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Board of Trustees of Laborers Health and Welfare Trust Fund v. Montes Bros. Construction, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 5, 2014

BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE LABORERS HEALTH AND WELFARE TRUST FUND FOR NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MONTES BROS. CONSTRUCTION, INC. Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT (Docket No. 17)

EDWARD M. CHEN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs are fiduciaries for the following trust funds: the Laborers Health and Welfare Trust Fund for Northern California; the Laborers Vacation-Holiday Trust Fund for Northern California; the Laborers Pension Trust Fund for Northern California; and the Laborers Training and Retraining Trust Fund for Northern California (collectively "Trust Funds"). The Trust Funds are all employee benefit plans. Collectively, Plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of the Trust Funds against Defendant Montes Bros. Construction, Inc. ("Montes Bros."), pursuant to the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132.

Plaintiffs filed a Complaint on March 21, 2014 (Docket No. 1). Defendant failed to respond to the complaint and summons, and Plaintiffs thereafter moved for an Entry of Default (Docket No. thereafter filed a Motion for Default Judgment (Docket No. 17), which is now pending before the Court.

The Court held a hearing on Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment on November 4, 2014. Having considered Plaintiffs' briefs as well as other evidence of record, the Court hereby GRANTS the Motion for Default Judgment.

I. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendant on March 21, 2014. Complaint (Docket No. 1). Their complaint alleges the following facts. Defendant is a signatory to a written collective bargaining agreement with the Northern California District Council of Laborers ("Union"). Complaint ¶ IV. Defendant became subject to the terms of Plaintiffs' "Laborers Master Agreement" when it signed a Letter of Understanding with the Union, which incorporated by reference the Master Agreement. Id. The Laborers Master Agreement incorporates by reference the various Trust Agreements establishing each of the Plaintiff Trust Funds. Id. The Master and Trust Agreements provide for prompt payments of all employer contributions to the various Trust Funds. Id. ¶ V. The agreements also provide for the audit of the signatory employer's books and records in order for the Plaintiffs to determine whether all fringe benefit contributions have been timely paid as required by the Agreements. Id.

Pursuant to the Master and Trust Agreements, Plaintiffs conducted an audit of the books and records of Defendant for the period of October 2010 to December 2012. Id. ¶ VII. Plaintiffs determined that Defendant owed the Trust Funds $31, 073.35 in unpaid fringe benefits contributions, $1, 200.00 in liquidated damages, and $12, 705.09 in interest. Lauziere Decl., Ex. D (Docket No. 20-D). To date, Defendant has refused to pay any amount toward these sums. Lauziere Decl. ¶ 16.

On April 1, 2014, copies of the summons and complaint were personally served on Norah Rivera at the mailing address of the principal of Montes Bros., Luis Montes. See Docket No. 10. Norah Rivera told the process server that she is the wife of Luis Montes. Carvalho Aff. of Reasonable Diligence (Docket No. 25-1). Defendant failed to respond to the complaint and summons, and Plaintiffs thereafter moved for an Entry of Default. Docket No. 11. This Court entered default against Defendant on May 14, 2014. Docket No. 16. Plaintiffs thereafter filed the pending Motion for Default Judgment. Docket No. 17.

In their motion, Plaintiffs ask for (1) a monetary judgment in the amount of $44, 978.43 for delinquent trust fund contributions, liquidated damages, and interest, (2) an award of reasonable attorney's fees, (3) an order directing Defendant to submit to an audit of their books and records, and (4) an order enjoining Defendant to timely submit all required monthly contributions and contribution reports in accordance with the Agreements. Mot. for Default J. at 2.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Adequacy of Service of Process

As a threshold matter in considering a motion for default judgment, the Court must first "assess the adequacy of the service of process on the party against whom default is requested." Board of Trustees of the N. Cal. Sheet Metal Workers v. Peters, No. C-00-0395 VRW, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19065, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 2, 2001). Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(h)(1) authorizes service upon a corporation "by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to an officer, a managing or general agent, or to any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process and - if the agent is one authorized by statute to receive service and the statute so requires - by also mailing a copy of each to the defendant." Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(h)(1). Rule 4(h)(1) also states that a corporation may be served "in the manner prescribed by Rule 4(e)(1) for serving an individual, " which, in turn, allows for service "following state law for serving a summons in an action brought in courts of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located or where service is made." Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e)(1).

Under California law, a summons and complaint may be served on a corporation by delivering a copy of the documents (1) to the person designated as agent for service under certain provisions of the California Corporations Code or (2) to the "president or other head of the corporation, a vice president, a secretary or assistant secretary, a treasurer or assistant treasurer, a general manager, or a person authorized by the corporation to receive service of process." Cal. Code Civ. P. § 416.10(a), (b). A corporation may also be served under California law via "substituted service." That is,

If a copy of the summons and complaint cannot with reasonable diligence be personally delivered to the person to be served, ... a summons may be served by leaving a copy of the summons and complaint at the person's dwelling house, usual place of abode, usual place of business, or usual mailing address other than a United States Postal Service post office box, in the presence of a competent member of the household or a person apparently in charge of his or her office, place of business, or usual mailing address other than a United States Postal Service post office box, at least 18 years of age, who shall be informed of the contents thereof, and by thereafter mailing a ...

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