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Trustees of New York City District Council of Carpenters Pension Fund v. Regal USA Construction, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 12, 2018

Trustees of the New York City District Council of Carpenters Pension Fund, Welfare Fund, Annuity Fund, and Apprenticeship, Journeyman Retraining, Educational and Industry Fund, et al, Petitioners,
v.
Regal USA Construction Inc., Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          ALISON J. NATHAN, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On June 19, 2017, Petitioners filed the instant petition to confirm an arbitration award, including supporting papers and a memorandum of law in support of confirmation. Dkt. Nos. 1, 4. The papers were served both by first class mail and by personal service. Dkt. Nos. 9-11. After Respondent failed to respond, or even appear, the Court sua sponte extended the deadline for opposition to August 4, 2017, see Dkt. No. 12, and the extension order was also served upon Respondent by first class mail. Dkt. No. 13.

         Nonetheless, Respondent has neither appeared nor responded. Given this, the Court will now consider the motion to confirm the arbitration award. The motion is GRANTED.

         I. Standard of Review

         "Normally, confirmation of an arbitration award is 'a summary proceeding that merely makes what is already a final arbitration award a judgment of the court." D.H. Blair & Co., Inc. v. Gottdiener, 462 F.3d 95, 110 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Florasynth, Inc. v. Pickholz, 750 F.2d 171, 176 (2d Cir. 1984)). The court '"must grant' the award 'unless the award is vacated, modified, or corrected.'" Id. (quoting 9 U.S.C. § 9). The Second Circuit has recognized that "an extremely deferential standard of review" is appropriate in the context of arbitral awards "[t]o encourage and support the use of arbitration by consenting parties." Porzig v. Dresdner, Kleinwort, Benson, North Am. LLC, 497 F.3d 133, 138-39 (2d Cir. 2007). Accordingly, "[o]nly a 'barely colorable justification for the outcome reached' by the arbitrator[] is necessary to confirm the award." D.H. Blair, 462 F.3d at 110 (quoting Landy Michaels Realty Corp. v. Local 32B-32J, Serv. Emps. Int'l Union, 954 F.2d 794, 797 (2d Cir. 1992)). The award should be confirmed "if a ground for the arbitrator's decision can be inferred from the facts of the case." Id. at 110 (quoting Barbier v. Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc., 948 F.2d 117, 121 (2d Cir. 1991)) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Even if a court is convinced the arbitrator's decision is incorrect, the decision should not be vacated so long as the arbitrator did not exceed the scope of his authority." Abram Landau Real Estate v. Bevona, 123 F.3d 69, 75 (2d Cir. 1997).

         When confirmation of the award is unopposed, '"the petition and the accompanying record' become 'amotion for summary judgment.'" Trustees of the UNITED HERE Nat'l Health Fund v. JY Apparels, Inc., 535 F.Supp.2d 426, 428 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (quoting D.H. Blair at 110). Thus, the Court must still "examin[e] the moving party's submission to determine if it has met its burden of demonstrating that no material issue of fact remains for trial." D.H. Blair at 110 (quoting Vt. Teddy Bear Co., Inc. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted). If the evidence is insufficient to meet this burden, summary judgment must be denied even without opposing evidentiary matter. See id.

         II. The Court Grants Petitioners' Motion to Confirm the Arbitration Award

         Petitioners have presented undisputed evidence demonstrating that arbitration was appropriate in this case. At all relevant times, Respondent was a member of the Cement League, an association of concrete contractors, all of whom were bound to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with the Petitioners. See Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 9-10, Exs. A & B. Pursuant to this CBA, Respondent was required to remit contributions to the Petitioners' ERISA and Charity Funds and to open its books and records for an audit to ensure it was making the required benefit contributions. Id. ¶¶ 12-16, Ex. B, Art. XVI, Ex. C. An audit of Respondent's books and records revealed the failure to pay the required amounts, and the dispute over these payments was submitted to arbitration as required by the CBA. Id. ¶¶ 17-18.

         The arbitrator held a hearing on September 22, 2016, and there was no appearance made on behalf of Respondent. Id. Ex. E at 1-2 (arbitrator's decision). There is no indication of any service or notice defect, nor is there any suggestion that Respondent objected to the arbitration proceedings. Id. Ex. D (notice of hearing), Ex. E at 1-2. Based on the undisputed "substantial and credible" evidence Petitioners submitted, the arbitrator rendered a total award of $33, 712.37 to Petitioners on October 4, 2016. See Id. ¶¶ 19-20 & Ex. E at 2-3. The arbitrator also found that interest of 5.5% will accrue on the aggregate amount of the award from the date of issuance. See Id. ¶ 21 & Ex. E at 3. As of June 19, 2017, the date of Petitioners' filing, Respondent had not paid any portion of the award. Id. ¶ 22. The award has not been vacated or modified and no application for relief by Respondent is pending. Id. ¶ 23.

         Having reviewed Petitioners' submissions with requisite deference to the arbitrator, the Court finds more than the required "barely colorable justification" for the arbitrator's award. D.H. Blair, 462 F.3d at 110 (quoting Landy Michaels Realty Corp., 954 F.2d at 797)). The grounds for the arbitrator's decision can be inferred from the record, and are justifiable in light of what has been submitted. Accordingly, the award is confirmed in its entirety.

         Additionally, "[t]he award of post-judgment interest is mandatory on awards in civil cases as of the date judgment is entered." Lewis v. Whelan, 99 F.3d 542, 545 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1961(a)). Accordingly, Petitioners are also awarded post-judgment interest in accordance with statutory provisions.

         III. Attorney's Fees and Costs

         Petitioners also move for attorney's fees and costs. "[C]ourts have routinely awarded attorneys fees in cases where a party merely refuses to abide by an arbitrator's award without challenging or seeking to vacate it through a motion to the court." Abondolo v. H. & M.S. Meat Corp., No. 07-CV-3870(RJS), 2008 WL 2047612, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. May 12, 2008) (collecting cases); see also First Nat'l Supermarkets, Inc. v. Retail, Wholesale & Chain Store Food Emps. Union Local 338, 118 F.3d 892, 898 (2d Cir. 1997). Moreover, the CBA provides that Petitioners are entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and costs. See Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 24-25 & Ex. C Sees. IV-V (collection policy). The Court will therefore award Petitioners' reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

         While the Court has discretion to determine a reasonable fee, it must abide by procedural requirements for establishing the amount. See Millea v. Metro-North R.R. Co., 658 F.3d 154, 166 (2d Cir. 2011). The lodestar amount - the product of multiplying a reasonable hourly rate and a reasonable number of hours required by the case - "creates a presumptively reasonable fee." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). To support their requested award, Petitioners' attorneys must submit "contemporaneous time records that specify, for each attorney, the date, the hours expended, and the nature of the work done." Trustees of the NY.C. Dist. Council of Carpenters Pension ...


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