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Trustees of The New York City District Council of Carpenters Pension Fund v. Ameri-Can Concrete Solutions Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 18, 2014

TRUSTEES OF THE NEW YORK CITY DISTRICT COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS PENSION FUND, WELFARE FUND, ANNUITY FUND, APPRENTICESHIP, JOURNEYMAN RETRAINING, EDUCATIONAL AND INDUSTRY FUND, CHARITY FUND, et al.,
v.
AMERI-CAN CONCRETE SOLUTIONS INC., Respondent. Petitioners,

OPINION AND ORDER

RONNIE ABRAMS, District Judge.

Trustees of the New York City District Council Of Carpenters Pension Fund, Welfare Fund, Annuity Fund, Apprenticeship, Journeyman Retraining, Educational and Industry Fund (the "ERISA Funds"); Trustees of the New York City District Council of Carpenters Charity Fund (the "Charity Fund, " and, together with the ERISA Funds, the "Funds"); The New York City and Vicinity Carpenters Labor-Management Corporation (the "LMC"); and the District Council for New York City and Vicinity, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (the "Union", and collectively with the Funds and the LMC, "Petitioners") commenced this action on July 9, 2013, [1] petitioning the Court pursuant to Section 502(a)(3) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3); Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 185; and Section 9 of the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. § 9, to confirm and enforce an arbitration award (the "Award") entered against Ameri-Can Concrete Solutions Inc. ("Respondent"). Respondent has neither responded to Petitioners' confirmation action nor otherwise sought relief. For the reasons that follow, the petition to confirm and Petitioners' related request for attorney's fees and costs are GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

The Union and Respondent are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (the "Agreement") (Petition to Enforce Arbitration Award, dated July 3, 2013 ("Pet.") (Dkt. 1) ¶ 10; Decl. of Richard B. Epstein, dated Oct. 31, 2014 ("Epstein Decl. No. 2") (Dkt. 16), Ex. A and B). The Agreement provides that Respondent shall, among other things, make certain contributions to the Funds and furnish its books and records to the Funds upon request for the purposes of auditing such contributions (Epstein Decl. No. 2, Ex. B., Art. XVII, § 1). In the event of a dispute relating to the contributions, the Agreement provides for arbitration as follows:

Should any dispute or disagreement arise between the parties hereto, or between the Union and any Employer-member signatory hereto. concerning any claim arising from payments to the Fund of principal and/or interest which is allegedly due, either party may seek arbitration of the dispute before the impartial arbitrator designated hereunder... The arbitrator shall have full and complete authority to decide any and all issues raised by the submission and to fashion an appropriate remedy including, but not limited to, monetary damages. The arbitrator's award in this regard shall be final and binding upon the parties hereto and the individual Employer, if any, and shall be wholly enforceable in any court of competent jurisdiction. The cost of the arbitration, including the fees to be paid to the arbitrator shall be included in the award and shall be borne by the losing party. Roger Maher, Ruth Raisfeld or Howard Edelman is hereby designated as impartial arbitrator(s) hereunder.

( Id., Art. XVI, § 7.)

The present dispute arose when the Respondent failed to comply with the Funds' demands to furnish its books and records for the purposes of conducting an audit relating to contributions to the Funds for the period from February 10, 2011 through February 27, 2013 (Pet. ¶ 12). Pursuant to the arbitration clause, the dispute was eventually submitted to arbitration before Arbitrator Roger Maher (Id. ¶ 13). The arbitrator provided notice of a hearing on October 16, 2012 and the hearing was held on December 12, 2012 (Pet., Ex. A at 2). Respondent did not appear (Id.).

On February 27, 2013, the arbitrator issued his decision. Arbitrator Maher found that Respondent had "legally sufficient notice of [the] proceeding and the claims against it." (Id.) He also concluded Respondent was bound by the Agreement effective February 10, 2011, and that the contract required that Respondent make its books and records available to the Funds' auditors (Id.). He further found that Respondent breached the terms of the Agreement when it failed to allow the Funds' auditors to examine its books and records (Id. at 3). Relying on the uncontroverted evidence provided by the Funds, the arbitrator concluded that Respondent was liable for unpaid contributions to the Funds in an estimated amount of $110, 730.24 plus interest, liquidated damages, court costs, attorney fees, and the arbitrator's fees (Id. at 2). Arbitrator Maher awarded an aggregate amount of $141, 035.53, with interest to accrue at a rate of 5.25% from the date of the award (Id.). In accordance with Art. XIII, § 3 of the Agreement, the award was served on Respondent via regular and certified mail (Id. at 4).

