United States District Court, D. Maryland
TRUSTEES OF THE NATIONAL AUTOMATIC SPRINKLER INDUSTRY WELFARE FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
RAKS FIRE SPRINKLER, LLC, et al., Defendants.
Xinis, United States District Judge.
5, 2017, Plaintiffs Trustees of the National Automatic
Sprinkler Industry Welfare Fund, Trustees of the National
Automatic Sprinkler Local 669 UA Education Fund, Trustees of
the National Automatic Sprinkler Industry Pension Fund,
Trustees of the Sprinkler Industry Supplemental Pension Fund,
and Trustees of the International Training Fund (“the
NASI Funds” or “the Funds”) filed the
Complaint in the above-captioned case. ECF No. 1. Summonses
were served on Defendants Raks Fire Sprinkler, LLC
(“Raks”), Romero Ali, and Alia Seraaj-Ali on July
19, 2017. See ECF Nos. 4, 5, 7, 10. On December 20,
2017, the Funds moved for entry of default against Defendants
pursuant to Rule 55(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. ECF No. 8. The Clerk entered an order of default
on December 28, 2017. ECF No. 10. The NASI Funds have moved
for default judgment. ECF No. 9. Defendants have not filed
any response, and the time for doing so has passed.
See D. Md. Loc. R. 105.2.a. Pursuant to Local Rule
105.6, a hearing is not necessary. For the reasons stated
herein, the NASI Funds' Motion for Default Judgment is
NASI Funds comprise multi-employer “employee pension
benefit plans” as that term is defined under the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq.
See ECF No. 1 ¶ 1; 29 U.S.C. § 1002(3).
The Funds are established and maintained according to the
provisions of the Restated Agreements and Declarations of
Trust establishing the NASI Funds (“Trust
Agreements”) and the Collective Bargaining Agreements
between Road Sprinkler Fitters Local Union No. 669, Sprinkler
Fitters Local Union 821, and Defendant Raks. ECF No. 1 ¶
1. Raks is an employer that is obligated to contribute to the
NASI Funds pursuant to these agreements. ECF No. 1
¶¶ 1, 2, 6; see ECF No. 9-4 ¶ 9.
Raks' contributions for the months of June 2014, August
2014, September 2014, May 2015, November 2015, December 2015,
and January 2016 were paid late. ECF No. 1 ¶ 15.
Raks had difficulty making the required benefit contributions
in June 2016, Raks and the NASI Funds entered into a
settlement agreement allowing Raks to make monthly
installment payments on the amount owed while also remaining
current on its monthly contributions going forward. ECF No. 1
¶ 9; see ECF No. 9-4 ¶ 10; ECF No. 9-18 at
1, 2, 5. The settlement waived liquidated damages in the
amount of $2, 437.84 provided that Raks remain current in all
future contributions and file all required monthly report
forms. ECF No. 1 ¶ 9. Defendants Ali and Seraaj-Ali
signed the settlement agreement and executed a promissory
note as guarantors for all amounts owed by Raks to the NASI
Funds, including future amounts that became due. ECF No. 1
¶¶ 9, 10; ECF No. 9-18 at 2-4, 6.
in February 2017, Raks failed to make contributions or submit
reports as required, thereby violating the agreement.
See ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 11, 12. Plaintiffs seek
judgment in the amount of $146, 039.15 in delinquent
contributions between February and November 2017; $38, 707.34
in liquidated damages for late contributions and delinquent
contributions; $2, 437.84 for reinstated liquidated damages
under the settlement agreement; and associated attorney's
fees, costs, and interest. ECF No. 9 ¶¶ 1-4. For
the reasons below, default judgment in the requested amounts
Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) governs default judgments,
which may be entered “[i]f the plaintiff's claim is
for a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by
computation, ” and the defendant is in default for
failing to appear. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(1). If the requested
sum is neither certain nor ascertainable through computation,
Rule 55(b)(2) provides that “the party must apply to
the court for a default judgment.” The Court may then
“conduct hearings or make referrals” if in order
to enter or effectuate judgment the Court needs to “(A)
conduct an accounting; (B) determine the amount of damages;
(C) establish the truth of any allegation by evidence; or (D)
investigate any other matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2).
Although “the Fourth Circuit has a strong policy that
cases be decided on the merits, ” default judgment
nevertheless “is available when the adversary process
has been halted because of an essentially unresponsive
party.” Disney Enters. v. Delane, 446
F.Supp.2d 402, 405 (D. Md. 2006) (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted). Whether to grant a default judgment
rests with the sound discretion of the Court. See SEC v.
Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md. 2005).
assessing the propriety of default judgment, the Court
engages in a two-step inquiry: First, the Court must decide
“whether the unchallenged facts in plaintiffs'
complaint constitute a legitimate cause of action.”
Agora Fin., LLC v. Samler, 725 F.Supp.2d 491, 494
(D. Md. 2010). Second, if the Court finds liability is
established, it must “make an independent determination
regarding the appropriate amount of damages.”
Id. The Court may hold a hearing to determine
damages, or it may rely on detailed affidavits or other
documentary evidence. Lipenga v. Kambalame, 219
F.Supp.3d 517, 525 (D. Md. 2016).
were served with copies of the Complaint in July of 2017 and
failed to respond. See ECF No. 10. Defendants also
did not respond to the NASI Funds' motion for entry of
default judgment, nor did they move to set aside the Order of
Default entered by the Clerk of the Court. The Court will
exercise its discretion to grant default judgment in light of
Defendants' failure to participate in this case. See
Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp. v. Optimum Welding, 285 F.R.D.
371, 373 (D. Md. 2012). Accordingly, all of the Funds'
allegations-other than those pertaining to damages-are deemed
admitted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6).
requires that “[e]very employer who is obligated to
make contributions to a multiemployer plan under the terms of
the plan or under the terms of a collectively bargained
agreement shall, to the extent not inconsistent with law,
make such contributions in accordance with the terms and
conditions of such plan or such agreement.” 29 U.S.C.
§ 1145; see also 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)
(providing that employers who fail to timely make
contributions are liable in a civil action for inter alia,
unpaid contributions, interest on the unpaid contributions,
liquidated damages, reasonable attorneys' fees, and costs
of the action). ERISA therefore “provide[s] trustees of
multiemployer benefit plans with an effective federal remedy
to collect delinquent contributions.” Int'l
Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Capital
Restoration & Painting Co., 919 F.Supp.2d 680,
685-86 (D. Md. 2013) (quoting Laborers Health &
Welfare Trust Fund for N. Cal. v. Advanced Lightweight
Concrete Co., 484 U.S. 539, 541 (1988)).
the well-pleaded facts of the Complaint as true, the NASI
Funds have established that Raks was required as an employer
to make contributions under to the Funds. The NASI Funds also
have established that Raks failed to make such contributions,
in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 1145. See generally
ECF No. 1. The Complaint makes plain that Defendants are
jointly and severally liable for the payment of ...