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Board of Trustees of Northern California Plasterers Health and Welfare Trust Fund v. West

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 7, 2014

BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA PLASTERERS HEALTH AND WELFARE TRUST FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
RICHARD WEST, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION REGARDING MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT Re: Dkt. No. 11

JOSEPH C. SPERO, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

In this ERISA enforcement action, Plaintiffs[1] bring a Motion for Default Judgment (the "Motion, " Dkt. 11) seeking entry of default judgment against Defendant Richard D. West, d/b/a Rick West Plastering (a sole proprietorship), following the Clerk's entry of default. Plaintiffs ask the Court to award unpaid fringe benefits, interest, liquidated damages, attorneys' fees, and costs.

Plaintiffs' Motion was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a report and recommendation. A hearing was held on Friday, September 19, 2014, at which the undersigned identified certain deficiencies in Plaintiffs' Motion and supporting documentation. Plaintiffs submitted a supplemental brief and declarations on October 1, 2014, which resolved some but not all of the deficiencies noted at the hearing. The undersigned issued an Order to Show Cause on October 20, 2014 regarding the calculation of damages, and Plaintiffs submitted their second supplemental brief and declarations on October 30, 2014. Taking into account these latest submissions, the undersigned recommends that the Motion be GRANTED in part, as discussed below.

II. BACKGROUND

A. The Complaint

Plaintiffs (also referred to as the "Trusts") filed their Complaint against Defendant on April 10, 2014. Each plaintiff is a "multi-employer employee benefit plan[] pursuant to ERISA, " 29 U.S.C. §§ 1002(3), 1002(37), and 1132(d)(1). Compl. (Dkt. 1) ¶ 1. Each is also a "jointly trusted employee benefit plan pursuant to the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(5)." Id. Defendant is a sole proprietor in the business of plastering and related work. Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiffs served a summons and the Complaint on Defendant on May 4, 2014. See Summons Returned Executed (Dkt. 6); Bissen Decl. (Dkt. 7-1) ¶ 2.

According to Plaintiffs' Complaint, Defendant agreed to be bound by two collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs"): the "Plasterers Master Agreement, " which relates to Local No. 66 of an international plasterers' union, and the "Labor Agreement, " which relates to Local No. 300 of the same union. Compl. ¶ 11, 12; see also Martinez Decl. (Dkt. 11-1) ¶¶ 2, 4; Martinez Supp'l Decl. (Dkt. 16-1) ¶¶ 2, 3.[2] Plaintiffs alleged that each agreement requires employers to provide monthly reports of hours worked by each covered employee and to make fringe benefit contributions to the Trusts on or before the fifteenth day of the month following the month when the work was performed. Compl. ¶ 14. Plaintiffs further alleged that Defendant "failed to pay fringe benefit contributions due [for] September and October 2013, " id. ¶ 15, that Defendant owed contributions for July and August 2012, id. ¶¶ 18-19, and that Defendant owed liquidated damages for untimely payment of benefits for April 2011, November 2011, January 2013, February 2013, July 2013, and August 2013, id. ¶ 22. The Complaint requested "at least $127, 025.56" in unpaid benefit contributions and $33, 657.31 in liquidated damages, plus interest, attorneys' fees, and costs. Compl. § VIII ¶¶ 1-5.

B. Motion and Initial Evidence

Plaintiffs filed their present Motion on July 29, 2014. In support, Plaintiffs filed a declaration by Linda Martinez, an employee of Plaintiffs' third-party administrator, which indicated that Defendant made a partial payment of $103, 987.70 on April 21, 2014. Martinez Decl. ¶ 9. Martinez calculated that Defendant owed $75, 264.89 to the Trusts, consisting of $23, 042.16 in unpaid contributions for October 2013, $41, 310.64 in liquidated damages, and $10, 911.64 in interest for various months where payment was not timely. Id. ¶ 17; Martinez Supp'l Decl. ¶ 23.

Plaintiffs also sought $3, 984 in attorneys' fees for 19 hours of work, as well as $466.95 for filing and process service costs, as laid out in a declaration by Plaintiffs' counsel Lois Chang. See generally Chang Decl. (Dkt. 11-6); Chang Supp'l Decl. (Dkt. 16-5). Plaintiffs therefore requested a total judgment of $79, 715.84 after taking into account the partial payment. Mot. at 4.

As exhibits to the Martinez and Chang declarations, Plaintiffs' submitted the following documents:

1. The 2013 Plasterers Master Agreement, effective July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2017, Martinez Decl. Ex. A;
2. A Memorandum Agreement signed by Defendant in March 2006, binding Defendant to the then-existing Plasterers Master Agreement and "any future modifications, changes, amendments, supplements, extensions and/or renewals" thereof, Martinez Decl. Ex. B;
3. The 2013 Labor Agreement, effective July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2017, Martinez Decl. Ex. C;
4. A "Sacramento Memorandum Agreement" signed by Defendant in December 2010 binding Defendant to the then-existing Labor Agreement and "any future modifications, changes, amendments, supplements, extensions and/or renewals" thereof, Martinez Decl. Ex. D;
5. An itemized description of Plaintiffs' attorneys' time spent and fees billed related to this action, Chang Decl. Ex. A; and
6. Payment confirmation of Plaintiffs' filing fee and an invoice for service of process, Chang Decl. Ex. B.

C. Hearing and Supplemental Evidence

At the September 19 hearing, the undersigned identified a number of deficiencies in Plaintiffs' submission. Plaintiffs failed to submit CBAs governing Defendant's alleged untimely payments before July of 2013, and failed to explain how the Memorandum Agreements that Defendant signed bound him to the subsequent agreements that Plaintiffs provided. Plaintiffs did not explain which Plaintiff was entitled to recover payments owed to the Operative Plasters Local Union No. 66 Journeyman and Apprentice Training Fund, and did not provide the reports necessary to confirm the value of Defendant's alleged debts. The undersigned also noted deficiencies related to Plaintiffs' request for attorneys' fees. On October 1, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Supplemental Brief (Dkt. 16), supplemental declarations by Martinez and Chang, and the following additional documents:

1. The 2009 Plasterers Master Agreement, effective July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2013, Martinez Supp'l Decl. Ex. A;
2. The 2009 Labor Agreement, effective July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2013, Martinez Supp'l Decl. Ex. B;
3. Monthly transmittals of hours worked by Defendant's union employees, Martinez ...

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