United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
ST. LOUIS-KANSAS CITY CARPENTERS REGIONAL COUNCIL, et al., Plaintiffs,
JOSEPH CONSTRUCTION, INC. and RICKY ROACH Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the motion (Doc. No. 7) of
Plaintiffs St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council
(the “Regional Council”); the Carpenters'
Pension Trust Fund of St. Louis, the Carpenters' Welfare
Trust Fund of St. Louis, the Carpenters' Vacation Trust
Fund of St. Louis, and the Carpenters' Joint Training
Fund of St. Louis (collectively, the “Funds”);
and the trustees of each of the Funds (collectively, the
“Trustees”), for default judgment.
bring this action to recover delinquent contributions owed to
the Funds, which are employee benefit funds pursuant to the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1132, by Defendant
Joseph Construction, Inc. (“JCI”) (Count I). The
Regional Council further alleges five separate counts of
breach of contract (Counts II-VI) against JCI and its
proprietor Ricky Roach (“Roach”) (collectively,
the “Defendants”) based on their default on five
separate promissory notes.
consideration of the motion and the applicable law, the Court
will enter default judgment against Defendants as to all
Counts of Plaintiffs' complaint.
Regional Council is a labor union for carpenters in Missouri,
Southern Illinois, and the Kansas City metropolitan area of
Kansas. The Funds affiliated with the Regional Council are
multi-employer plans by which participating employers make
contributions to separate trusts for pension, health and
welfare, vacation, and training benefits for participating
employees. The Trustees, as the joint board of trustees for
each of the Funds, are plan sponsors and fiduciaries of the
Funds. JCI is a St. Louis-based construction company; Roach
is a proprietor of JCI.
filed suit on June 22, 2016, alleging that JCI failed and
refused to make required contributions to the Funds in
violation of ERISA Section 515, 29 U.S.C. § 1145, and of
the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) by
which Plaintiffs and JCI are bound. (Doc. No. 1.)
Regional Council further alleges that JCI and Roach have
defaulted upon five promissory notes. From January to May of
2016, the Regional Council, as lender, issued a series of
loans to JCI and Roach, as borrowers, which were memorialized
in five promissory notes, each identical but for the loan
date and the principal loan amount.The loans were issued on the
following dates and in the following amounts: (1) January 21,
2016: $572, 336.00; (2) January 21, 2016: $430, 051.17; (3)
April 13, 2016: $158, 000.00; (4) April 13, 2016: $340,
000.00; and (5) May 16, 2016: $250, 560.00. Each note
contains a Missouri choice-of-law provision. See,
e.g., Doc. No. 1-1 at 2 (“This Note will be
governed by, construed and enforced in accordance with
federal law and the laws of the state of Missouri”).
Each note also contains provisions describing what
constitutes an event of default and how such an event affects
the rights of the parties. The “Payment Default”
term provides that it shall constitute an event of default
under the note when the “[b]orrower fails to make any
payment when due under this note.” Id. at 1.
The “Union Status” term provides that it shall
constitute an event of default under the note when the
“[b]orrowers fail to remain in good standing with the
Carpenter's Union or fail to remain current in fringe
benefit payment on behalf of union members.”
Id. An event of default triggers the lender's
right to declare the entire unpaid principal balance and all
accrued unpaid interest on the note immediately due.
Id. at 2. Finally, each note requires that
Defendants pay the Regional Council's attorneys' fees
and costs incurred in collecting amounts due under the note.
Regional Council alleges that Defendants have failed both to
make payment as due on each note and to remain current in
fringe benefit contributions, and have therefore defaulted
upon their payment obligations under each note.
September 20, 2016, after Defendants failed to answer or
otherwise defend against Plaintiffs' claims, the Clerk of
the Court entered default against both Defendants. In their
motion for default judgment, Plaintiffs seek damages from JCI
on the ERISA claim (Count I), in the amount of $109, 374.06
for delinquent contributions, interest, and liquidated
damages; and the Regional Council seeks from both Defendants
damages on the breach of contract claims (Counts II-VI), in
the amount of $572, 986.69 for the aggregated unpaid balances
of the five promissory notes. Plaintiffs also seek $1, 521.64
in attorneys' fees and costs in connection with this
action. Plaintiffs filed an accompanying memorandum in
support of their motion for default judgment, including
affidavits and documentation supporting their request for
damages, attorneys' fees, and costs.
Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may
enter default judgment for failure “to plead or
otherwise defend.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a); see also
Pride Cleaning & Restoration, Inc. v. Cole, No.
4:16CV90 RLW, 2016 WL 5462810, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Sept. 28,
2016). “It is nearly axiomatic that when a default
judgment is entered, facts alleged in the complaint may not
be later contested.” Marshall v. Baggett, 616
F.3d 849, 852 (8th Cir. 2010). Upon entry of default, the
allegations of the complaint are taken as true, except as to
the amount of damages. Brown v. Kenron Aluminum &
Glass Corp., 477 F.2d 526, 531 (8th Cir. 1973). It then
“remains for the court to consider whether the
unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action,
since a party in default does not admit mere conclusions of
law.” Murray v. Lene, 595 F.3d 868, 871 (8th
are subject to a higher degree of proof than are other
factual allegations in a complaint. Monsanto Co. v.
Hargrove, No. 4:09-CV-1628 CEJ, 2011 WL 5330674, at *2
(E.D. Mo. Nov. 7, 2011) (“[W]hile factual allegations
in the complaint are generally taken as true, those . . .
relating to the amount of damages must be proven.”). A
plaintiff must prove allegations pertaining to the amount of
damages “to a reasonable degree of certainty.”
Painters Dist. Council No. 2 v. Diversified Drywall Sys.,
Inc., No. 4:11-CV-1823 CEJ, 2012 WL 6740650, at *2 (E.D.
Mo. Dec. 31, 2012) (citing Everyday Learning Corp. v.
Larson, 242 F.3d 815, 818 (8th Cir. 2001)). Damages may
be proven by a sworn affidavit and supporting documentation.
SSM Managed Care Org., L.L.C. v. Comprehensive Behavioral
Care, Inc., No. 4:12-CV-2386 CAS, 2014 WL 1389581, at
*2-4 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 9, 2014) (granting default judgment and
relying on affidavits of movant's attorney and executive
officer as sufficient to establish attorneys' fees and
costs, and damages from breach of facility provider