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Trustees of New York City District Council of Carpenters Pension Fund v. Innovative Furniture Installations, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 9, 2015



EDGARDO RAMOS, District Judge.

This case arises out of a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between the parties. Trustees of the New York City District Council Of Carpenters Pension Fund, Welfare Fund, Annuity Fund, and Apprenticeship, Journeyman Retraining, Educational and Industry Fund, together with Trustees of the New York City Carpenters Relief and Charity Fund, the New York City and Vicinity Carpenters Labor-Management Corporation, and the New York City District Council Carpenters (collectively, "Plaintiffs") commenced this action to confirm an arbitration award issued against Innovative Furniture Installations, Inc. ("Defendant"). The action was filed under § 502(a)(3) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3); § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185; and § 9 of the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. § 9. In addition to confirmation of the arbitration award, Plaintiffs seek attorney's fees and costs.

Plaintiffs now move for summary judgment. To date, Defendant has not opposed the motion or otherwise appeared in this action. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' motion is GRANTED.

I. Background[1]

During the relevant time period, Defendant was a member of the Building Contractors Association, Inc. ("the Association"). Powers Decl., Doc. 14 at ¶ 3; id. at Ex. A. Members of the Association are bound by the CBA between the Association and the District Council of New York City and Vicinity of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Id. The CBA went into effect on July 1, 2011 and is in force until June 30, 2015. CBA art. XX. Under the CBA, Defendant must contribute to certain fringe benefit funds for each hour of work performed by its covered employees. Doc. 14 at ¶ 4, CBA art. XVI § 1. In order to ensure compliance, the CBA provides that these funds have the right to audit Defendant's books and records. Id. at ¶ 5; CBA art. XVI § 1. A dispute arose when Defendant refused to permit the funds to audit its books and records for the period from September 27, 2010 to March 6, 2013. Id. at ¶ 7.

The CBA also includes an arbitration clause, which provides "either party may seek arbitration of the dispute before the impartial arbitrator designated hereunder by filing a notice of intent to arbitrate in writing with said impartial arbitrator, and serving a copy of said notice on the Association, or the Union, as the case may be." CBA art. XVI § 7. The arbitrator's award is "final and binding" and the cost of arbitration "shall be included in the award[.]" Id. Furthermore, the CBA requires a delinquent employer to pay, in addition to any unpaid contributions, "interest on the unpaid contributions determined at the prime rate of Citibank plus 2%, " plus an "amount equal to the greater of-(a) the amount of the interest charges on the unpaid contributions as determined in above, or (b) liquidated damages of 20% of the amount of the unpaid contributions;" plus "reasonable attorney's fees and costs of the action;" and "such other legal or equitable relief as the court deems appropriate." Id. at § 6(a).

Plaintiffs initiated arbitration proceedings and served Defendant with a Notice of Intent to Arbitrate on December 27, 2013. Doc. 14, Ex. C. The designated arbitrator, Roger E. Maher, sent Defendant a Notice of Hearing on January 4, 2014, stating the date, time, and location of the arbitration hearing. Doc. 14 at ¶ 9, see also id. at Ex. E. Plaintiffs have submitted certified mail return receipts for both notices. See id. at Exs. D, F. On March 6, 2014, the arbitrator issued an Opinion and Default Award. Id. at Ex. G. Noting that Defendant had not appeared or submitted any request for an adjournment or extension of time, the arbitrator found "[u]pon the substantial and credible evidence" that Defendant was in violation of the CBA for its failure to permit the funds to examine its book and records. Id. at 2. He awarded Plaintiffs a sum of $1, 061, 016.94, consisting of: a principal amount of $820, 970.22, interest thereon in the amount of $69, 157.48, liquidated damages thereon in the amount of $164, 194.04, assessments to the Promotional Fund totaling $4, 295.20, court costs of $400.00, attorney's fees of $1, 500.00, and the arbitrator's fee of $500.00, with interest to accrue at the rate of 5.25% from the date of the award. Id. at 3. In spite of Plaintiffs' demands, Defendant has failed to pay any portion of the award. Doc. 14 at ¶ 11.

On April 9, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint to confirm the arbitration award. Doc. 2. They also ask the Court to award attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $7, 231.00. Pls.' Mem. L. Supp. Mot. Summ. J., Doc. 13 at 10. On August 1, 2014, Plaintiffs hand-delivered to the Court an Order to Show Cause for a default judgment. However, the Court declined to enter Plaintiffs' proposed order because "default judgments in confirmation/vacatur proceedings are generally inappropriate[.]" Order, Doc. 6 at 1 (citing D.H. Blair & Co., Inc. v. Gottdiener, 462 F.3d 95, 109 (2d Cir. 2006)). The Court granted Plaintiffs leave to file a motion for summary judgment at a conference held on October 2, 2014, at which Defendant failed to appear.

II. Standard of Review

A. Federal Arbitration Act

Confirmation of an arbitral award normally takes the form of a summary proceeding that converts a final arbitration award into a judgment of the court. D.H. Blair & Co., 462 F.3d at 110 (quoting Florasynth, Inc. v. Pickholz, 750 F.2d 171, 176 (2d Cir. 1984)). The court is required to grant the award unless it is vacated, modified, or corrected. Id. (quoting 9 U.S.C. § 9). Hence, an application for a judicial decree confirming an award receives "streamlined treatment as a motion, obviating the separate contract action that would usually be necessary to enforce or tinker with an arbitral award in court." Hall St. Associates, L.L.C. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 582 (2008).

In order to promote the goals of arbitration, which consist of "settling disputes efficiently and avoiding long and expensive litigation[, ] "[a]rbitration awards are subject to very limited review." Willemijn Houdstermaatschappij, BV v. Standard Microsystems Corp., 103 F.3d 9, 12 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting Folkways Music Publishers, Inc. v. Weiss, 989 F.2d 108, 111 (2d Cir. 1993)) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original). It is not necessary that the arbitrator explain the rationale for the award; the award "should be confirmed if a ground for the arbitrator's decision can be inferred from the facts of the case[.]" D.H. Blair & Co., 462 F.3d at 110 (quoting Barbier v. Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc., 948 F.2d 117, 121 (2d Cir. 1991)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In short, as long as there is "a barely colorable justification for the outcome reached[, ]" a court should enforce an arbitration award-even if it disagrees with it on the merits. Landy Michaels Realty Corp. v. Local 32B-32J, Serv. Employees Int'l Union, AFL-CIO, 954 F.2d 794, 797 (2d Cir. 1992) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "An issue of fact is genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Senno v. Elmsford Union Free Sch. Dist., 812 F.Supp.2d 454, 467 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (citing SCR Joint Venture L.P. v. Warshawsky, 559 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. ...

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