SILGAN CONTAINERS MANUFACTURING CORP. v. CICHALSKI
OPINION/ORDER granting 8 Motion for Default Judgment. Signed by Judge Kevin McNulty on 12/19/16. (DD, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civ. No. 16-cv-2686 (KM)
OPINION & ORDER
RONALD E. CICHALSKI,
KEVIN MCNULTY U.S.D.J.:
This matter comes before the Court on the unopposed motion of the
Plaintiff, Silgan Containers Manufacturing Corp., for a default judgment. Silgan
was the employer of the defendant, Ronald E. Cichaiski. Silgan alleges that it
paid Mr. Cichaiski $25,825.71 in disability benefits in lieu of Social Security
benefits; it claims that, under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement
(“CBA”), it was entitled to recoup those amounts when Cichaiski’s Social
Security benefits finally came through. This two-count complaint asserts one
claim under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29
U.S.C. § 185, and one state law claim of unjust enrichment. Cichalski has not
responded to the complaint, and the clerk has entered default. For the reasons
stated herein, the motion for a default judgment will be granted.
“[T]he entry of a default judgment is left primarily to the discretion of the
district court.” Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180 (3d Cir. 1984) (citing
Tozer v. Charles A. Krause Milling Co., 189 F.2d 242, 244 (3d Cir. 1951)).
Because the entry of a default judgment prevents the resolution of claims on
the merits, “this court does not favor entry of defaults and default judgments.”
United States v. $55,518.05 in US. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1984).
Thus, before entering default judgment, the Court must determine whether the
“unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action” so that default
judgment would be permissible. DirecTV, Inc. v. Asher, 2006 WL 680533, at * 1
(D.N.J. Mar. 14, 2006) (citing Wright, Miller, Kane, 1OA Fed. Prac. & P. Civil 3d
2688, at 58—59, 63).
“[D]efendants are deemed to have admitted the factual allegations of the
Complaint by virtue of their default, except those factual allegations related to
the amount of damages.” Doe v. Simone, 2013 WL 3772532, at *2 (D.N.J. July
17, 2013). While “courts must accept the plaintiff’s well-pleaded factual
allegations as true,” they “need not accept the plaintiff’s factual allegations
regarding damages as true.” Id. (citing Chanel, Inc. v. Gordashevsky, 558 F.
Supp. 2d 532, 536 (D.N.J. 2008)). Moreover, if a court finds evidentiary
support to be lacking, it may order or permit a plaintiff seeking default
judgment to provide additional evidence in support of the allegations. Doe,
2013 WL 3772532, at *2.
Prerequisites for Entry of Default Judgment
Before a court may enter default judgment against a defendant, the
plaintiff must have properly served the summons and complaint, and the
defendant must have failed to file an answer or otherwise respond to the
complaint within 21-day time period provided by the Federal Rules. See Gold
Kist, Inc. v. Laurinburg Oil Co., Inc., 756 F.2d 14, 18—19 (3d Cir. 1985).
Plaintiffs have submitted an affidavit showing that Mr. Cichalski was
personally served with the summons and complaint on April 19, 2016. (ECF
no. 4) This was adequate service. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e). Defendant had 21
days to file an answer or otherwise respond. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a). No answer or
other responsive pleading appears on the court’s docket, and the affidavit in
support of the plaintiff’s motion confirms that there has been no response.
(ECF no. 8-1 at
The clerk entered default on July 7, 2016. (ECF no. 7) Plaintiff served
and filed its motion for default judgment on July 21, 2016. (ECF no. 8) There
has been no response to the motion.
Accordingly, I am satisfied that the prerequisites to filing a default
judgment are met. See Gold Kist, 756 F.2d at 18—19.
Three Factor Analysis
After the prerequisites have been satisfied, a court must evaluate the
following three factors: “(1) whether the party subject to default has a
meritorious defense, (2) the prejudice suffered by the party seeking default, and
(3) the culpability of the party subject to default.” Doug Brady, Inc. v. N.J. Bldg.
Laborers Statewide Ftjnds, 250 F.R.D. 171, 177 (D.N.J. 2008) (citing Emcasco
Ins. Co. v. Sarnbrick, 834 F.2d 71, 74 (3d Cir. 1987)). Those factors, considered
in light of the record of this case, weigh in favor of entry of a default judgment.
The evaluation of the first factor is always complicated by the
defendant’s failure to answer or to oppose the motion. My independent review
of the case file, however, does not suggest that the claims are legally flawed or
that defendant could mount a meritorious defense. See Doe, 2013 WL
3772532, at *5• Accepting the allegations in the Complaint as true, Comdyne I,
Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990), I find that the plaintiff has
successfully stated a claim for relief as against the defendant.
