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Graphic Communications Conference of International Brotherhood of Teamsters National Pension Fund v. Adgravers, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 1, 2016

Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters National Pension Fund; George Tedeschi, Trustee; and Malcom Pritzker, Trustee, Plaintiffs,
v.
Adgravers, Inc., Defendant.

          David R. Grand United States Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES [15]

          GERSHWIN A. DRAIN United States District Judge.

         Introduction

         This is an Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) action. Plaintiffs represent a pension fund and seek to collect delinquent withdrawal liability payments from the Defendant. ECF No. 1 at 1 (Pg. ID 1). On September 2, 2016, the Clerk of Court entered default judgement against the Defendant in the amount of $177, 072.48. ECF No. 13. Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Post-Judgment Motion for Attorney Fees. ECF No. 15 at 2 (Pg. ID 156). Plaintiffs seek a total of $16, 251.00 in fees. For reasons discussed below, the Court will GRANT Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney Fees [15].

         Factual Allegations

         The Plaintiffs, Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters National Pension Fund (hereinafter “the Fund”), George Tedeschi, and Malcom Pritzker bring this action against the Defendant, Adgravers, Inc. (hereinafter “Adgravers”). ECF No. 1 at 2. Mr. Tedeschi and Mr. Pritzker are Co-Chairmen of the Board of Trustees of the Fund. Id. Adgravers is engaged in the business of commercial printing in Detroit Michigan. Id. at 3.

         According to the Plaintiffs, the Fund is funded by contributions and investment income from various employers in accordance with negotiated collective bargaining agreements. Id. The Fund holds all contributions for the exclusive purpose of providing pension and disability benefits and paying Administrative expenses. Id. Adgravers participates in the Fund in accordance with a series of collective bargaining agreements. Id. at 3-4.

         Plaintiffs claim that pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §§ 1382, 1385, and 1399, “when certain conditions are met, a multiemployer plan must assess withdrawal liability to each participating employer that has a partial withdrawal from the Fund.” Id. at 4. According to Plaintiffs, withdrawal liability was assessed against Adgravers because of a 70-percent contribution decline. See 29 U.S.C. § 1385. Id. In accordance with 29 U.S.C. § 1399(b), the Fund notified Adgravers of the assessed withdrawal liability in the amount of $166, 097.53. Id. Adgravers was required to make payments to satisfy the withdrawal liability. Id. From May 2013 to January 2016, Adgravers made intermittent and sometimes untimely payments to the Fund. Id. at 4-5. According to the Fund, Adgravers is in default within the meaning 29 U.S.C. §1399(c)(5). Id. at 7. As a result of the default, the Fund initiated litigation to recover payment of the outstanding amount plus accrued interest.

         On May 4, 2016, Donald Scharg of Bodman PLC filed his appearance on behalf of the Defendant. ECF No. 6. However, neither Mr. Scharg nor any other representative on behalf of the Defendant has responded to the Complaint or Motion for Attorney Fees in this case. On September 2, 2016, the Clerk of Court entered default judgement against the Defendant in the amount of $177, 072.48. ECF No. 13. On October 11, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Attorney Fees. ECF No. 15.

         Legal Standard

         “In the United States, parties are ordinarily required to bear their own attorney's fees”. Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Virginia Dep't of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 602 (2001). As a general practice, awarding fees to a prevailing party requires “explicit statutory authority.” Id. “[T]he [ERISA] statute provides that ‘the court in its discretion may allow a reasonable attorney's fee and costs of action to either party.'” Foltice v. Guardsman Prod., Inc., 98 F.3d 933, 936 (6th Cir. 1996) (emphasis in original) (citing ERISA § 502(g)(1); 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1)). Therefore, the Court has discretion to award attorney fees in this case.

         “When exercising the discretion vested in the district court by 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1), [the Sixth Circuit has] said, the district court should consider the following five factors:

(1) the degree of the opposing party's culpability or bad faith;
(2) the opposing party's ability to satisfy an award of ...

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