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Huff v. Watson Services

February 13, 2009

ADRIAN HUFF, AS CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF TEAMSTERS LOCAL 445 FREIGHT DIVISION PENSION FUND AND TEAMSTERS LOCAL 445 EDUCATION AND TRAINING FUND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WATSON SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Adrian Huff ("Plaintiff"), as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Teamsters Local 445 Freight Division Pension Fund ("Pension Fund") and Teamsters Local 445 Education and Training Fund ("E&T Fund") (collectively, the "Funds"), filed this action against Watson Services, Inc. ("Defendant"), pursuant to the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, and the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., seeking "to collect late payment charges assessed" (Compl. ¶ 1) by the Funds for Defendant's "delinquent . . . contributions for the periods from July 2005 through July 2006" (id. ¶ 20). Before the Court are the Parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's motion is denied, and Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

Defendant, a for-profit corporation with its principal place of business in Newburgh, New York, entered into a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with Teamsters Local Union 445, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the "Union"), effective by its terms October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2006. (Def.'s Statement of Material Facts in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s 56.1(a)") ¶¶ 1-2; Compl. ¶¶ 9, 13, 15.) The Funds, which are jointly administered labor-management trust funds established under the LMRA, are also "multi-employer plans" within the meaning of ERISA. (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶¶ 3-4; Compl. ¶¶ 4, 6.) The Pension Fund is an ERISA "employee pension benefit plan," and the E&T Fund is an ERISA "employee welfare benefit plan." (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶¶ 3-4; Compl. ¶¶ 4, 6.) The CBA required Defendant to "make timely payment of contributions to the Funds." (Compl. ¶ 15; Answer ¶ 15.)

A. Pension Fund

The CBA bound Defendant to make monthly contributions to the Pension Fund, and to do so "by the 15th of the month following the calendar month for which contributions are payable." (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶¶ 9-10; Decl. of Seth H. Borden in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Borden Decl.") Ex. 3-A (CBA) art. 23.) The CBA further required Defendant to comply with the terms of the Agreement and Declaration of Trust of Local 445 Pension and Welfare Fund (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶ 12; CBA art. 23), which had been modified by, inter alia, a Restated Agreement and Declaration of Trust dated June 9, 1975 ("1975 Restatement") (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶¶ 5, 12; Borden Decl. Ex. 3-B (1975 Restatement), at 1), and by Amendments to the Restated Agreement and Declaration of Trust dated June 14, 1988 ("1988 Amended Restatement") (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶¶ 5, 12; Borden Decl. Ex. 3-C (1988 Am. Restatement), at 1).

Following the 1975 Restatement, and throughout the period during which the CBA was effective, the Agreement and Declaration of Trust provided that the Pension Fund was entitled, under certain circumstances, to require Defendant to make additional payments in the event that it failed to "make proper and timely contributions." The 1975 Restatement stated in part:

In addition to any remedies which the Union may have by virtue of any provisions in any Collective Bargaining Agreement with the employer to enforce the payment of the employer contributions to the [Pension] Fund, the Trustees [of the Pension Fund] shall have the power to require any employer who does not make proper and timely contributions as required by its Collective Bargaining Agreement to pay in addition to such contributions:

(a) Interest per annum on the amount due at the best interest rate charged by the Bankers Trust Company to substantial and responsible commercial borrowers as of the date of the employer's default in contributions to the Fund provided, however, that such interest shall not be less than 6% per annum.

(b) Any expenses incurred in the auditing of such employer's books and records.

(c) Where court action has been instituted, attorney's fees. (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶ 14; 1975 Restatement art. III, § 14.) The 1988 Amended Restatement stated in part:

In addition to any remedies which the Union may have by virtue of any provisions in any Collective Bargaining Agreement with the employer to enforce the payment of the employer contributions to the [Pension] Fund, the Trustees [of the Pension Fund] shall have the power to require any employer who does not make proper and timely contributions as required by its Collective Bargaining Agreement to pay as follows:

(a) Any expenses incurred in the auditing of such employer's books and records.

(b) In the case of an Employer that fails to make the contributions to the Fund for which it is obligated, in accordance with the terms and conditions of its obligation, the Trustees may enforce the Employer's obligation, pursuant to ERISA.

(c) In any matter under subsection (a) the Employer shall pay to the Fund -

(i) the unpaid contributions,

(ii) liquidation damages equal to the greater of -

(A) the amount of interest at the rate of 10% charged on the unpaid contributions, or

(B) up to 20% of the unpaid contributions,

(iii) reasonable attorney's fees, and

(iv) costs and such other legal relief as the court deems appropriate, if the Trustees bring an action on behalf of the Fund ...


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