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Board of Trustees of Laborers Vacation-Holiday Trust Fund for Northern California v. D. Lopez

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 8, 2018

BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE LABORERS VACATION-HOLIDAY TRUST FUND FOR NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
D. LOPEZ, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT RE: DKT. NO. 30

          DONNA M. RYU, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is an unopposed motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement filed by Plaintiffs Board of Trustees of the Laborers Vacation-Holiday Trust Fund for Northern California, Laborers Pension Trust Fund for Northern California, and Laborers Training and Retraining Trust Fund for Northern California. [Docket No. 30]. This matter is suitable for resolution without a hearing. Civ. L.R 7-1(b). For the reasons stated below, the court grants Plaintiffs' motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are employee benefits trust funds established through collective bargaining agreements between the Northern California District Council of Laborers and employer associations representing construction industry employers doing business in Northern California. Complaint (“Compl.”) ¶ 3 [Docket No. 1]. Plaintiffs are governed by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1002(3) and (37), and Section 302 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 186. Compl. ¶ 3 [Docket No. 1]. Defendant D. Lopez is an employer within the meaning of ERISA and the LMRA. Compl. ¶ 3 [Docket No. 1].

         On July 1, 2014, Plaintiffs filed this action under ERISA and LMRA to recover unpaid benefit contributions, liquidated damages and interest, attorneys' fees and costs, and to obtain an injunction requiring an audit of Lopez's books and records. See generally Compl. According to the complaint, Lopez agreed to make timely employer contributions to the Trust Funds, but failed to do so. Id. ¶¶ 10, 13-14.

         On February 23, 2015, the parties executed the Settlement Agreement, in which Lopez agreed to pay the outstanding trust fund contributions for the period of October 2012 through December 2014. Settlement Agreement (Ex. A to Declaration of Michelle Lauziere (“Lauziere Decl.”) [Docket No. 31]; Lauziere Decl. ¶ 5.

         Under the Settlement Agreement, Lopez agreed to pay outstanding trust fund contributions for the period of October 2012 through March 2014, totaling $113, 950.00, as forty-eight equal monthly installments of $2, 373.96 starting August 25, 2015 until the balance was paid in full. Settlement Agreement ¶ 2. He also agreed to pay outstanding trust fund contributions for the period of April 2014 through December 2014, totaling $124, 079.62, as six equal monthly installments of $20, 679.94 by July 25, 2015. Id. ¶ 1.

         The Settlement Agreement provides that in the event Lopez fails to make a required monthly installment payment, he must cure the cure the default within 10 days of receipt of a written notice of default sent to his e-mail address, lopezconcrete@gmail.com. Settlement Agreement, ¶ 4. If he fails to cure the default in 10 days, the entire remaining balance under the Settlement Agreement is immediately due and payable. Id.

         On March 12, 2015, the parties filed a Stipulation for Dismissal Without Prejudice and Retention of Jurisdiction, requesting that the court dismiss the case without prejudice, and retain jurisdiction to enforce the Settlement Agreement should any disputes arise. Stipulation for Dismissal Without Prejudice and Retention of Jurisdiction (“Stipulation for Dismissal”) [Docket No. 28]. The court granted the Stipulation for Dismissal on March 16, 2015, and agreed to “retain jurisdiction over this matter to enforce the [Settlement] Agreement should any action be required to enforce the [Settlement] Agreement after the dismissal without prejudice is entered by the [c]ourt.” Order Granting Stipulation for Dismissal [Docket No. 29].

         On February 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed this motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement. [Docket No. 30]. According to Plaintiffs, Lopez is in default pursuant to the Settlement Agreement because he has failed to make required monthly installment payments of $2, 373.96 since July 2017, and has not cured the default.[1] Plaintiffs seek an order requiring Lopez to pay the entire remaining balance due of $35, 561.24 pursuant to paragraph 4 of the Settlement Agreement. Plaintiffs also request an award of attorneys' fees in the amount of $2, 899.00 which they incurred in enforcing the Settlement Agreement pursuant to paragraph 7 of the Settlement Agreement.

         Lopez did not opposed the motion.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         It is undisputed that the court has jurisdiction to enforce the Settlement Agreement. See Order Granting Stipulaton of Dismissal; see also Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 380-81 (1994) (explaining that a court has ancillary jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement when the parties agree to continuing or retention jurisdiction).

         A “motion to enforce [a] settlement agreement essentially is an action to specifically enforce a contract, ” and “[a]n action for specific performance without a claim for damages is purely equitable and historically has always been tried to the court.” Adams v. Johns-Manville Corp., 876 F.2d 702, 709 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation and internal quotations marks omitted). Thus, “the court may hear evidence and make factual determinations.” Fair Hous. Council of Cent. Cal., Inc. v. Tylar Prop. Mgmt. Co., 975 F.Supp.2d 1115, 1118 (E.D. Cal. 2012) (citing Stewart v. M.D.F., Inc., 83 F.3d 247, 251 (8th Cir. 1996)). A court may order compliance with a settlement agreement in light of evidence of a party's non-compliance. See, e.g., Fisher v. Biozone Pharm., Inc., No. 12-CV-03716-LB, 2017 WL 1097198, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 23, 2017) (prohibiting the plaintiff from “making any ...


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