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Hawaii Carpenters Trust Funds v. Pacific Concrete Works, LLC

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

May 10, 2016



          Richard L. Puglisi United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Default Judgment Against Defendant Pacific Concrete Works, LLC on April 14, 2016 ("Motion"). ECF No. 11. Defendant was served with a copy of the Motion, but did not file an opposition or otherwise respond to the Motion. See ECF No. 11-8. The Court found the Motion suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rule 7.2(d) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. ECF No. 12. After careful consideration of the Motion, the declaration, exhibits, and the record established in this action, the Court FINDS and RECOMMENDS that the Motion be GRANTED.


         Plaintiffs filed their Complaint against Defendant on January 1, 2016. ECF No. 1. The Complaint alleges that Defendant entered into a collective bargaining agreement agreeing to contribute and pay to Plaintiffs certain amounts for employee benefits for work performed by Defendant’s covered employees. Compl. ¶¶ 6-7. Contributions were to be paid on or before due dates specified in the collective bargaining agreement. Id. ¶ 7. Under the collective bargaining agreement, Defendant also agreed to submit reports regarding the hours worked by Defendant’s covered employees and to permit audits and allow inspections of Defendant’s payroll records so that Plaintiffs could ascertain whether all contributions had been paid. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiffs claim that Defendant breached the collective bargaining agreement by failing to pay contributions, liquidated damages, and interest. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Plaintiffs claim they are entitled to unpaid contributions, liquidated damages, interest, attorneys’ fees and costs. Id. ¶ 17. The Clerk entered default against Defendant pursuant to Rule 55(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on March 3, 2016. ECF No. 9. The present Motion followed.


         Default judgment may be entered for the plaintiff if the defendant has defaulted by failing to appear and the plaintiff’s claim is for a “sum certain or for a sum which can by computation be made certain[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(1), (2). The granting or denial of a motion for default judgment is within the discretion of the court. Haw. Carpenters’ Trust Funds v. Stone, 794 F.2d 508, 511-12 (9th Cir. 1986). Entry of default does not entitle the non-defaulting party to a default judgment as a matter of right. Valley Oak Credit Union v. Villegas, 132 B.R. 742, 746 (9th Cir. 1991). Default judgments are ordinarily disfavored, and cases should be decided on their merits if reasonably possible. Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1472 (9th Cir. 1986). The court should consider the following factors in deciding whether to grant a motion for default judgment:

(1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff;
(2) the merits of plaintiff’s substantive claim;
(3) the sufficiency of the complaint;
(4) the sum of money at stake in the action;
(5) the possibility of a dispute concerning material facts;
(6) whether the default was due to excusable neglect; and
(7) the strong policy underlying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure favoring decisions on the merits.

Eitel, 782 F.2d at 1471-72.

         On default “the factual allegations of the complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages, will be taken as true.” TeleVideo Sys., Inc. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Geddes v. United Fin. Group, 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th Cir. 1977)). The allegations in the complaint regarding liability are deemed true, but the plaintiff must establish the relief to which she is entitled. Fair Hous. of Marin v. Combs, 285 F.3d 899, 906 (9th Cir. 2002). Also, “necessary facts not contained in the pleadings, and claims which are legally insufficient, are not established by default.” Cripps v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 980 F.2d 1261, 1267 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Danning v. Lavine, 572 F.2d 1386, 1388 (9th Cir. 1978)).

         A. Jurisdiction

         Before considering the merits of default judgment, the Court has an affirmative obligation to determine whether or not it has subject matter jurisdiction over this action and personal jurisdiction over Defendant. See In re Tuli, 172 F.3d 707, 712 (9th Cir. 1999) (“To avoid entering a default judgment that can later be successfully attacked as void, a court should determine whether it has the power, i.e., the jurisdiction, to enter the judgment in the first place.”). First, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims related to unpaid contributions pursuant to the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(e), 1145. Second, the Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant. Personal jurisdiction can be acquired by personal service or by a defendant’s “minimum contacts” with the jurisdiction. Cripps, 980 F.2d at 1267 ...

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