United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
EAST CENTRAL ILLINOIS PIPE TRADERS HEALTH & WELFARE FUND, PLUMBERS & PIPEFITTERS NATIONAL PENSION FUND, PLUMBERS & PIPEFITTERS LOCAL UNION #99 APPRENTICE FUND, PLUMBERS & PIPEFITTERS LOCAL UNION #99 ORGANIZING FUND, PLUMBERS & PIPEFITTERS LOCAL UNION #99 POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE, BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL PIPING INDUSTRIAL FUND, UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN & APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING & PIPE FITTING INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA LOCAL UNION #99, PLUMBERS & PIPEFITTERS LOCAL UNION #99 401K FUND, LOCAL NO. 99 OF THE UNITED ASSOCIATION OF PLUMBERS & PIPEFITTERS PENSION PLAN, and INTERNATIONAL TRAINING FUND Plaintiffs,
THE LANE COMPANY, INC. Defendant.
ORDER & OPINION
BILLY MCDADE UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motions for
Default Judgment (Docs. 6, 8). For the reasons explained
below, Plaintiffs' Motions are GRANTED.
December 15, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a two-count Complaint
(Doc. 1) claiming that Defendant, The Lane Company, failed to
comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of
1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et
seq. and the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947
(“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 141 et seq.
(Doc. 1 at 1-2). The Plaintiffs consist of employee benefits
funds, labor organizations, labor-management committees,
and/or funds established pursuant to collective bargaining
agreements or the local union. Id. at 2. Defendant
employs individuals who are members of, and represented by,
Plaintiff United Association of Journeymen & Apprentices
of the Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry of the United
States and Canada Local Union No. 99. Id. at 3.
Those individuals employed by Defendant are participants in
Plaintiffs' employee benefit funds pursuant to collective
bargaining agreements (the “CB Agreements”).
allege that, pursuant to § 1145 of ERISA, the Defendant
is required to pay fringe benefit contributions to the
Plaintiffs in accordance with the terms and conditions of an
Agreement and Declaration of Trust (the “trust
agreements”) (collectively, along with the CB
Agreements, referred to as the “Agreements”).
Id. The Agreements require Defendant to report hours
worked by its employees and make prompt payment of certain
fringe benefit contributions owed to Plaintiffs. Id.
Plaintiffs contend that Defendant reported the hours worked
by its employees, but failed to pay contributions owed to the
Plaintiffs for the hours of work performed by its employees
during several months throughout 2007, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Id. at 4; Doc. 7 at 3; Doc 9 at 3. The Agreements
also make Defendant liable for reasonable attorneys'
fees, court costs and all other reasonable expenses incurred
by Plaintiffs in the collection of delinquent contributions.
(Doc. 1 at 4). Plaintiffs further aver that Defendant owes
interest and liquidated damages on the delinquent
contributions pursuant to ERISA and the Agreements.
docket in this case reflects that the Defendant's
registered agent, Barbara Page, was served a Summons and copy
of the Complaint on January 8, 2018. (Doc. 3). The
Defendant's answer or otherwise responsive pleading was
due on January 29, 2018. Defendant has failed to plead or
otherwise respond at all in this case. As a result,
Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Entry of Default on February 8,
2018. (Doc. 4). The Clerk of Court entered default on
February 27, 2018. Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Default
Judgment as to Count I of the Complaint on April 16, 2018,
(Doc. 6), and a Motion for Default Judgment as to Count II of
the Complaint on April 26, 2018, (Doc. 8). Both counts in the
Complaint are brought against Defendant for delinquent
contributions. Count I is brought by all Plaintiffs except
Plumbers & Pipefitters National Pension Fund
(“Group 1 Plaintiffs”). (Doc. 1 at 1-5). Count II
is brought by Plumbers & Pipefitters National Pension
Fund (“P&PNPF”). Id. at 5. For
purposes of this Order & Opinion, the term
“Plaintiffs” refers to all Plaintiffs regardless
Plaintiffs allege that Defendant has failed to pay
contributions for the months of December 2017, January 2018,
February 2018, and March 2018. Based upon the hours reported
by Defendant to the funds, the Defendant owes contributions
in the sum of $95, 554.94 for December 2017, January 2018,
and February 2018. (Doc. 6 at 4). At the time this Motion was
filed, Defendant had not yet reported hours for March 2018.
However, based upon previous reporting by Defendant, Group 1
Plaintiffs made a good faith estimate of $35, 000.00 due for
March 2018. Id. Group 1 Plaintiffs further request
$604.54 for miscellaneous reporting discrepancies.
