Trustees of the National Electrical Benefit Fund v. Rapid Telecom Solutions, LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION (c/m to Defendant 11/15/23 sat). Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 11/15/2023. (sat, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
TRUSTEES OF THE NATIONAL
ELECTRICAL BENEFIT FUND
RAPID TELECOM SOLUTIONS, LLC
Civil Action No. DKC 23-1394
Presently pending and ready for resolution in this action
arising under the Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974, 29
U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (“ERISA”) is Plaintiffs’ motion for default
(ECF No. 12).
The relevant issues have been briefed
and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6, no hearing
being deemed necessary.
For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs’
motion will be granted.
Plaintiffs are trustees of a multi-employer pension plan, the
fiduciaries to NEBF and authorized to file this action under 29
U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3).
Plaintiffs are an employee benefit plan
within the meaning of § 3(2) of ERISA.
See 29 U.S.C. § 1002(2).
Defendant Rapid Telecom Solutions, LLC is an employer engaged in
an industry affecting commerce under ERISA.
See 29 U.S.C. §§
NEBF was established and is maintained by an agreement
Contractors Association on February 15, 2020, and is obligated to
submit contributions to NEBF. (ECF No. 12-5).
Plaintiffs filed a complaint on behalf of NEBF on May 24,
2023, alleging that Defendant breached the collective bargaining
agreement by failing to pay contributions and asking for liquidated
damages and interest for unpaid and late-paid contributions, and
attorneys’ fees and costs.
Plaintiffs served the summons and complaint on Defendant on
August 3, 2023.
When Defendant failed to respond within the
requisite time period, Plaintiffs moved for the entry of default.
The clerk entered default against Defendant on September 5, 2023.
(ECF Nos. 10, 11).
Plaintiffs filed the subject motion for entry
of default judgment on October 19, 2023.
(ECF No. 12).
Defendants paid $3,113.10 in August 2023, representing all the
interest through September 2023 of $279.77, costs of $552, and
attorneys’ fees of $746 on the late-paid contributions.
Standard of Review
Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a), “[w]hen a party against whom
a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or
otherwise, the clerk must enter the party’s default.”
default has been previously entered by the clerk and the complaint
does not specify a certain amount of damages, the court may enter
a default judgment, upon the plaintiff’s application and notice to
defendant’s default does not automatically entitle the plaintiff
to entry of a default judgment; rather, that decision is left to
the discretion of the court.
See Dow v. Jones, 232 F.Supp.2d 491,
494 (D.Md. 2002); Lipenga v. Kambalame, 219 F. Supp. 3d 517 (D.Md.
The Fourth Circuit has a “strong policy” that “cases be
decided on their merits,” id. (citing United States v. Shaffer
Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir. 1993)), but default judgment
may be appropriate when the adversary process has been halted
Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D.Md. 2005) (citing Jackson v.
Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980)).
complaint as to liability are taken as true, but the allegations
as to damages are not.
Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d at 422.
constitute a legitimate cause of action, and, if liability is
established, the court then makes an independent determination of
Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a).
While the court may hold a
hearing to prove damages, it is not required to do so; it may rely
determine the appropriate sum.”
Adkins, 180 F.Supp.2d at 17
(citing United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5th
Cir. 1979)); see also Laborers’ Dist. Council Pension v. E.G.S.,
Inc., Civ. No. WDQ-09-3174, 2010 WL 1568595, at *3 (D.Md. Apr. 16,
2010) (“on default judgment, the Court may only award damages
without a hearing if the record supports the damages requested”).
Assuming the truth of the well-pleaded allegations of the
complaint, as the court must upon entry of default, Plaintiffs
have established a violation under ERISA.
authorizes Plaintiffs to enforce the provisions of the trust
See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3) (providing that a civil
action may be brought:
“(A) to enjoin any act or practice which
violates . . . the terms of the plan, or (B) to obtain other
appropriate equitable relief (i) to redress such violations or
(ii) to enforce any . . . terms of the plan”).
According to the
complaint, Defendant is a signatory to the Restated Employees
Benefit Agreement and Trust for the National Electrical Benefit
Fund and is, therefore, obligated to comply with the terms of the
Agreement, which includes the requirement to submit to an audit at
the request of the Funds’ trustees.
Based on these undisputed
allegations, Plaintiffs have stated a sufficient claim for relief
See La Barbera v. Fed. Metal & Glass Corp., 666
F.Supp.2d 341, 348 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) (entering default judgment in
favor of trustees where the complaint alleged that an employer
refused to submit an audit despite being contractually bound to do
so by a CBA and trust agreement); see also National Elec. Ben.
Fund v. AC-DC Elec., Inc., Civ. No. DKC 11-0893, 2011 WL 6153022
(D.Md. Dec. 9, 2011).
The complaint demands payment to Plaintiffs of $3,014.58 in
Plaintiffs’ motion for default judgment, however,
explains that in August, 2023, Defendants paid all contributions
owed, but failed to pay associated interest and liquidated damages
on the late-paid contributions.
Liquidated Damages and Interest
The complaint and motion for default judgment demands payment
to Plaintiffs of $1,155.26 in liquidated damages for late payment
Plaintiffs have attached a spreadsheet to the
motion for default judgment with calculations of interest at ten
percent (10%) compounded monthly as provided for in the Agreement.
(ECF No. 12-7).
The Agreement between the parties obligates
Defendant to pay twenty percent (20%) as liquidated damages and
period of delinquency.
(ECF No. 12-6 at 7).
September 30, 2023, on late contributions will be awarded. 1
Plaintiffs seek $746 in attorneys’ fees.
In support of this
request, Plaintiffs submit a Declaration of Attorney’s Fees and a
spreadsheet of the hours billed by Plaintiff’s counsel.
The spreadsheet shows that the firm spent 3.1 hours on
this case on behalf of the Plaintiffs.
Jennifer Hawkins, a
licensed attorney since 1994, charged $392 per hour and Peter
Although the past-due contributions were paid fully in August
2023, diminimus interest of $4.60 representing $2.29 applied in
August 2023 and $2.31 applied in September 2023, has been added to
the total amount owed. Because the motion isn’t challenged, it
has been granted.
Tkach, a member of this bar since May, 2023, charged $188 an hour
for attorney time.
The sum requested is supported by the record
and Plaintiffs will be awarded $746 for attorneys’ fees.
Plaintiffs seek $552 in costs.
In support of this request,
Plaintiffs recite that in addition to the $402 filing fee to
commence this action, $150 was spent for service of process on
Defendant (ECF No. 12-1 at 3, 12-3).
The record supports the award
of costs in the amount of $552.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs’ motion for the entry
of default judgment will be granted. A separate order will follow.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
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