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HEALTH & PENSION FUNDS v. TRUCKING AND RIGGING

September 20, 2005.

TRUSTEES OF THE LOCAL 807 LABOR-MANAGEMENT HEALTH & PENSION FUNDS, Plaintiffs,
v.
RIVER TRUCKING AND RIGGING, INC. Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN AZRACK, Chief Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs, the trustees and fiduciaries (the "Trustees") of Local 807 Labor-Management Health and Pension Funds (the "Funds"), bring this action under Sections 502 and 515 of the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act of 1974, as amended ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(a)(3) and 1145, against defendant, River Trucking and Rigging, Inc. ("River Trucking"), to collect unpaid fringe benefit contributions to the Funds. Plaintiffs also seek interest, liquidated damages, as well as attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2).

  By motion of December 17, 2004, plaintiffs move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The parties have consented to disposition of this action by a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is hereby granted.

  I. FACTS

  Defendant River Trucking is a New York corporation, having its principal place of business in Brooklyn, New York, and is engaged in the business of providing trucking and rigging services on a per contract basis. (Def.'s Mem. of Law in Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Opp'n") at 1.) Defendant entered into the National Master Freight Agreement (the "Agreement") with Truck Drivers Local Union No. 807 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the "Union") covering the period April 1, 1998 through March 31, 2003. (Pls'. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 3.) Under the terms of the Agreement, defendant was required to make specific contributions to the Funds for each hour worked by employees covered by the Agreement. (Id. at ¶ 4.) The Funds are multiemployer benefit plans within the meaning of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1002(3) and (37), and are collectively bargained funds created pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 186(c). (Id. at ¶ 1.) The Funds hired Schultheis & Panettieri to conduct an audit of defendant's payroll records for the period November 1, 1999 through September 30, 2003. (Id. at ¶ 6.) The audit was conducted on November 14, 2003 and it was determined that for the period January 1, 2000 through December 31, 2002 defendant did not make all of the required contributions to the Funds for employees Ryan Farrell ("Farrell"), Julio Cali ("Cali"), and Henry Womack ("Womack"). (River Trucking Payroll Audit, annexed to Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J. at F0008-F00013.) The audit revealed that defendant's unpaid contributions totaled $15,048.80. (Id. at F00010.) In addition to $15,048.80 for unpaid contributions, plaintiffs are seeking interest, liquidated damages, attorney's fees, and costs.

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. Summary Judgment Standard

  The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment should be granted only where there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 (1986). "[T]he burden is upon the moving party to demonstrate that no genuine issue respecting any material fact exists," Gallo v. Prudential Residential Services, L.P., 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994), but "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). "An issue of fact is `material' for these purposes if it `might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law,'" while "[a]n issue of fact is `genuine' if `the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.'" Konikoff v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 234 F.3d 92, 97 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

  In determining whether any material facts are in dispute, the court "must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor." Am. Cas. Co. of Reading, Pa. v. Nordic Leasing, Inc., 42 F.3d 725, 728 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Consarc Corp. v. Marine Midland Bank, N.A., 996 F.2d 568, 572 (2d Cir. 1993)); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. The non-moving party, however, "must do more than show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. at 586. Mere conclusory allegations, speculation or conjecture will not avail a party resisting summary judgment. Kerzer v. Kingly Mfg., 156 F.3d 396, 400 (2d Cir. 1998); Kulak v. City of New York, 88 F.3d 63, 71 (2d Cir. 1996). The non-moving party must come forth with "significant probative evidence" demonstrating that a factual dispute does in fact exist. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

  B. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment

  Under Section 515 of ERISA, employers are required "to make contributions to a multiemployer plan under the terms of the plan or under the terms of a collectively bargained agreement. . . ." 29 U.S.C. § 1145.

  Plaintiffs assert that for the period January 1, 2000 through December 31, 2002 defendant failed to make required contributions to the Funds totaling $15,048.80 for employees Farrell, Cali, and Womack. (Aff. of Alfred Fernandez dated Oct. 28, 2004 ("Fernandez Aff."), ¶ 5.) Plaintiffs further assert that during this time, defendants made only sporadic contributions to the Funds on behalf of these three employees. (Aff. of Viorel Kuzma dated Oct. 18, 2004 ("Kuzma Aff."), ¶ 4.) In addition to $15,048.80 in delinquent contributions, plaintiffs are also requesting interest, liquidated damages, attorney's fees, and costs. (Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 4.)

  Defendant makes two arguments in opposition to plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. First, defendant argues that Farrell was not a "teamster driver" but an office employee and not a member of the union. (Def.'s Opp'n at 2.) Defendant, therefore, contends that it was not required to make contributions to the Funds on his behalf. (Id.) Second, defendant argues that Cali and Womack did not work for River Trucking at various times from January 1, 2000 through December 31, 2002 because of a company work shortage. (Id.) Defendant states that during these periods of "lay-offs," it would "loan [Cali and Womack] money to carry them over" and "these monies were paid back to the company at a later date." (Id.; see also Aff. of Julio Cali dated Jan. 23, 2004 ("Cali Aff."), Ex. B to Def.'s Opp'n; Aff. of Henry Womack dated Jan. ...


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