Id. As to Count II, P&PNPF alleges that
Defendant has failed to pay contributions for the months of
November 2007, October 2016, March 2017, May 2017, and
September 2017 through February 2018. (Doc. 9 at 3). Based on
the hours reported by Defendant to P&PNPF, Defendant owes
contributions in the sum of $33, 841.90 to P&PNPF for the
aforementioned months. Id. In both counts,
Plaintiffs also request liquidated damages plus attorney fees
and costs which will be discussed below.
judgment establishes, “as a matter of law, that
defendants are liable to plaintiff on each cause of
action.” e360 Insight v. Spamhaus Project, 500
F.3d 594, 602 (7th Cir. 2007). The well-pleaded facts of the
complaint relating to liability are taken as true upon
default. Dundee Cement Co. v. Howard Pipe & Concrete
Prods., Inc., 722 F.2d 1319, 1323 (7th Cir. 1983).
Defendant's default was entered on February 27, 2018.
Accordingly, Defendant is liable to Plaintiffs under 29
U.S.C. § 1145 based on its failure to timely make
contributions or pay liquidated damages and interest required
by the Agreements, as alleged in the Complaint.
liability may be established from the well-pleaded facts of
the Complaint, Plaintiffs must still show they are entitled
to the amount of damages they seek. Dundee Cement,
722 F.2d at 1323. Default judgment may not be granted without
a hearing on damages unless the amount of damages claimed is
“capable of ascertainment from definite figures in the
documentary evidence or in detailed affidavits.”
Id. These damages must be ascertained with
“reasonable certainty.” In re Catt, 368
F.3d 789, 793 (7th Cir. 2004).
court finds in favor of a plan under § 1145, the plan
can be awarded 1) the unpaid contributions; 2) any interest
owed on unpaid contributions; 3) the greater of either the
interest owed on unpaid contributions or the liquidated
damages for which the plan provides; 4) reasonable
attorneys' fees and costs of litigation; and 5) any other
legal or equitable relief the court finds appropriate. 29
U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2). In awarding fees under §
1132(g)(2)(D), courts must determine whether the rate charged
and the amount of time spent was reasonable. See Anderson
v. AB Painting & Sandblasting Inc., 578 F.3d 542,
544-46 (7th Cir. 2009).
Plaintiffs request damages in the amount of $130, 554.94.
(Doc. 7 at 5). They also request liquidated damages and
interest in the total sum of $26, 990.38 and $604.54 for
miscellaneous reporting discrepancies, plus attorney fees and
costs in the amount of $4, 184.00. Id. at 6-7. To
support the figures, Group 1 Plaintiffs have submitted an
affidavit from Michael T. Wilcher, who works for Plumbers and
Pipefitters Local 99 Fringe Benefit Fund, the fund entitled
to receive and process the fringe benefit contributions.
(Doc. 6-1 at 2-3). The affidavit details the calculation of
damages and liquidated damages, and is accompanied by a
spreadsheet showing the amount of unpaid contributions,
interest, and liquidated damages. Id. at 8. The
Court has reviewed the materials Group 1 Plaintiffs submitted
with its Motion, and has determined that Group 1 Plaintiffs
have adequately supported its damages request with
documentary evidence. Defendant owes a total of $158, 149.86
to the Group 1 Plaintiffs for unpaid benefit contributions,
interest, and liquidated damages. (See Doc. 6-1).
Plaintiffs also submitted an affidavit in support of attorney
fees from John P Leahy, a partner with the law firm of
Cavanagh & O'Hara, LLP, which represents the
Plaintiffs. (Doc. 6-2). The affidavit is accompanied by an
itemization of attorney hours worked on this matter, the
hourly rate at which the attorney worked, and the amount of
costs incurred. Id. at 3-6. Group 1 Plaintiffs'
attorneys charged $90 per hour for .20 hours, $175 per hour
for 2.30 hours, and $195 for 17.70 hours. Id. at 7.
Cavanagh & O'Hara requested a total of $3, 872.00 in
fees plus $312.00 in costs, for a total of $4, 184.00 in
attorney fees and costs. The Court finds the rate charged by
Group 1 Plaintiffs' counsel is a reasonable hourly rate.
requests damages in the amount of $33, 841.90. (Doc. 8 at 3).
P&PNPF also requests liquidated damages and interest in
the total sum of $5, 645.03 plus attorney fees and costs in
the amount of $1, 870.05. Id. at 3-6. To support the
figures, P&PNPF submitted an affidavit from Toni C.
Inscoe, who is the Administrator for the Trustees of the
Plumbers and Pipefitters National Pension Fund, the fund
entitled to receive and process the fringe benefit
contributions. Id. at 3. The affidavit details the
calculation of damages and liquidated damages, and is
accompanied by a spreadsheet showing the amount of unpaid
contributions, interest, and liquidated damages. (Doc. 8-1 at
¶ 6-7). The Court has reviewed the materials P&PNPF
submitted with its Motion, and has determined that P&PNPF