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Maryland Electrical Industry Health Fund, et al v. Rgs Electrical

April 16, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan K. Gauvey United States Magistrate Judge


This is an action brought under Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). (ECF. No. 1). Plaintiffs are Maryland Electrical Industry Health Fund and associated trustees, Maryland Electrical Industry Pension Fund, Maryland Electrical Industry Severance and Annuity Fund, Maryland Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, National Electrical Benefit Fund, National Labor Management Cooperation Committee, Maryland Electrical Industry Labor Management Cooperation Committee and Local Union No. 24, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO. The defendant is RGS Electrical Inc., a signatory, and subject to a Collective Bargaining Agreement with Local 24. (ECF No. 13). Plaintiffs move for an entry of default judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) against the defendant for failure to appear or otherwise defend in this matter. (ECF No. 7). The Clerk entered default. (ECF No. 8).

This case has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 301 and 302, to review a default judgment and/or make recommendations concerning damages. (ECF No. 9). The Court has requested and has received additional supporting materials. (ECF Nos. 11 and 13). For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that plaintiffs' motion be GRANTED and that damages be awarded as set forth herein.

I. Default Judgment Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) authorizes courts to enter a default judgment against a properly served defendant who fails to file a timely responsive pleading.

In deciding whether to grant a motion for default judgment, the Court must first consider the following three factors: (1) whether the plaintiff will be prejudiced if default is not granted, (2) whether the defendant has a meritorious defense, and (3) whether the defendant's delay was the result of culpable misconduct. Emcasco Ins. Co. v. Sambrick, 834 F.2d 71, 73 (3rd Cir. 1987); see also Smith v. Bounds, 813 F.2d 1299 (4th Cir. 1987)(relying on these factors in determining whether a default judgment merited reconsideration).

The Court must also determine whether plaintiff has alleged legitimate causes of action. In reviewing plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of a Default Judgment, the Court accepts as true the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as to liability. Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780- 81 (4th Cir. 2001). It, however, remains for the Court to determine whether these unchallenged factual allegations constitute a legitimate cause of action. Id.; see also 10A WRIGHT, MILLER & KANE, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 2688 (3rd ed. Supp. 2010) ("[L]iability is not deemed established simply because of the default . . . and the Court, in its discretion, may require some proof of the facts that must be established in order to determine liability.").

If the Court determines that liability is established, it must then determine the appropriate amount of damages. Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780-81. Unlike factual allegations as to liability, the Court does not accept factual allegations regarding damages as true, but rather must make an independent determination regarding such allegations. Credit Lyonnais Secs. (USA), Inc. v. Alcantara, 183 F.3d 151, 154 (2nd Cir. 1999). In so doing, the Court may conduct an evidentiary hearing. FED. R. CIV. P. 55(b)(2). The Court can also make a determination of damages without a hearing so long as there is an adequate evidentiary basis in the record for the award. See, e.g., Stephenson v. El- Batrawi, 524 F.3d 907, 917 n.11 (8th Cir. 2008) ("Foregoing an evidentiary hearing may constitute an abuse of discretion when the existing record is insufficient to make the necessary findings in support of a default judgment."); Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F. Supp. 2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001)(finding that a court need not make determination of damages following entry of default through hearing, but rather may rely on detailed affidavits or documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum).

II. Preliminary Factors

The Clerk of Court having filed entry of default on November 26, 2012 (ECF No. 8), the undersigned concludes that the procedural requirements for entry of default judgment have been\ met. Moreover, because the defendant has failed to file any responsive pleadings or otherwise show cause as to why default should not be granted, the Court is "not in a position to judge whether any delay was the result of culpable misconduct." Sambrick, 834 F.2d at 73. Further, defendant's failure to appear deprived plaintiffs of any other means of vindicating their claim and plaintiffs would be prejudiced if default is not granted.

III. Discussion

A. ERISA Claims

Plaintiff employee benefit plans, committees and Local 24 bring the instant action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132, and the Labor Management Relations Act, as amended ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1851. (ECF No. 1). They move to collect delinquent and late -- paid contributions, delinquent remittances and late -- paid remittances, liquidated damages, interest and attorneys' fees and costs that they allege are owed to the employee benefit plans committees and Local 24 ...

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