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Boards of Trustees of the Seattle Area Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry Health & Welfare Trust v. Optimal Facility Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

November 12, 2019

BOARDS OF TRUSTEES OF THE SEATTLE AREA PLUMBING & PIPEFITTING INDUSTRY HEALTH & WELFARE TRUST, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
OPTIMAL FACILITY SOLUTIONS, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS

          Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on submissions by the parties regarding attorneys' fees, costs, and interest. Dkt. ## 23, 26. The Court awards Plaintiffs fees and costs in the amount of $16, 840 and interest in the amount of $4, 610.47.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are the trustees of five labor-management funds. Dkt. # 13 at 2. They jointly administer the Master Labor Agreement (MLA) between United Association Local #32 of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (Local 32) and the Mechanical Contractors Association of Western Washington (MCA). Id. The MLA incorporates the terms of Plaintiffs' trust agreements governing employer contributions to the funds (the “Trust Agreements”). Dkt. # 14-1 at 12.

         Employers are bound to the terms of the MLA by a compliance agreement. Dkt. # 13; Dkt. # 14-3. Defendant Optimal Facility Solutions, LLC (“OFS”) signed its compliance agreement with Plaintiffs on or around April 11, 2017. Id. The MLA requires all signatory employers to submit a monthly remittance report listing the following: the employees performing covered work, the covered worked performed, and the contributions owed to Plaintiffs for the hours worked. Dkt. # 14 at 3. The MLA also requires the employer's contributions to be postmarked no later than the 15th of the following month, or else hand delivered by noon on the 18th. Id. at 4; Dkt. # 14-2 at 11.

         When an employer is delinquent on its contributions, the MLA permits Plaintiffs to assess liquidated damages of 20 percent, charge 12 percent interest, and recover any associated fees and costs. Dkt. # 14-2 at 11. Separately, most of the Trust Agreements provide for liquidated damages up to 20 percent for delinquent contributions. See Dkt. # 14 at 5-7. Plaintiffs' records show that OFS's contributions from May to November 2017 were delinquent (the “2017 delinquent contributions”). Dkt. # 14 at 10; Dkt. # 14-10.

         On March 26, 2018, Plaintiffs sued for damages related to the 2017 delinquent contributions as well as for other contributions that OFS failed to remit during 2017 and 2018. Dkt. # 1. After the lawsuit was filed, an audit revealed that OFS underreported hours of covered work and failed to remit $22, 825.72 in contributions from April 2017 through March 2018 (the “2017 unpaid contributions”). Dkt. # 14-11. On September 25, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment on damages relating to both the delinquent and unpaid contributions. Dkt. # 13. On October 16, 2018, OFS filed a response to the motion. Dkt. # 17. On October 19, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their reply. Dkt. # 18. On February 22, 2019, the Court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs' motion, awarding Plaintiff unpaid contributions in the amount of $22, 829.73 and $2.272.04 in audit costs.[1]Dkt. # 22. The Court requested that Plaintiffs provide an updated accounting of interest on the unpaid contribution as well as an updated accounting of attorneys' fees. Dkt. # 22. Plaintiffs have submitted an updated accounting of interest totaling $4, 610.47 and a request of attorneys' fees totaling $17, 893.00. Dkt. # 23.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. ERISA

         Section 1132(g)(2) is “mandatory and not discretionary.” Operating Eng'rs Pension Trust v. Beck Eng'g & Surveying, Co., 746 F.2d 557, 569 (9th Cir.1984) (citations omitted). Section 1132(g)(2)(D) states that “In any action ... to enforce section 1145[ ] of this title in which a judgment in favor of the plan is awarded, the court shall award the plan reasonable attorney's fees and costs of the action, to be paid by the defendant....” 29 U.S.C.A. § 1132(g)(2)(D). Defendant concedes that Plaintiffs prevailed on the issue of fees and interest, but argues that it should not pay fees related to summary judgment because it prevailed on the issue of liquidated damages. This position does not appear to be supported by the case law. See, e.g., Parkhurst v. Armstrong Steel Erectors, Inc., 901 F.2d 796 (9th Cir. 1990) (upholding award of attorneys' fees where employer argued that it did not contest its obligation to pay and liquidated damages provision was void as penalty); Hanson v. Koller Coatings Corp., Inc., 2011 WL 13214284 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 4, 2011).

         B. Lodestar Method

         The Court turns to the calculation of attorneys' fees. The proper way for the Court to determine attorneys' fees and costs is by using the lodestar method. To calculate the lodestar amount, the Court multiplies the number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rate. In re Washington Pub. Power Supply Sys. Sec. Litig., 19 F.3d 1291, 1295 n.2 (9th Cir. 1994); United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 406 (9th Cir. 1990); Bowers v. Transamerica Title Ins. Co., 100 Wash.2d 581, 597 (1983). The hours reasonably expended must be spent on claims having a “common core of facts and related legal theories.” Martinez v. City of Tacoma, 81 Wash.App. 228, 242-43 (1996); Webb v. Sloan, 330 F.3d 1158, 1168-69 (9th Cir. 2003). The Court discounts hours spent on unsuccessful claims, overstaffing, duplicated or wasted effort, or otherwise unproductive time. Chalmers v. City of Los Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205, 1210 (9th Cir. 1986), opinion amended on denial of reh'g, 808 F.2d 1373 (9th Cir. 1987); Bowers, 100 Wash.2d at 597, 600. The Court may adjust the lodestar calculation “up or down to reflect factors, such as the contingent nature of success in the lawsuit or the quality of legal representation, which have not already been taken into account in computing the ‘lodestar' and which are shown to warrant the adjustment by the party proposing it.” Id. at 594 (citing Miles v. Sampson, 675 F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir. 1982)) (emphasis in original); see also Chalmers, 796 F.2d at 1212.

         i. ...


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