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Trustees of Plumbers and Pipefitters National Pension Fund v. Buskirk

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

February 2, 2018



          Michael S. Nachmanoff United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment (Dkt. No. 11). Having reviewed the record and pleadings, the undersigned Magistrate Judge recommends entering default judgment in the Plaintiff's favor for the reasons that follow.

         I. Background

         On October 16, 2017, Plaintiffs-the Trustees of multi-employer benefit plans[1]-filed a Complaint against Defendant Jeromy Buskirk d/b/a JBus Pipe, Plumbing, Heating & Air, LLC pursuant to Sections 502 and 515 of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132, 1145, and Section 301(a) and (c) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 185(a), (c). See Compl. ¶¶ 3-6 (Dkt. No. 1); Pls.' Mot for Default J. at 1 (Dkt. No. 11). Plaintiffs seek a monetary judgment for delinquent contributions, accrued interest, liquidated damages, attorneys' fees, and costs in addition to the amounts that become due through the date of judgment. Id. ¶¶ 17-20, 27-30. Plaintiffs allege that from August 2016 to August 2017, Defendant, which is signatory to a collective bargaining agreement, employed workers within Local 565's jurisdiction and “failed to make contributions” due to the National Pension and International Training Funds under which journeymen, apprentice plumbers, and pipefitters are covered. Id. ¶¶ 7-10, 12, 14, 22. Defendant also failed to submit reports to these benefit plans, specifying the amount owed during this time period. Id. ¶¶ 13, 23; Inscoe NPF Aff. ¶ 6 (Dkt. No. 12-1); Inscoe ITF Aff. ¶ 6 (Dkt. No. 12-2).

         As of the date of filing, Defendant owed Plaintiffs $11, 153.22 in contributions and $1, 115.32 in liquidated damages to the National Pension Fund (“NPF”); $182.26 in contributions and $36.45[2] in liquidated damages to the International Training Fund (“ITF”). Compl. ¶¶ 18, 20, 28, 30. Plaintiffs now seek recovery of $12, 487.25, plus interest at rate of 12 percent per year on the delinquent amount until the date of payment as well as costs and attorneys' fees. Id. ¶¶ 20, 30.

         II. Procedural History

         On December 6, 2017, Plaintiffs' process server personally served Defendant through an officer, Jeromy Buskirk, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(c), (e), and (h) (Dkt. No. 5). See Business Organization Detail, West Virginia Secretary of State, (listing Jeromy Buskirk as officer of Defendant LLC, although Defendant's charter was revoked in 2015). Defendant did not file a response within 21 days of receipt (i.e. December 27, 2017) (Dkt. Nos. 5, 8). On January 17, 2018, the Clerk entered a default against Defendant (Dkt. No. 10). Nine days later, Plaintiffs filed this Motion for Default Judgment (Dkt. No. 11).

         III. Service of Process, Jurisdiction, and Venue

         The docket reflects that Defendant has been properly served pursuant to Federal Rule 4(h)(1)(B). See Summons Return Executed (Dkt. No. 5). This Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.SC. § 1331 and 29 U.S.C. §§ 185, 1132, and 1145, as Plaintiffs seek relief under ERISA and LMRA. See Compl. ¶ 6.

         This Court also has personal jurisdiction and venue over Defendant. While Defendant is incorporated in West Virginia and has its principal place of business in that state, ERISA provides that “an action . . . 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); Compl. ¶¶ 3-4. LMRA also states that jurisdiction lies “(1) in the district in which such organization maintains its principal office, or (2) in any district in which its duly authorized officers or agents are engaged in representing or acting for employee members.” 29 U.S.C. § 185(c); see Pls.' Mot. for Default J. at 2 (Dkt. No. 11). The Funds are administered in Alexandria, Virginia, which is within the Eastern District of Virginia. See Compl. ¶¶ 1-2.

         IV. Legal Standard

         Default judgment is appropriate if the well-pled allegations of the complaint establish that the plaintiff is entitled to relief and the defendant has failed to plead or defend within the time frame set out in the rules. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55; see Music City Music v. Alfa Foods, Ltd., 616 F.Supp. 1001, 1002 (E.D. Va. 1985). By defaulting, the defendant admits the plaintiff's well-pled allegations of fact, which then provide the basis for judgment. See Partington v. Am. Int'l Specialty Lines Ins. Co., 443 F.3d 334, 341 (4th Cir. 2006); Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975)). Nevertheless, “‘[a] court confronted with a motion for default judgment is required to exercise sound judicial discretion in determining whether the judgment should be entered, and the moving party is not entitled to default judgment as a matter of right.'” ReadyCap Lending, LLC v. Servicemaster Prof'l Cleaning, Inc., No. 2:15-cv-451, 2016 WL 1714877, at *2 (E.D. Va. Apr. 12, 2016) (quoting EMI April Music, Inc. v. White, 618 F.Supp.2d 497, 505 (E.D. Va. 2009)). Here, because Defendant has not answered or otherwise timely responded, the well-pled allegations of fact contained in the Complaint are deemed to be admitted.

         V. Analysis

         Having examined the record, the Magistrate Judge finds that the well-pled allegations of fact contained in the Complaint-and supported by Plaintiffs' Memorandum in Support of Motion for Default Judgment and affidavits-establish that Defendant failed to remit any contributions to Plaintiffs on behalf of its Local 565 employees from August 2016 to August 2017. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 17-18, 22, 27-28. Defendant's failure to make proper contributions is in violation of the collective bargaining agreement, Trust Document, ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §§ ...

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