United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
DIRECTORS OF THE OHIO CONFERENCE OF PLASTERERS & CEMENT MASONS COMBINED FUNDS, INC., PLAINTIFFS,
AKRON INSULATION AND SUPPLY, INC., DEFENDANT.
HONORABLE SARA LIOI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
action to recover unpaid employee benefit contributions,
plaintiffs Directors of the Ohio Conference of Plasterers
& Cement Masons Combined Funds, Inc.
(“plaintiffs”) have filed a request for an award
of costs and attorney fees against defendant Akron Insulation
and Supply, Inc. (“defendant”). (Doc. No. 21,
Notice of Damages and Costs [“Not.”].) For the
reasons set forth below, the Court enters final judgment in
favor of plaintiffs and awards plaintiffs $16, 330.00.
are the “Directors of the entity responsible for
collections for various employee benefit plans[.]”
(Doc. No. 1, Complaint [“Compl.”] ¶ 3.) On
June 30, 2016, plaintiffs filed suit against defendant,
pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of
1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 100, et
seq., and § 301(a) of the Labor Management
Relations Act of 1947 (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. §
185(a), for violating a collective bargaining agreement by
failing to make fringe benefit contributions. (Compl. ¶
1.) After defendant failed to answer or otherwise respond to
the complaint, plaintiffs applied to the Clerk for an entry
of default, and the Clerk entered default against defendant
on August 24, 2016. (Doc. No. 9.)
subsequently moved for default judgment against defendant and
for an order requiring an audit of defendant's books to
determine the amount of unpaid contributions due. (Doc. No.
10.) In a May 8, 2018 order, the Court granted the motion for
default judgment as to liability and ordered defendant to
submit to a financial audit by June 29, 2018, to determine
the amount of unpaid contributions due under the collective
bargaining agreement. (Doc. No. 14.)
failed to cooperate timely to accomplish the audit and, on
July 27, 2018, plaintiffs filed a motion asking the Court to
order defendant to show cause as to why defendant had failed
to cooperate timely with the financial audit. (Doc. No. 15.)
On August 7, 2018, this Court ordered defendant to show cause
by August 21, 2018, as to why it should not be held in
contempt for its failure to comply with this Court's May
8, 2018 order requiring timely cooperation with plaintiffs to
complete a payroll audit of defendant's records. (Doc.
No. 16.) On August 27, 2018-after defendant failed to respond
by the show cause deadline-this Court extended the deadline
to September 12, 2018, for defendant to show cause. (Doc. No.
17.) That same day, the clerk mailed a copy of the
Court's order to defendant. (See 8/27/18 Docket
September 25, 2018-after defendant still had not responded to
the show cause order-this Court ordered plaintiffs to advise
the Court in writing by October 5, 2018, how they planned to
proceed. (Doc. No. 18.) On October 5, 2018, plaintiffs filed
a status report advising the Court that they had received the
necessary information from defendant to complete the audit
but that plaintiffs needed more time to calculate and submit
to the Court a sum certain total owed by defendant. (Doc. No.
19.) The Court ordered plaintiffs to calculate and submit the
sum certain totals owed by defendant no later than November
30, 2018. (Doc. No. 20.)
November 30, 2018, plaintiffs submitted the instant notice of
damages and costs. In their request for cost and fees,
plaintiffs submit that the financial audit revealed no
outstanding delinquencies. (Doc No. 21-2 [“Eyster
Decl.”] ¶ 2; Not. at 187.) Nevertheless, plaintiffs
request $4, 920.00 for the audit, $609.50 for court costs,
and $10, 800.50 in reasonable attorney fees for a total award
of $16, 330.00. (Not. at 194.) In support of their request,
plaintiffs submit the payroll audit report (Doc. No. 21-1),
the declaration of David Eyster, CPA (Eyster Decl.), the
declaration of Jennie G. Arnold, lead counsel for plaintiffs
(Doc. No. 21-3 [“Arnold Decl.”]), and the
detailed billing ledger for plaintiffs' counsel (Doc. No.
Court now has sufficient materials before it to issue an
award and final judgment in favor of plaintiffs pursuant to
previously entered default judgment in favor of plaintiffs on
the question of liability, the Court turns to plaintiffs'
request for costs and fees. ERISA requires an employer to pay
multiemployer trust fund contributions according to the terms
and conditions of the collective bargaining agreements and
benefit plans to which the employer is a signatory.
See 29 U.S.C. § 1145. Trust funds, as
fiduciaries, are authorized to enforce this requirement.
See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3) (providing that a
civil action may be brought by a fiduciary to enforce §
1145 or the terms of a plan). Furthermore, ERISA contains a
mandatory scheme for remedying unpaid contributions whereby,
when a judgment in favor of the plan is awarded, the court
shall award the plan reasonable attorney's fees
and costs. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2)(D); see Foltice v.
Guardsman Prods., Inc., 98 F.3d 933, 936 (6th Cir. 1996)
(“Under . . . [§ 1132(g)(2)], the award of
reasonable attorney fees is mandatory[.]”). “The
starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable
attorney fee is the ‘lodestar' amount, which is
calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly
rate.” Imwalle v. Reliance Med. Prods., Inc.,
515 F.3d 531, 551-52 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d
40 (1983)). “Where the party seeking the attorney fees
has established that the number of hours and the rate claimed
are reasonable, the lodestar is presumed to be the reasonable
fee to which counsel is entitled.” Id. at
Court begins with the hourly rates charged. To determine a
reasonable hourly rate, courts initially assess the
“prevailing market rate in the relevant
community.” Adcock-Ladd v. Sec'y of
Treasury, 227 F.3d 343, 350 (6th Cir. 2000) (quotation
marks, citation, and emphasis omitted); see Trs. of the
N.W. Ohio Plumbers & Pipefitters Pension Plan v. Helm
& Assocs., Inc., No. 3:10 CV 739, 2012 WL 3619827,
at *1 (N.D. Ohio Aug. 21, 2012).
support of their request for fees, plaintiffs have submitted
an affidavit from lead counsel, Jennifer Arnold
(“Arnold”). This affidavit sets forth the hourly
rates charged by each attorney and paralegal who worked on
this case, and the attached billing ledger details the actual
work performed by each legal professional.
declaration, Arnold states that she graduated from law school
in 2006. (Arnold Decl. ¶ 3.) She avers that she has
litigated ERISA matters continuously since her admission to
the Ohio bar in 2009. (Id. ¶ 4.) Further,
plaintiffs note that nine years ago, while Arnold was still
an associate with her law firm, she was awarded $375 as a
reasonable hourly rate for ERISA cases. ...