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Teamsters Local 814 Welfare Fund v. Dahill Moving & Storage Co.

February 27, 2008

TEAMSTERS LOCAL 814 WELFARE FUND, TEAMSTERS LOCAL 814 PENSION FUND, TEAMSTERS LOCAL 814 ANNUITY FUND, AND DENNIS FARRELL, STEPHEN MCINERNEY, GEORGE DANIELLO AND JAMES O'MARA, AS TRUSTEES, PETITIONERS,
v.
DAHILL MOVING & STORAGE CO., INC., RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sifton, Senior Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Petitioners Teamsters Local 814 Welfare Fund, Teamsters Local 814 Pension Fund, Teamsters Local 814 Annuity Fund (the "Funds"),*fn1 and Dennis Farrell, Stephen McInerney, George Daniello and James O'Mara as Trustees ("Trustees"), initiated this action against respondent Dahill Moving and Storage Company, Inc. ("Dahill"). On May 16, 2007, petitioners filed a petition to confirm an arbitration award in the amount of $242,947.76, plus interest and damages, and reasonable attorneys' fees and audit fees, pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185 ("LMRA"),*fn2 and the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et. seq. ("FAA").*fn3 On May 30, 2007, the petition to confirm the arbitration award was granted. Presently before the Court is petitioners' motion for attorneys' fees, costs, and audit fees, as well as their motion to direct judgment in their favor in the amount of $242,947.76, plus $17,064.85 in liquidated damages, and $15,864.14 in interest, as well as $22,130.00 in attorneys' fees, $529.20 in costs, and $19,515.00 in audit fees, for a total payment of $318,050.96. For the reasons stated below, petitioners are awarded $18,864.50 in attorneys' fees, but the request for audit fees and costs is denied.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the submissions of the parties in connection with this motion and the record of the prior proceedings before the undersigned.

The Funds are established and maintained by Local 814, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the "Union") and various employers pursuant to the terms of successive collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and declarations of trust, the most recent of which is the Restated Agreement and Declaration of Trust of the Teamsters Local 814 Pension Fund, Teamsters Local 814 Welfare Fund and Teamsters Local 814 Annuity Fund, effective August 25, 2004 (the "Trust Agreement"). The Funds provide fringe benefits to eligible employees on whose behalf employers contribute pursuant to the CBAs.

Respondent Dahill, a moving and storage company, is a party to the CBA and a Memorandum of Agreement (the "MOA") extending, with modifications, the CBA for the period from May 1, 2005 through April 30, 2010. Under both the CBA and MOA, Dahill is bound to the terms and conditions of the Trust Agreement and is obligated to make contributions to the Funds on behalf of certain of its employees. Under a clause in the CBA referred to as the "50/50 Rule," Dahill is permitted to employ a number of "Casual Employees" equal to (but not greater than) the number of "Industry Employees" employed on a given work day.*fn4 Casual Employees are paid a lower hourly rate than Industry Employees and Dahill is required to make fewer benefit contributions to the Funds for Casual Employees.

In September 2004, the Funds informed Dahill that they would be performing an audit to ensure that Dahill was complying with the 50/50 Rule and that it was not employing more Casual Employees than Industry Employees. The Funds further informed Dahill that, if Dahill had violated the 50/50 Rule, Dahill would be liable for any benefit contributions it should have made for Industry Employees, plus an amount equal to the difference in hourly wages between Casual Employees and Industry Employees for the number of Industry Employees Dahill should have employed. The Funds conducted an initial audit, which was followed by a revised audit of respondent's books and records. The revised audit revealed that Dahill had in fact violated the 50/50 Rule during the period of December 20, 2002 to March 28, 2004, by hiring 1,033 more Casual Employees than contractually permitted and that Dahill owed the Funds $242,947.76 as a result. Of that amount, $85,324.24 was for unpaid benefits contributions and the remaining $157,623.52 was for the difference in wages (the "wage assessment").

The Funds demanded the amount due and when Dahill failed to make payment, the Funds sought arbitration for the amount due, plus any other monies (such as liquidated damages, interest, and attorneys' fees) they were entitled to be paid under the CBA.*fn5

Arbitration hearings were held on November 13, 2006 and March 6, 2007 before a mutually agreed upon arbitrator. On May 9, 2007, the arbitrator found that Dahill had violated the 50/50 Rule, that the amount due had been computed correctly, that the Funds were entitled to collect the entire amount of $242,947.76 as damages, and that Dahill was not entitled to any offset of that amount. Accordingly, the arbitrator awarded the Funds $242,947.76 plus interest and liquidated damages, as well as "reasonable attorneys' fees and costs, including the cost of the audit."*fn6 At the time of the filing of the petition to confirm the award, Dahill had not paid any portion of the award which petitioners sought to enforce.

On May 16, 2007, petitioners filed a petition to confirm the award with the Court as well as motions for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction requiring respondent to post a bond to secure the arbitration award or to escrow a sufficient amount of the proceeds of a pending sale of its warehouse to secure award. On May 30, 2007, this Court denied petitioners' motion for a preliminary injunction and granted petitioners' motion to confirm the arbitration award. Petitioners were directed to settle judgment on notice reflecting both the arbitration award and any application for attorneys' fees and audit fees. Teamsters Local 814 Welfare Fund v. Dahill Moving & Storage Co., 2007 WL 1580085 (E.D.N.Y. May 30, 2007).

DISCUSSION

Attorneys' Fees

Petitioners seek $22,130 in fees, which includes both the arbitration proceedings and the petition for confirmation of the award.*fn7 The award confirmed by the Court included attorneys' fees for the arbitration proceedings and, pursuant to the Trust Agreement, petitioners are entitled to attorneys' fees for the petition for confirmation.*fn8

The Second Circuit uses the "presumptively reasonable fee," known as the "lodestar figure" (or "lodestar") in other circuits, to determine reasonable attorneys' fees for federal claims. See Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Ass'n v. County of Albany, 493 F.3d 110 (2d Cir. 2007); Cruz v. Local Union No. 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 34 F.3d 1148, 1159 (2d Cir. 1994); Heng Chan v. Sung Yue Tung Corp., No. 03-CV-6048, 2007 WL 1373118 (S.D.N.Y. 2007). The presumptively reasonable fee "is arrived at by 'multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on the ...


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