons, Complaint, and Certificate of Service. (Dkt. No. 4.) Therefore, Plaintiffs properly served Defendant pursuant to Rule 4(h).

C. Grounds for Default

As previously stated, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint on April 17, 2014. (Dkt. No. 1.) Defendant has failed to appear, answer, or file any other responsive pleading in this matter. On May 16, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Request for Entry of Default with the Clerk. Mkt. No. 5.) On May 19, 2014, the Clerk entered default against Defendant. (Dkt. No. 6.) On May 22, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Default Judgment, and the Court held a hearing on the matter on June 6, 2014. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 12.) After Defendant failed to appear ...


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