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Trustees of UFCW Local 152 Health and Welfare Fund v. Avon Food, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 10, 2018

TRUSTEES OF THE UFCW LOCAL 15 HEALTH AND WELFARE FUND FOR AND ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND SAID FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
AVON FOOD, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This suit arises from Avon Food, Inc.'s (“Defendant”) alleged failure to remit contributions under a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between Defendant and UFCW Local 152 (“Plaintiff”). Plaintiff brings this suit against Defendant to reduce to judgment the alleged delinquent contributions. Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for entry of default judgment against Defendant (Doc. No. 7). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff avers that Defendant has failed to remit contributions under a CBA between the parties. (Pl. Aff. at 2). Plaintiff brought this suit against Defendant on March 31, 2017. (Compl.). Defendant was served on April 9, 2017. (Pl. Aff. at 2). The Clerk entered a default against Defendant for failure to plead or otherwise defend this action on May 16, 2017. Plaintiff moved for default judgment on June 22, 2017. (Doc. No. 5). Defendant sent this Court a letter dated July 15, 2017 requesting its release from litigation, but has otherwise not made an appearance or responded to the instant motion.

         II. STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) allows the Court, upon plaintiff's motion, to enter default judgment against a defendant that has failed to plead or otherwise defend a claim for affirmative relief. The Court should accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint by virtue of the defendant's default except for those allegations pertaining to damages. Chanel, Inc. v. Gordashevsky, 448 F.Supp.2d 532, 536 (D.N.J. 2008) (citing Comdyne I, Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990)). The Court also does not adopt Plaintiff's legal conclusions because whether the facts set forth an actionable claim is for the Court to decide. Doe v. Simone, No. 12-5825, 2013 WL 3772532, at *2 (D.N.J. July 17, 2013).

         While the decision to enter default judgment is left principally to the discretion of the district court, there is a well-established preference in the Third Circuit that cases be decided on the merits rather than by default judgment whenever practicable. Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180-81 (3d Cir. 1984). Consequently, the Court must address a number of issues before deciding whether a default judgment is warranted in the instant case. If the Court finds default judgment to be appropriate, the next step is for the Court to determine a proper award of damages.

         III. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

         A. Appropriateness of Default Judgment

         i. The Court's Jurisdiction

         First, the Court must determine whether it has both subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's cause of action and personal jurisdiction over Defendant. See U.S. Life Ins. Co. in N.Y.C. v. Romash, No. 09-3510, 2010 WL2400163, at *1 (D.N.J. June 9, 2010).

         In this case, this Court's jurisdiction was invoked pursuant to Section 502(e)(1) and (f) and 515 of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(1) and (f), § 1145, and § 301 of the Labor Management Relation Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185, and 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This Court thus has subject-matter jurisdiction over the instant action- there is federal question jurisdiction.

         We must also determine whether there is personal jurisdiction over Defendant. The alleged breach took place in New Jersey and Defendant maintained and continues to maintain a principal place of business in New Jersey. This Court has personal jurisdiction over the Defendant in the form of general jurisdiction because Defendant has “continuous and substantial” contacts with the forum state. See Provident Nat'l Bank v. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir. 1987) (citations omitted).

         ii. ...


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