United States District Court, D. Arizona
Board of Trustees of the Arizona Bricklayers' Pension Trust Fund, Plaintiff,
Rafael G. Obeso, et al., Defendants.
Honorable Jennifer G. Zipps United States District Judge.
before the Court is a motion for default judgment filed by
Plaintiff Board of Trustees of the Arizona Bricklayers'
Pension Trust Fund (Trustees). (Doc. 23). Having reviewed the
motion and the filings in this case, the Court will deny the
motion without prejudice.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
seek reimbursement of monthly pension benefit checks paid to
Defendant Rafael Obeso. Trustees argue that Obeso was
ineligible to receive the benefits due to his employment in
the bricklaying trade in contravention of a collective
bargaining agreement. Trustees' complaint asserts one
cause of action for Restitution for Unjust Enrichment. The
complaint and the affidavit in support of the motion for
default allege the following facts.
Arizona Bricklayers' Pension Trust Fund (Trust Fund) is a
labor-management trust fund under 29 U.S.C. § 186. (Doc.
1 ¶ 4.) The Trust Fund administers a pension benefits
program for eligible participants and beneficiaries that is
subject to written rules and regulations (Trust Fund Rules).
(Doc. 1 ¶ 5.) Plaintiff Trustees is the designated agent
of the Trust Fund and is tasked with management of the Fund.
(Doc. 1 ¶ 4.) Obeso “is . . . or was an employee
participant of the Trust Fund through his employment with
employers signatory to a collective bargaining
agreement.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 7.)
applied for early retirement on or about June 20, 2011, and
was approved by the Trustees. (Doc. 1 ¶ 9.) “As a
Participant in Early Retirement, [Obeso] was prohibited . . .
from working in the bricklaying trade, craft, or industry
within the jurisdiction of the collective bargaining
agreement (CBA) between the Union and the signatory
employers. The jurisdiction of the CBA is the state of
Arizona.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 10.) Trustees allege,
“[u]pon information and belief, ” that despite
his early retirement status, in July, 2011, Obeso resumed
working in the bricklaying trade craft, or industry in
Arizona. The Trust Fund made monthly payments to Obeso from
July 1, 2011 to December 31, 2014, and January 10, 2015 to
January 31, 2016, that Obeso “was ineligible to receive
due to his employment in the bricklaying trade, craft or
industry in the jurisdiction of the CBA and the suspension
rules set forth in the Trust Fund Rules.” (Doc. 1
¶ 12; Doc. 24.) “[I]f . . . benefits are paid in
excess of the amount to which a participant is entitled to
receive under the Trust Fund Rules, the participant is
obligated to repay the Trust Fund the amount of the
overpayment.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 13.) In support of its
motion for default, Trustees attached estimated time periods
Obeso worked in prohibited employment or periods of
suspension. (Doc. 24-1 at 2.) The Trustees do not state what
work Obeso did in violation of the Trust Fund Rules, the
basis for the belief that Obeso was working in prohibited
employment, or the manner in which the time periods were
Trust Fund sent Obeso a demand letter on February 8, 2018,
requesting reimbursement. (Doc. 1 ¶ 15.) When Obeso
failed to reimburse the Trust Fund, Trustees filed a
Complaint on June 7, 2018, seeking $22, 220 in restitution of
losses, $6, 410.87 for lost investment income, reasonable
attorneys' fees, costs, and pre- and post-judgment
interest. (Doc. 1 at 4-5). Obeso was served with the Summons
and Complaint on August 5, 2018, but failed to answer or
otherwise defend the claim. (Docs. 12, 14.) Trustees applied
for entry of default against Obeso on October 26, 2018, which
the clerk entered on October 29, 2018. (Docs. 14, 15).
Obeso's wife, Defendant Jane Doe Obeso, whose real name
is Elva Obeso, was personally served with the Summons and
Complaint on November 27, 2018. (Doc. 20). Trustees applied
for entry of default against Elva Obeso on December 21, 2018
after she failed to answer or otherwise defend. Default was
entered on December 26, 2018. (Docs. 21 & 22). Trustees
now seek entry of default judgment against both Defendants.
entry of default, a court may enter a default judgment.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55. Whether to enter a default
judgment is within the court's discretion. Aldabe v.
Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980). Several
factors guide this determination:
(1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff, (2) the
merits of plaintiff's substantive claim, (3) the
sufficiency of the complaint, (4) the sum of money at stake
in the action, (5) the possibility of dispute concerning
material facts, (6) whether the default was due to excusable
neglect, and (7) the strong policy underlying the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure favoring decisions on the merits.
Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72 (9th Cir.
1986). Generally, following default, the court accepts as
true the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint,
except those relating to damages. Cripps v. Life Ins. Co.
of N. Am., 980 F.2d 1261, 1267 (9th Cir. 1992);
Geddes v. United Fin. Grp., 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th
Cir. 1977). The plaintiff must plead specific facts because
“a defendant is not held to admit facts that are not
well-pleaded or to admit conclusions of law.”
DIRECTV, Inc. v. Hoa Huynh, 503 F.3d 847, 854 (9th
Cir. 2007) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
Furthermore, “necessary facts not contained in the
pleadings, and claims which are legally insufficient, are not
established by default.” Cripps, 980 F.2d at
1267 (internal citations omitted). Applying the
Eitel factors, the Court will deny the Trustees'
Possibility of Prejudice to Plaintiff
factor weighs in favor of granting default judgment if a
plaintiff would likely have no other course for recovery.
PepsiCo, Inc. v. Cal. Sec. Cans, 238 F.Supp.2d 1172,
1176 (C.D. Cal. 2002). Trustees attempted to resolve the
issue without judicial intervention by demanding
reimbursement. Obeso's failure to reimburse Trustees or
respond to the Complaint makes it unlikely that Trustees
could recover without entry of default judgment. ...