When Respondent failed to comply with its terms, Petitioners brought this action to confirm on July 9, 2013 (Dkt. 1). On September 16, 2013, the Clerk of Court issued a certificate of default (Dkt. 6). On November 11, 2013, Petitioners sought an order to show cause why default judgment should not granted against Respondent (Dkt. 9). Contemporaneously with the order to show cause, Petitioners filed an affidavit averring that Respondent was served with the Petition but had not appeared or otherwise responded (Decl. of Richard Epstein, dated November 11, 2013 ("Epstein Decl. No. 1") (Dkt. 10) ¶ 14-16). In that affidavit, Petitioners also sought $1, 258.00 in attorney fees and costs related to this confirmation action (Id. ¶ 18-25 and Ex. E).

On December 13, 2013, the Court issued an Order informing the parties that, pursuant to D.H. Blair Co., Inc. v. Gottdiener, 462 F.3d 95 (2d Cir. 2006), it would adjudicate this action as a petition for confirmation and directed Petitioners to submit any additional supporting materials by December 31, 2013 (Dkt. 12). Petitioners filed no additional materials by that date and, on September 30, 2014, the Court directed them to file a sworn or certified copy of the Agreement by October 10, 2014 (Dkt. 14). On October 14, 2014, the Court again directed Petitioners to file a copy of the Agreement or risk dismissal of their petition (Dkt. 15). Petitioner subsequently submitted the Agreement on October 31, 2014 (see Epstein Decl. No. 2, Ex. B). To date, Respondent has filed no documents in this case nor has it sought any extension of time in which to do so.

II. DISCUSSION

The FAA provides a "streamlined" procedure for a party seeking to confirm an arbitral award. Hall Street Assocs. L.L.C. v. Mattell, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 582 (2008). Typically, confirmation by a district court is a "summary proceeding that merely makes what is already a final arbitration award a judgment of the court." D.H. Blair, 462 F.3d at 110 (citing Florasynth, Inc. v. Pickholz, 750 F.2d 171, 176 (2d Cir. 1984)). However, "[a]rbitration awards are not self-enforcing." Hoeft v. MVL Grp., Inc., 343 F.3d 57, 63 (2d Cir. 2003), overruled on other grounds by Hall Street, 552 U.S. 576. "Rather, they must be given force and effect by being converted to judicial orders by courts.'" Primex Plastics Corp. v. TriEnda LLC, No. 13-CV-321 (PAE), 2013 WL 1335633, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. April 3, 2013) (quoting D.H. Blair, 462 F.3d at 104).

A district court's review of an arbitral award is "extremely limited." Rich v. Spartis, 516 F.3d 75, 81 (2d Cir. 2008). The Second Circuit has "repeatedly recognized the strong deference appropriately due arbitral awards and the arbitral process, and has limited its review of arbitration awards in obeisance to that process." Porzig v. Dresdner, Kleinwort, Benson, N. Am. LLC, 497 F.3d 133, 138 (2d Cir. 2007); see also Salzman v. KCD Fin., Inc., No. 11-CV-5865 (DLC), 2011 WL 6778499, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2011); NYKOOL A.B. v. P. Fruit Inc., No. 10-CV-3867 (LAK)(AJP), 2010 WL 4812975, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 24, 2010) (collecting Second Circuit cases). Moreover, "the federal policy in favor of enforcing arbitration awards is particularly strong with respect to arbitration of labor disputes." New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO v. Hotel St. George, 988 F.Supp. 770, 774 (S.D.N.Y.1997) (citing United Paperworkers Int'l Union v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 37 (1987)). "[A]n arbitration award should be enforced, despite a court's disagreement with it on the merits, if there is a barely colorable justification for the outcome reached." Rich, 516 F.3d at 81 (quoting Landy Michaels Realty Corp. v. Local 32B-32J Serv. Employees Int'l, 954 F.2d 794, 797 (2d Cir. 1992)) (internal quotation omitted). Courts in this Circuit will therefore vacate an arbitration award only if one of the four statutory bases enumerated in the FAA is violated. Kolel Beth Yechiel Mechil of Tartikov, Inc. v. YLL Irrevocable Trust, 729 F.3d 99, 104 (2d Cir. 2013) (citing Hall Street, 552 U.S. at 582).[3]

In this case, although Petitioners sought confirmation of the arbitral award by default judgment, that procedural mechanism is inappropriate. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, which governs default judgments, "does not operate well in the context of a motion to confirm or vacate an arbitration award." D.H. Blair & Co., 462 F.3d at 107. Unlike a default judgment, "a motion to confirm or vacate an arbitral award is generally accompanied by a record, such as an agreement to arbitrate and the arbitration award decision itself, that may resolve many of the merits or at least command judicial deference." Id. at 109. A district court ...


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