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Trustees of the Teamsters Pension v. Riccelli Premium Produce

March 23, 2011

TRUSTEES OF THE TEAMSTERS PENSION
TRUST FUND OF PHILADELPHIA AND VICINITY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICCELLI PREMIUM PRODUCE, INC. ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez

MEMORANDUM ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on an unopposed motion of Plaintiff Trustees of the Teamsters Pension Trust Fund of Philadelphia and Vicinity, seeking entry of default judgment against Defendants Riccelli Premium Produce, Inc. and Sam Riccelli Produce Broker, Inc. [Dkt. Entry No. 8]. The Court has considered Plaintiff's submissions and notes that Defendants have not responded to the motion. For the reasons expressed below, Plaintiff's motion will be granted.

I. Background

Because Defendants have not responded in any way, all facts are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint [Dkt. Entry No. 1] and the certification attached to the Motion for Default Judgment [Dkt. Entry No. 8]. The Teamsters Pension Trust Fund of Philadelphia and Vicinity ("Pension Plan") is a multiemployer pension plan and employee pension benefit plan within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. (Comp. at ¶ 8.) Plaintiff Trustees of the Teamsters Pension Trust Fund of Philadelphia and Vicinity ("Trustees") are fiduciaries of the Pension Plan and are authorized under sections 502(a)(3) and 4301(a)(1) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3), to bring this action on behalf of the Pension Plan, its participants and beneficiaries. (Id. at ¶¶ 9-10.) Defendant Riccelli Produce, Inc. ("Riccelli Produce") is an employer within the meaning of section 3(5) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1002(5). (Id. at 12.)

Riccelli Produce was required to contribute payments to the Pension Plan pursuant to the terms of several collective bargaining agreements between itself and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union No. 929. (Id. at ¶ 19.) On or about October 9, 2009, the Trustees determined that Riccelli Produce had effected a complete withdrawal from the Pension Plan in or about 2005.*fn1 (Id. at ¶ 21.) A letter was addressed to Riccelli Produce's Vice President, Steven Riccelli, on October 9, 2009, demanding payment of Riccelli Produce's withdrawal liability, computed as $21,637.93, payable in five quarterly installments of $4,020.70 and a final quarterly payment of $2,454.01, commencing on December 8, 2009.*fn2 (Id. at ¶ 22.) Riccelli Produce has failed to initiate timely arbitration procedures and has failed to make any payments toward the assessed withdrawal liability.*fn3 (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24.) Plaintiffs filed the present action on June 14, 2010, seeking to recover the amount of the outstanding withdrawal liability, accrued interest on the delinquent withdrawal liability payments, liquidated damages, reasonable attorney's fees, and costs of suit. (Id. at ¶¶ 28, 31.) Named as defendants in the suit are Riccelli Produce and Sam Riccelli Produce Broker, Inc. ("Riccelli Produce") under an alter ego theory of liability.

II. Jurisdiction

Before entering default judgment against a party that has not filed a responsive pleading, "the district court has an affirmative duty to look into its jurisdiction both over the subject matter and the parties." Williams v. Life Sav. & Loan, 802 F.2d 1200, 1203 (10th Cir. 1986); Ayers v. Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A., 99 F.3d 565, 569 (3d Cir. 1996) ("In order to impose personal liability upon a defendant or obligate him or her in favor of a plaintiff, a court must be vested with jurisdiction over the parties as well as subject matter jurisdiction.").

The Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because this action involves a federal question because the dispute arises under ERISA. Specifically, this Court has jurisdiction over civil actions to recover delinquent withdrawal liability payments pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1451. The Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant pursuant to the nationwide service of process provision of ERISA's Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1451(d).

III. Default Judgment Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 governs the entry of default judgment. The Rule provides:

(a) Entering a Default. When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party's default.

(b) Entering a Default Judgment.

(1) By the Clerk. If the plaintiff's claim is for a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by computation, the clerk -- on the plaintiff's request, with an affidavit showing the amount due -- must enter judgment for that amount and costs against a defendant who has been defaulted for not appearing and who is neither a minor nor an incompetent person.

(2) By the Court. In all other cases, the party must apply to the court for a default judgment. . . The court may conduct hearings or make referrals -- preserving any federal statutory right to a jury trial ...


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