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HENNESSY v. CEMENT

May 19, 1997

THOMAS J. HENNESSY, Plaintiff, against CEMENT AND CONCRETE WORKER'S UNION LOCAL 17A, OF THE LABORER'S INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, AFL-CIO, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KOELTL

 JOHN G. KOELTL, District Judge:

 The plaintiff, Thomas J. Hennessy, brought this action to recover benefits allegedly owed to him by the defendant, Cement and Concrete Worker's Union Local 18A, of the Laborer's International Union of North America, AFL-CIO ("Local 18A"), pursuant to Local 18A's Termination Pay Plan, a pension plan as defined in 26 U.S.C. § 401 and 26 U.S.C. § 411. Plaintiff Hennessy asserts that defendant Local 18A's denial of his rights and benefits due under the Termination Pay Plan was in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), as amended, 26 U.S.C. § 401, et seq.

 Defendant Local 18A now moves for summary judgment dismissing the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 on the grounds that the claim raised in the complaint is barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Defendant Local 18A also moves for an order awarding reasonable attorney's fees and costs pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, 28 U.S.C. § 1927, and 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g). Plaintiff Hennessy cross-moves for a stay of this action pending final adjudication of an action involving the same parties in the New York State Supreme Court. On May 5, 1997, the Court heard oral argument on the motion.

 I.

 The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment may not be granted unless "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs. Ltd. Partnership, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994). "The trial court's task at the summary judgment motion stage of the litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding; it does not extend to issue-resolution." Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1224.

 The moving party bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter that "it believes demonstrates[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The substantive law governing the case will identify those facts which are material and "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 8 L. Ed. 2d 176, 82 S. Ct. 993 (1962)); see also Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1223.

 If the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). With respect to the issues on which summary judgment is sought, if there is any evidence in the record from any source from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, summary judgment is improper. See Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37 (2d Cir. 1994).

 II.

 There is no material dispute with respect to the following facts. Thomas Hennessy is Local 18A's former Business Manager. (Def.'s 3(g) Statement P 2.) On May 25, 1993, Hennessy pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to the crimes of conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, extortion of voters' democracy rights in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(b)(3), and extortion of candidates' democracy rights in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951. (Def.'s 3(g) Statement P 3; Pl.'s 3(g) Statement P 4.) In or about April 1994, Hennessy commenced an action against Local 18A in New York State Supreme Court, New York County. (Def.'s 3(g) Statement P 4; Pl.'s 3(g) Statement P 3.) In his complaint, Hennessy alleged that he was owed benefits under Local 18A's Termination Pay Plan. (Def.'s 3(g) Statement P 6; Bartlett Aff. Ex. B; Pl.'s 3(g) Statement P 3.) Local 18A answered and asserted counterclaims against Hennessy alleging, among other things, that Hennessy, as Local 18A's Business Manager and officer, breached his fiduciary duty to Local 18A and its members by his illegal acts and interferences with Local 18A's business and members. (Def.'s 3(g) Statement P 8; Bartlett Aff. Ex. C; Pl.'s 3(g) Statement P 3.)

 On or about April 17, 1995, Local 18A served a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the complaint. (Def.'s 3(g) Statement P 15; Pl.'s 3(g) Statement P 3.) Hennessy served a cross-motion seeking an order discontinuing the state court action. (Def.'s 3(g) Statement P 16; Pl.'s 3(g) Statement P 3.) In an order dated May 23, 1995, the court granted Local 18A's motion for summary judgment, dismissed the complaint, and denied Hennessy's cross-motion for an order of discontinuance. (Def.'s 3(g) Statement P 17; Bartlett Aff. Ex. E; Pl.'s 3(g) Statement P 3.) Justice Gammerman explained on the record:

 
I have had some familiarity with the case and in my view there is absolutely no basis for the claim. To permit the action to be discontinued without prejudice will merely encourage the plaintiff to seek the monies he's seeking here in another forum, and in my view there is no merit to the claim. There is no basis for seeking it anyplace.

 (Bartlett Aff. Ex. E at 2-3.) Hennessy concedes that under New York law he could have appealed the dismissal of his claim for Termination Pay but did not do so. At oral argument on this motion, however, his counsel explained that he chose to await a decision on the damages ...


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