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Ufcw Local One v. Ronald A. Popp

January 31, 2011

UFCW LOCAL ONE PENSION FUND, AND ITS TRUSTEES:
JOHN P. BARRETT, ROBERT BOEHLERT, FRANK C. DERISO, ERIC GLATHAR,
CHRISTINE MCMAHON, AND RAYMOND WARDYNSKI; PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RONALD A. POPP, INC. D/B/A/ SHURFINE, FOODS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, Chief U.S. District Judge:

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This is an action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq. Plaintiffs UFCW Local One Pension Fund, ("Pension Fund" or "plaintiffs") brought this action to recover delinquent withdrawal liability owed by defendant Ronald A. Popp, Inc. d/b/a Shurfine Foods. Plaintiffs move for default judgment pursuant to Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seeking to collect the total outstanding amount of defendant's withdrawal liability, interest, liquidated damages, attorneys' fees and costs.

Familiarity with the background in this case is assumed based on this Court's previous Memorandum-Decision and Order. See UFCW Local One Pension Fund, and its Trustees: John P. Barrett, Robert Boehlert, Frank C. DeRiso, Eric Glathar, Christine McMahon, and Raymond Wardynski v. Ronald A. Popp, Inc. d/b/a/ Shurfine, Foods, 09-CV-0979, Dkt. No. 10 (July 13, 2010) (Memorandum-Decision and Order). In the prior Memorandum-Decision and Order, the Court granted plaintiffs' motion for default judgment against defendant. However, due to insufficient evidence, the Court directed plaintiffs to reapply for an award of damages within thirty days of the date of the Order. On August 12, 2010, plaintiffs filed the within motion. Plaintiffs now seek the relief sought in their complaint including unpaid employee contributions, interest, liquidated damages and attorneys' fees and costs (Dkt. No. 12). Defendants have not responded.

II. DAMAGES

In relevant part, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2) provides:

In any action under this title by a fiduciary for or on behalf of a plan to enforce section 515 [29 USCS § 1145] in which a judgment in favor of the plan is awarded, the court shall award the plan- (A) the unpaid contributions, (B) interest on the unpaid contributions, (C) an amount equal to the greater of-- (I) interest on the unpaid contributions, or (ii) liquidated damages provided for under the plan in an amount not in excess of 20 percent (or such higher percentage as may be permitted under Federal or State law) of the amount determined by the court under subparagraph (A), (D) reasonable attorney's fees and costs of the action, to be paid by the defendant, and (E) such other legal or equitable relief as the court deems appropriate.

29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2).

A. Damages Derived from Withdrawal

"The Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act ("MPPAA") requires an employer that withdraws from a multiemployer pension plan to pay its proportionate share of the plan's unfunded vested employee benefits, the so-called withdrawal liability." Bowers v. Andrew Weir Shipping, Ltd., 27 F.3d 800, 803 (2d Cir. 1994) (citing 29 U.S.C. §§ 1381 (1988), 1391 (1988 & Supp. IV 1992)). The withdrawal liability represents "the employer's proportionate share of the plan's 'unfunded vested benefits,' calculated as the difference between the present value of vested benefits and the current value of the plan's assets." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. R.A. Gray & Co., 467 U.S. 717, 725 (1984)). Under ERISA, to dispute the fact or amount of withdrawal liability, an employer must seek arbitration in a timely manner after receiving notice that it is subject to withdrawal liability. 29 U.S.C. § 1401(a)(1). "Failure to initiate the review and arbitration procedure constitutes a waiver of defense to the fact or the amount of the corporation's withdrawal liability." Retirement Fund of the Fur Mfg. Indus. v. Strassberg & Tama, Inc., 1989 WL 87483, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. 1989). Additionally, plaintiffs are entitled to an award of interest, liquidated damages, and attorney's fees and costs. See 29 U.S.C. § 1451(b) ("In any action ... to compel an employer to pay withdrawal liability, any failure of the employer to make any withdrawal liability payment within the time prescribed shall be treated in the same manner as a delinquent contribution"); see also 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g) ("in any action [involving delinquent contributions] ... in which a judgment in favor of the plan is awarded, the court shall award the plan... (B) interest ... (C) an amount equal to the greater of (I) interest on the unpaid [withdrawal liability], or (ii) liquidated damages ..., (D) reasonable attorney's fees and costs").

Plaintiffs allege that defendant currently owes $63,636.00 in withdrawal liability, $12,727.00 in liquidated damages and $6,989.00 in interest. In support of their claims for damages, plaintiffs have submitted the Participation Agreement, an affidavit from Andrea D. Goldberger, the Administrative Director of the UFCW Local One Pension Fund, an affidavit from their counsel, Patrick G. Radel, documentary evidence and the complaint.

In her affidavit, Goldberger states that she has personal knowledge of the amount currently owed by defendant. According to Goldberger, defendant has not made any withdrawal liability payments and has not requested a plan sponsor review of the liability assessment. Among the documentary evidence provided by plaintiffs are copies of correspondence to defendant regarding withdrawal liability which include calculations of damages at the foregoing rates of interest and liquidated damages. Plaintiffs have established that defendant, as the business which signed the collective bargaining agreement, withdrew from the Plan. Thus, defendant is liable for its proportionate share of the Plan's unfunded vested employee benefits.

According to the Goldberger, defendant did not seek arbitration or otherwise dispute the amount of withdrawal liability as calculated by plaintiffs. Goldberg asserts that the withdrawal liability in this case is $63,636.00. Plaintiffs also seeks interest through August 5, 2010, which, according to Goldberger, amounts to $6,989.00. See 29 U.S.C. § 1399(c)(5) ("in the event of a default, a plan sponsor may require immediate payment of the outstanding amount of an employer's withdrawal liability, plus accrued interest on the total outstanding liability from the due date of the first payment which was not timely made."). Additionally, plaintiffs seek an award of liquidated damages. The rules of the Fund state that liquidated damages are calculated at the greater of twenty percent (20 %) of the withdrawal liability assessment, which, in this case, equals $12,727.00 or the interest. Since the amount of liquidated damages is greater than the amount of interest, plaintiffs request an award of liquidated damages.

In view of the affidavits and documentary evidence submitted by plaintiffs, a hearing to ascertain the damages in this case is unnecessary. Plaintiffs have demonstrated their ...


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