Count 1 of the Complaint alleges breach of the CBA. Such a claim
necessarily arises under Section 301 of the LMRA, which preempts state
remedies. See Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 394, 107 S. Ct. 2425
(1987);Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 220, 105 S. Ct. 1904, 1915
(1985); New Jersey Carpenters & the Trustees Thereof v. Tishman Const. Corp.
of New Jersey, 760 F.3d 297, 305 (3d Cir. 2014). (A copy of the relevant portion
of the CBA is attached to the complaint. (ECF no. 1-1)) Article 28, Part I, of the
The claim for unjust enrichment I set aside as superfluous. To the extent it
rests on state law, it is likely preempted by the LMRA in any event. See New Jersey
Carpenters, 760 F.3d at 305 (citing, e.g., Allis—Chalmers Corp. V. Lueck, 471 U.s. 202,
220, 105 S. Ct. 1904 (1985)).
CBA sets forth a Weekly Disability Income Benefits program, with dollar
amounts of benefits depending on the applicant’s job classification. It provides
that such amounts will be reduced by the amount of benefits received under
the Social Security Act. (CBA Art. 28,
1.5) It further provides that, if SSA
benefits are not received timely, full Weekly Disability Benefits will continue,
but that the employee will then be obligated to reimburse the company for any
resulting overpayment. In particular, the CBA contemplates reimbursement
“upon receipt of retroactive payment from the Social Security Administration.”
(Id.) The Complaint duly alleges that Mr. Cichaiski went on disability leave from
August 2, 2014, through October 10, 2015, and that Silgan paid him Weekly
Disability Income Benefits totaling $25,825.71. (Cplt.
13) On October 5,
2015, the SSA awarded SSIS benefits of $27,112 for the period August 2014—
September 2015, as well as ongoing monthly benefits. (Cplt.
14) In October
2015, November 2015, and January 2016, Silgan made written demand for
reimbursement of the overpayment. (Cplt.
17—19) The claim is adequate on
its face. There is a certain sympathy factor—an employee on disability no doubt
could use the cash—but the parties to the CBA were entitled to husband scarce
resources by limiting payment to cases not otherwise covered by SSA benefits.
Nothing in the record before the Court suggests that Mr. Cichalski possesses a
The second and third factors also weigh in favor of default. Defendant
was properly served, but failed to appear or defend in any manner. It is clear
that Plaintiff has been prejudiced by this dereliction because it has been
“prevented from prosecuting [its] case, engaging in discovery, and seeking relief
in the normal fashion.” See Teamsters Pension Fund of Philadelphia & Vicinity
v. Am. Helper, Inc., 2011 WL 4729023, at *4 (D.N.J. Oct. 5, 2011) (find that a
defendant’s failure to answer prejudices the plaintiff); see also Gowan u. Cont’l
Airlines, Inc., 2012 WL 2838924, at *2 (D.N.J. Jul. 9, 2012) (“[Plaintiffs] will
suffer prejudice if the Court does not enter default judgment as Plaintiff[sJ
[have] no other means of seeking damages for the harm caused by
Defendant.”). Absent any evidence to the contrary, “the Defendant’s failure to
answer evinces the Defendant’s culpability in [the] default. Teamsters Pension
Fund of Philadelphia & Vicinity, 2011 WL 4729023 at *4 In this case, “there is
nothing before the Court to show that the Defendant[s’] failure to file an answer
was not willfully negligent.” Id. (citing Prudential Ins. Co. of America v. Taylor,
2009 WL 536043, at *1 (D.N.J. Feb. 27, 2009) (finding that when there is no
evidence that the defendant’s failure to answer the complaint was due to
something other than its own willful negligence, the defendant’s conduct is
culpable and default judgment is warranted).
Overall, then, the three factors support the entry of default judgment. I
will grant the motion for default judgment.
Silgan seeks only reimbursement of the precise amount it paid out in
Weekly Disability Income benefits. That amount, $25,825.71, is liquidated and
certain, so I rule based on the record before me. I will therefore enter judgment
as requested by the plaintiff. Post-judgment per diem interest will accrue from
this date at the appropriate rate pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
IT IS THEREFORE, this 19th day of December, 2016,
ORDERED that the motion for default judgment (ECF no. 8) is granted.
A separate judgment will be entered. The clerk shall close the file.
KEVIN MCNULTY, U.S.D.J.
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