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Trustees of Plumbers and Pipefitters National Pension Fund v. Lou Carbone Plumbing Co.

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

August 5, 2016

TRUSTEES OF THE PLUMBERS AND PIPEFITTERS NATIONAL PENSION FUND, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
LOU CARBONE PLUMBING COMPANY, Defendant.

          Trustees of the International Training Fund, Plaintiff, represented by John R. Harney, O'Donoghue & O'Donoghue LLP, Jacob Nicholas Szewczyk, O'Donoghue & O'Donoghue & Rebecca Ann Richardson, O Donoghue & O Donoghue.

          Trustees of the Plumbers and Pipefitters National Pension Fund, Plaintiff, represented by John R. Harney, O'Donoghue & O'Donoghue LLP, Jacob Nicholas Szewczyk, O'Donoghue & O'Donoghue & Rebecca Ann Richardson, O Donoghue & O Donoghue.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          IVAN D. DAVIS, Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Trustees of the Plumbers and Pipefitters National Pension Fund ("NPF") and the Trustees of the International Training Fund's ("ITF") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") Motion for Default Judgment against Lou Carbone Plumbing Company ("Defendant") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). (Dkt. No. 9.) After a licensed attorney for Defendant failed to appear at the hearing on April 22, 2016, the undersigned Magistrate Judge took this matter under advisement. Upon consideration of the Complaint and Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment and the supporting memoranda and affidavits thereto, the undersigned Magistrate Judge makes the following findings and recommends that default judgment be entered against Defendant.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On December 18, 2015, 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 Section 301(a) and (c) of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a) and (c). ( See Compl. ¶ 2.) These Acts allow parties to enforce provisions of collective bargaining agreements. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs seek unpaid contributions, interest on unpaid contributions, liquidated damages, injunctive relief, [1] and attorney's fees and costs, pursuant to ERISA and the LMRA. (Compl. ¶¶ 18(A)-(D), 29(A)-(DX 33(A)-(B).)

         A. Jurisdiction and Venue

         For a court to render default judgment against a party, it must have subject matter and personal jurisdiction over the party and be the appropriate venue for the action. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because this case arises under ERISA and the LMRA, which are federal laws. Furthermore, "[a suit] for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce... may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a).

         For a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant in an ERISA action, the defendant must be served with process and have "sufficient aggregate contacts with the United States as a whole, " pursuant to the Fifth Amendment. Board of Trustees, Sheet Metal Workers' National Pension Fund v. McD Metals, Inc., 964 F.Supp. 1040, 1044 (E.D. Va. 1997) (holding that because ERISA provides for nationwide service of process, the Fifth Amendment "national contacts" theory, rather than Virginia's long-arm statute, applies). As discussed below, Defendant was properly served with process. Because Defendant is incorporated under Ohio law and transacts business in Ohio, (Compl. ¶ 3), Defendant has sufficient contacts with the United States for this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over it. See McD Metals, 964 F.Supp. at 1045. Therefore, this Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant.

         Finally, as to venue, an ERISA action may be brought in the "district where the plan is administered." 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2). In this case, the Funds are administered in Alexandria, Virginia, which is within the Eastern District of Virginia. ( See Compl. ¶ 1.) An LMRA action may be brought "in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties." Id. § 185(a). As discussed above, this Court has jurisdiction over the parties. Therefore, venue is appropriate in this Court.

         B. Service of Process

         Under 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(e)(2) and 185(d), service of process is proper in any district where a defendant resides or may be found. When a plaintiff fails to serve a defendant properly under federal or state law, a court lacks personal jurisdiction and may not enter default judgment against the defendant. Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd. v. Wolff & Co., 484 U.S. 97, 104 (1987), (stating "[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. Publ'g Corp. v. Murphree, 326 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1946))), superseded by statute on other grounds, FED. R. CIV. P. 4(k); Cent. Operating Co. v. Util. Workers of Am., 491 F.2d 245, 249, 251 (4th Cir. 1974) (reversing district court's decision to enter default judgment against a nonresident defendant because the court lacked personal jurisdiction where the plaintiff failed to effectively serve the defendant with summons and complaint).

         Although §§ 1132(e) and 185(d) state 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 manner 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 February 4, 2016, a private process server served Evelyn C. Carbone, Defendant's registered agent, by serving Tiffany Propst, who is authorized to accept service on Ms. Carbone's behalf, with a true and correct copy of the Summons and Complaint. (Dkt. No. 4.) Therefore, Plaintiffs ...


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