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Trustees of Empire State Carpenters Annuity v. Sanders Construction, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 10, 2015

TRUSTEES OF EMPIRE STATE CARPENTERS ANNUITY, APPRENTICESHIP, LABOR-MANAGEMENT COOPERATION, PENSION AND WELFARE FUNDS, Plaintiffs,
v.
SANDERS CONSTRUCTION, INC., Defendant.

Plaintiffs are represented by Charles R. Virginia, Richard B. Epstein, and Michael Howard Isaac of Virginia & Ambinder, LLP, New York, NY.

Defendant is represented by, Anthony Scott Poulin of Stephen Einstein &, Associates, New York, NY.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOSEPH F. BIANCO, District Judge.

The Trustees ("plaintiffs") of Empire State Carpenters Annuity, Apprenticeship, Labor-Management Cooperation, Pension and Welfare Funds (the "Funds") commenced this action against Sanders Construction, Inc. ("defendant" or "Sanders Construction") to confirm and enforce an arbitration award. In a Memorandum and Order dated October 14, 2014, the Court granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and confirmed the arbitration award.

Now before the Court is plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees and costs. For the reasons set forth below, the Court awards $3, 707 in attorneys' fees and $467.98 in costs.

I. Procedural History

The Court has set forth all relevant background facts in its October 14, 2014 Memorandum and Order granting plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. See Trustees of Empire State Carpenters Annuity, Apprenticeship, Labor-Mgmt. Co-op., Pension & Welfare Funds v. Sanders Construction, Inc., No. 13-CV-5102 (JFB)(ARL), 2014 WL 2014 WL 5140297, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 14, 2014). The Court does not repeat those facts here.

After the Court issued its October 14, 2014 Memorandum and Order, plaintiffs moved for attorneys' fees and costs on October 22, 2014. Defendant did not oppose the motion. The matter is fully submitted.

II. Discussion

A. Plaintiffs' Entitlement to Attorneys' Fees and Costs

"The general rule in our legal system is that each party must pay its own attorney's fees and expenses." Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 550 (2010). Neither Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, nor the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq., authorize the award of attorneys' fees in an action to confirm an arbitration award. See, e.g., Trustees of N.Y.C. Dist. Council of Carpenters Pension Fund v. TNSMgmt. Servs., Inc., No. 13-C2716 (JMF), 2014 WL 100008, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 10, 2014); Trustees of N.Y.C. Dist. Council of Carpenters Pension Fund v. Dejil Sys., Inc., No. 12-CV-005 (JMF), 2012 WL 3744802, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2012); N.Y.C. Dist. Council of Carpenters Pension Fund v. Angel Constr. Grp., LLC, No. 08-CV-9061 (RJS), 2009 WL 256009, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 3, 2009) (citing Int'l Chem. Workers Union, Local No. 227 v. BASF Wyandotte Corp., 774 F.2d 43, 47 (2d Cir. 1985)). Moreover, although Section 502(g) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") requires the award of attorneys' fees to a plan that prevails in an action to recover delinquent contributions pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, see 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2)(D), "this does not necessarily mean that a successful party is also entitled to its costs and attorney's fees in bringing a petition to confirm an arbitration award." Abondolo v. Jerry WWHS Co., Inc., 829 F.Supp.2d 120, 130 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) (holding that ERISA authorizes award of costs, but not attorneys' fees, in arbitration confirmation proceedings); accord TNS Mgmt. Servs., 2014 WL 100008, at *4; Dejil Sys., 2012 WL 3744802, at *4. Nonetheless, "because a court may, in the exercise of its inherent equitable powers, award attorney's fees when opposing counsel acts in bad faith, attorney's fees and costs may be proper when a party opposing confirmation of arbitration award refuses to abide by an arbitrator's decision without justification.'" N.Y.C. Dist. Council of Carpenters Pension Fund v. E. Millenium Constr., Inc., No. 03-CV-5122 (DAB), 2003 WL 22773355, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 21, 2003) (quoting Int'l Chem. Workers Union, Local No. 227, 774 F.2d at 47); see, e.g., TNS Mgmt. Servs., 2014 WL 100008, at *4 (citing cases); Trustees of Nat'l Org. of Indus. Trade Unions Ins. Trust Fund v. Davis Grande Co., No. 03-CV-6229 (NG)(SMG), 2006 WL 1652642, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. June 9, 2006).

Here, the Court need not decide whether defendant refused to abide by the arbitrator's award without justification because the parties' Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") and the Funds' Joint Policy for Collection of Delinquent Contributions, incorporated by referenced into the CBA, explicitly obligate employers who fail to make timely contributions to the Funds to pay attorneys' fees and costs incurred in recovering the delinquent contributions. ( See Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J., Craven Decl. Exs. B (CBA app'x K art. 1.1(C)(4)) & C (Collection Policy art. 6.2).) The parties' agreements are a sufficient basis upon which to award attorneys' fees and costs. See N.Y.C. Dist. Council of Carpenters Pension Fund v. Dafna Constr. Co., Inc., 438 F.Supp.2d 238, 242 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) ("Whether Dafna had no justification in refusing to comply with the arbitrator's ruling is irrelevant, however, because the Agreement itself requires Dafna to pay attorneys' fees incurred by the Trustees in seeking confirmation.... Since the parties bargained for the awarding of attorneys' fees in this precise circumstance, the Court respects their agreement and orders Dafna to pay the costs incurred by the Trustees in seeking confirmation of the arbitrator's award."); see also Trustees of N.Y.C. Dist. Council of Carpenters Pension Fund, Welfare Fund, Annuity Fund, & Apprenticeship, Journeyman Retraining, Educ. & Indus. Fund v. Alliance Workroom Corp., No. 13-CV-5096 (KPF), 2013 WL 6498165, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 11, 2013) (holding that CBA authorized award of attorneys' fees and costs in action to confirm arbitration award). Additionally, the Court notes that defendant did not oppose plaintiffs' entitlement to attorneys' fees and costs under the CBA. Accordingly, for the reasons discussed supra, the Court concludes that plaintiff is entitled to recover attorneys' fees and costs.

B. Attorneys' Fees

Generally, to determine a reasonable attorney's fee, a court must calculate a "lodestar figure, " which is determined by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on a case by a reasonable hourly rate. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983); see also Luciano v. Olsten Corp., 109 F.3d 111, 115 (2d Cir. 1997). "Both [the Second Circuit] and the Supreme Court have held that the lodestar... creates a presumptively reasonable fee.'" Millea v. Metro-N. R.R. Co., 658 F.3d 154, 166 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Assoc. v. Cntty. of Albany, 522 F.3d 182, 183 (2d Cir. 2008); citing Perdue, 559 U.S. 542). "[T]he lodestar figure includes most, if not all, of the relevant factors constituting a reasonable' attorney's fee'...." Perdue, 559 U.S. at 553 (quoting Pennsylvania v. Del. Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565-66 (1986)). Thus, the Supreme Court has recognized that "the lodestar method produces an award that roughly approximates the fee that the prevailing attorney would have received if he or she had been representing a paying client who was billed by the hour in a ...


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