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Trustees of New York City District Council of Carpenters Pension Fund v. Coastal Environmental Group Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

November 7, 2017

TRUSTEES OF THE NEW YORK CITY DISTRICT COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS PENSION FUND, WELFARE FUND, ANNUITY FUND, AND APPRENTICESHIP, JOURNEYMAN RETRAINING, EDUCATIONAL AND INDUSTRY FUND, 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 OF CARPENTERS, Petitioners,
v.
COASTAL ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP INC., Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KATHERINE POLK FAILLA United States District Judge

         Petitioners Trustees of the New York City District Council of Carpenters Pension Fund, Welfare Fund, Annuity Fund, and Apprenticeship, Journeyman Retraining, Educational, and Industry Fund (collectively, the “ERISA Funds”), Trustees of the New York City Carpenters Relief and Charity Fund (the “Charity Fund”), the New York City and Vicinity Carpenters Labor-Management Corporation (together with the ERISA Funds and the Charity Fund, the “Funds”), and the New York City District Council of Carpenters (the “Union, ” together with the Funds, “Petitioners”) commenced this action on June 21, 2017, petitioning the Court pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (“LMRA”), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 185, to confirm and enforce an arbitration award (the “Award”) issued against Respondent Coastal Environmental Group Inc. (Dkt. #1). Petitioners also moved to recover attorney's fees and service, filing, and mailing costs incurred in connection with the instant action.

         To date, Respondent has neither opposed Petitioners' confirmation action nor sought relief from the Award. For the reasons set forth in this Opinion, Petitioners' motion for summary judgment is granted.

         BACKGROUND [1]

          A. The Contract Between the Parties

         The Union and Respondent are parties to an Independent Heavy Construction Dockbuilding Marine and Foundation Agreement, effective September 1, 2010 (the “CBA” (Dkt. #11, Ex. A)), that the parties extended on December 1, 2011, by executing an Interim Compliance Agreement (Dkt. #11, Ex. B). In relevant part, the CBA required Respondent to make payments to fringe benefits funds, including to the Funds here, on behalf of its employees in accordance with schedules set forth in the agreement. (CBA 19-21, 30, 39-40, 50-52). The CBA authorized Petitioners to audit Respondent's books and payroll records, including disbursement records, to verify that the requisite contributions had been paid. (Id. at 33-34; see generally Pet. 56.1 ¶¶ 6-10).

         The CBA included dispute resolution provisions that governed any arbitration and judicial proceedings related to Respondent's obligation to make payments to the Funds. The CBA provided that the parties were to arbitrate “any claims or violation[s]” concerning payments to the Funds before an impartial arbitrator designated by the agreement. (CBA 8). The CBA vested the arbitrator with broad authority: “The arbitrator shall conduct a hearing in such manner as he shall consider proper and shall serve as sole arbitrator of the dispute … [and his decision] shall be final and binding upon both parties.” (Id. at 9). The arbitrator was also “empowered to award such interest, liquidated damages, and/or costs as may be applicable[.]” (Id. at 33). Under the CBA, if Petitioners were to commence judicial proceedings to recover delinquent contributions and a court were to render a judgment in Petitioners' favor, Respondent would be obligated to pay (i) all unpaid contributions; (ii) interest on the unpaid contributions at the prime rate of Citibank plus 2%; (iii) an amount equal to the greater of (a) the interest charges on the unpaid contributions, or (b) liquidated damages of 20% of the unpaid contributions; (iv) reasonable attorney's fees and costs; and (v) any other relief the court deems appropriate. (Id.; Pet. 56.1 ¶ 11).

         B. The Arbitration Proceeding

         Petitioners conducted an audit of Respondent's books and records for the period June 30, 2013, through June 27, 2015; the audit revealed that Respondent had failed to make contributions required under the CBA in the principal amount of $81, 309.02. (Pet. 56.1 ¶ 12). A dispute arose when Respondent failed to remit the unpaid contributions. In accordance with the CBA's arbitration provisions, the parties submitted the dispute to arbitration before Roger Maher, one of three impartial arbitrators designated by the CBA. (CBA 37). At the arbitration, the Union requested the monies due, including delinquency assessments and interest, attorney's fees, the arbitrator's fee, court costs, audit costs, and a promotional fund fee. (Arb. Op. 2).

         On February 16, 2017, Arbitrator Maher convened a proceeding after proper notice was provided to the parties. (Pet. 56.1 ¶ 14; Arb. Op. 1). The next day, Arbitrator Maher issued an opinion and award, finding that “[t]he uncontroverted testimony and evidence established that the Respondent was bound … to make certain payments to [the] Funds” and that “delinquencies were discovered[.]” (Arb. Op. 2). “The total amount of [Respondent's] delinquency and interest was $111, 157.61.” (Id.). Arbitrator Maher awarded a total of $116, 782.89, which consisted of (i) $81, 309.02 in principal; (ii) $13, 586.79 in interest; (iii) $16, 261.80 in liquidated damages; (iv) $684.32 in late payment interest; (v) $626.50 in promotional fund fees; (vi) $400.00 in court costs; (vii) $1, 500.00 in attorney's fees; (viii) $500.00 in arbitrator's fees; and (ix) $1, 914.46 in audit costs. (Id. at 3). Arbitrator Maher ordered Respondent to pay Petitioners a sum of $116, 782.89, “with interest to accrue at the rate of 5.75% from the date of this award.” (Id.).

         C. The Instant Litigation

         On June 21, 2017, Petitioners filed a Petition to Confirm an Arbitration Award, requesting that this Court confirm the Award in full, with interest at the rate of 5.75% from the date of the Award, and order Respondent to pay Petitioners' attorney's fees and additional costs incurred in prosecuting the instant matter. (Dkt. #1). By Order dated June 23, 2017, this Court directed Petitioners to move for confirmation of the Award by submitting a motion for summary judgment on or before July 6, 2017, in accordance with Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule 56.1 of the Local Rules of the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. (Dkt. #7). The Court's Order further provided that Respondent's opposition, if any, would be due on July 20, 2017, and Petitioners' reply, if any, would be due on July 27, 2017. (Id.).

         On July 6, 2017, Petitioners filed a motion for summary judgment to confirm the Award (Dkt. #10); a memorandum of law (Dkt. #14) and attorney declaration (Dkt. #12) in support thereof; and contemporaneous billing records reflecting all expenses incurred and time spent by members of counsel's team in connection with this action (Dkt. #12, Ex. F). Those records indicate that Todd Dickerson (Of Counsel at Virginia & Ambinder, LLP (“V&A”)) billed 2.2 hours at a rate of $300 per hour; Joseph J. Indelicato (V&A Associate), 4.5 hours at a rate of $225 per hour; Claire Vinyard (V&A Associate), 4.55 hours at a rate of $225 per hour; and unnamed V&A Legal Assistants, 3.1 hours at a rate of $100 per hour. (Id.). Counsel also incurred additional expenses in pursuing this action, including a court ...


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