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Onondaga County Laborers' Health and Welfare, Pension, Annuity and Training Funds v. Geddes Glass & Metal

January 19, 2005

ONONDAGA COUNTY LABORERS' HEALTH AND WELFARE, PENSION, ANNUITY AND TRAINING FUNDS, BY JANET M. MORO, AS FUND ADMINISTRATOR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GEDDES GLASS & METAL, INC., JOHN FINN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND JOSEPH PUCELLO, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Norman A. Mordue, D.J.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Onondaga County Laborers' Health and Welfare, Pension, Annuity and Training Funds, by Janet M. Moro, as Fund Administrator, bring this action pursuant to section 502(g)(2) of the Employee Retirement and Security Income Act of 1974, ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2), alleging that defendants Geddes Glass & Metal, Inc., John Finn, and Joseph Pucello violated the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("Agreement") Geddes Glass entered with Laborers International Union of North America, Local No. 433 ("union") by failing to remit contributions on behalf of those of its employees who were covered by the Agreement.

As a result, plaintiffs filed this action seeking the allegedly delinquent contributions, as well as interest, the greater of interest or liquidated damages, costs and fees of collection, audit fees, and attorneys' fees pursuant to the Agreement, the Restated Agreements and Declarations of Trusts ("Trusts") of the Onondaga County Laborers' Health and Welfare, Pension, Annuity and Training Funds ("Funds"), the Funds' Collection Policy, and 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2). Presently before the Court is plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Defendants oppose plaintiffs' motion.

II. BACKGROUND

The Funds were established pursuant to Restated Agreements and Declarations of Trust, and are multi-employer and employee benefit plans as defined by ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1002(3) and (37). The union is a labor organization within the meaning of the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947, ("LMRA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 144 et seq.. Geddes Glass is a glazing subcontractor specializing in the trade of installing window frames and glass. Acting manager of Geddes Glass, John Finn states in an affidavit that in 1999, Geddes Glass received a job at the Regional Market in Syracuse, New York. Seeking two additional laborers to supplement its laborers and handle clean-up and general site work (not glazier's work) at the Regional Market, John Finn contacted the Union. Finn spoke to Gabriel Rosetti, the union business agent, who noted that Geddes Glass did not have a collective bargaining agreement with the union. Rosetti advised Finn that he could not refer laborers until Geddes Glass signed a collective bargaining agreement. Rosetti avers that Finn "asked me whether the agreement covered employees currently working for Geddes Glass. He told me, in response to my questions, that the other employees of Geddes Glass were glaziers, not laborers. I then told him that the union had nothing do with the glaziers who Geddes Glass employed." In an affidavit, Rosetti states that he informed Finn that the Agreement "covers work in Onondaga County" and that "work" included any laborer's work performed by any employee in the union's jurisdiction. Finn denies that Rosetti made any such statement and avers that if Rosetti had, Finn would never have signed the Agreement because did not intend "to generally bind the corporation in this manner". Finn claims that their conversation "was to the opposite effect" and that "we discussed hiring two Union members to work only on the Regional Market job, and that there would be no other Union involvement." On December 17, 1999, Finn signed the collective bargaining agreement.

Pursuant to the Agreement, Geddes Glass remitted contributions to the union on behalf of the two union-laborers it hired for the Regional Market job, but did not make contributions on behalf of its existing non-union laborers. Plaintiffs claim that the Agreement obligated Geddes Glass to report the number of hours worked by, and to remit contributions to the Funds for various employee benefits on behalf of, all of its laborers, both union and non-union. Geddes Glass paid all of its employees scale wages and supplements or equivalents on the job, but did not, and to date refuses, to remit contributions to the Funds for its non-union laborers.

This action followed.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

A party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In evaluating a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court reviews the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," Rule 56, to determine if there exists a genuine issue of material fact to preclude the moving party from a judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 32 (1986). If the Court, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, determines that the movant has satisfied this burden, the burden then shifts to the non-movant to adduce evidence establishing the existence of a disputed issue of material fact requiring a trial. See id. If the non-movant fails to carry this burden, summary judgment is appropriate. See id.

When considering a motion for summary judgment "involving the construction of contractual language," the Second Circuit has instructed that: a court should accord that language its plain meaning giving due consideration to the surrounding circumstances and apparent purpose which the parties sought to accomplish. There may not be any genuine issue regarding the inferences to be drawn from the language. The inferences may not be reasonably susceptible to having more than one meaning ascribed to them.

Healy v. Rich Prod. Corp., 981 F.2d 68, 72 (2d Cir. 1992) (quotations and ...


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