United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
National Electrical Benefit Fund (“NEBF”) and
National Electrical Annuity Plan (“NEAP”)
(collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed this action
against Defendants Christopher L. Para and Interlink
Energy Services, Inc. (collectively, the
“Defendants”) under the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), as amended
by the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980, 29
U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq. Now pending before
the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b), ECF No. 14. No. hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the
following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion for Default
Judgment is granted, and judgment is entered against
Interlink in the amount of $6, 056.41 in favor of NEBF and
$19, 087.56 in favor of NEAP, for a total of $25, 143.97.
following facts are taken from the Amended Complaint, ECF No.
7, and evidentiary exhibits in support of the Motion for
Default Judgment, ECF Nos. 14-1, 14-2. The NEBF and NEAP are
multiemployer employee pension benefit plans within the
meaning of Section 3(2) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1002(2),
which have been established pursuant to agreements entered
into between the International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers (“IBEW”) and the National Electrical
Contractors Association (“NECA”). ECF No. 7
¶¶ 4-5. Employers agree to participate in the NEBF
and NEAP pursuant to collective bargaining agreements with
the IBEW or one of its affiliated local unions. Id.
¶ 6. The NEBF and NEAP are administered at 2400 Research
Boulevard, Suite 500, Rockville, Maryland 20850-3238.
Id. ¶¶ 4-5.
state upon information and belief that Defendant Interlink
Energy Services, Inc. (“Interlink”) is an
Illinois corporation whose main place of business is 452
Scotland Road, Lakemoor, IL 60051. ECF No. 7 ¶ 7.
Interlink is an employer within the meaning of Section 3(5)
of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1002(5), and is engaged in an
industry affecting commerce. Id. ¶ 7.
Plaintiffs state upon information and belief that Christopher
Para is the president and sole owner of Interlink, and that
his address for service of process is 6215 Johnson Road,
Hebron, IL 60034. Id. ¶ 8.
times relevant to the action, Interlink was a signatory to
collective bargaining agreements with IBEW Local Union 196 as
the collective bargaining representatives for Interlink's
employees. Id. ¶ 9. According to the Amended
Complaint, the collective bargaining agreements obligated
Interlink to submit contributions to the NEBF and NEAP on
behalf of employees covered by the Agreements. Id.
allege that Interlink was bound to the terms and conditions
of the Restated Employees Benefit Agreement and Trust for the
National Electrical Benefit Fund (“NEBF Trust
Agreement”), and the Agreement and Trust for the
National Electrical Annuity Plan (“NEAP Trust
Agreement”), which governed administration of the NEBF
and NEAP, respectively. Id. ¶¶ 13, 24. The
NEBF and NEAP Trust Agreements obligated Interlink to make
certain monthly contributions, and provided for the
collection of interest, liquidated damages, and audit fees
regarding delinquent contributions. Id. ¶¶
allegedly failed to contribute to NEBF and NEAP for work
performed by Interlink's covered employees in 2014.
Id. ¶¶ 15-16, 26-27. According to an audit
conducted by an independent auditor in February 2017,
Interlink failed to pay the NEBF $2, 532.65 and the NEAP $10,
974.78 in contributions due for the work performed by
employees covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement in
2014. Id. ¶¶ 16, 27. NEBF and NEAP made
demands that Interlink pay the contributions, but Interlink
has refused to do so. Id. ¶¶ 17, 28. NEBF
alleges that their audit cost $450.00, that the interest on
the delinquent NEBF contributions is $881.38, and that
liquidated damages owed are $506.53. Id.
¶¶ 18-20; ECF No. 14-2 at 51. NEAP alleges that
its audit cost $412.50, that the interest on the delinquent
NEAP contributions is $3, 819.47, and that liquidated damages
owed are $2, 194.96. ECF No. 7 ¶¶ 29-31; ECF No.
14-2 at 53.
filed the initial Complaint on August 9, 2017, ECF No. 1, and
filed an Amended Complaint on October 12, 2017, ECF No. 7.
Defendants were served on October 27, 2017. ECF Nos. 9-10. An
Answer from Defendants was due on or before November 17,
2017. Id. On November 20, 2017, with no answer
having been filed, Plaintiffs moved for default. ECF No. 11.
The Clerk entered default against Defendants on December 6,
2017. ECF No. 12. On January 3, 2018, Plaintiffs dismissed
their claims against Defendant Para, ECF No. 13, and now seek
default judgment against Interlink. ECF No. 14. Plaintiffs
seek a total of $6, 056.41 on behalf of NEAP, and $19, 087.56
on behalf of NEAP; these amounts consist of the delinquent
contributions, interest, liquidated damages, audit costs, and
attorney's fees and costs. Id. ¶ 8.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is
sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that
failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must
enter the party's default.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a).
“A defendant's default does not automatically
entitle the plaintiff to entry of a default judgment; rather,
that decision is left to the discretion of the court.”
Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp. v. Optimum
Welding, 285 F.R.D. 371, 373 (D. Md. 2012). Although
“[t]he Fourth Circuit has a ‘strong policy'
that ‘cases be decided on their merits, '”
Choice Hotels Intern., Inc. v. Savannah Shakti
Carp., No. DKC-11-0438, 2011 WL 5118328 at *2 (D. Md.
Oct. 25, 2011) (citing United States v. Shaffer Equip.
Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir. 1993)), “default
judgment may be appropriate when the adversary process has
been halted because of an essentially unresponsive
party[.]” Id. (citing S.E.C. v.
Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md. 2005)).
default, the well-pled allegations in a complaint as to
liability are taken as true, although the allegations as to
damages are not.” Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d at
422; see also Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253
F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001) (noting that “[t]he
defendant, by [its] default, admits the plaintiff's
well-pleaded allegations of fact, ” which provide the
basis for judgment). Upon a finding of liability,
“[t]he court must make an independent determination
regarding damages . . .” Int'l Painters &
Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Capital Restoration
& Painting Co., 919 F.Supp.2d 680, 684 (D. Md.
2013). “A default judgment must not differ in kind
from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in the
pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c). While the Court may
hold a hearing to prove damages, it is not required to do so;
it may rely instead on “detailed affidavits or
documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum.”
Adkins, 180 F.Supp.2d at 17 (citing United
Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5th Cir.
Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action
pursuant to Section 502 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132 and
1451(c). Venue is proper under 29 U.S.C. §§
1132(e)(2), 1451(d), as the NEBF and NEAP is administered in
Rockville, Maryland. See Bd. of Trs., Sheet Metal
Workers' Nat'l Pension Fund v. McD Metals, Inc.,
964 F.Supp. 1040 (E.D. Va. 1997); Trustees of Nat.