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Trustees of the Building Trades Educational v. Crana

September 22, 2011

TRUSTEES OF THE BUILDING TRADES EDUCATIONAL
BENEFIT FUND, THE BUILDING TRADES ANNUITY BENEFIT FUND, AND THE BUILDING
TRADES WELFARE BENEFIT FUND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CRANA ELECTRIC, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiffs Trustees of the Building Trades Educational Benefit Fund, The Building Trades Annuity Benefit Fund and the Building Trades Welfare Benefit Fund (collectively, the "Trustees" or "plaintiffs") commenced the present action against Crana Electric, Inc. ("Crana" or "defendant") seeking injunctive relief, monetary damages, and other equitable relief based upon defendant's alleged violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(a)(3) & 1145 ("ERISA") as well as its alleged breach of a collective bargaining agreement.

Defendant has moved to dismiss the entire Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (3), and (6)*fn1 on the grounds that plaintiffs' first two claims for relief are barred by the doctrine of res judicata and that plaintiffs' third and fourth causes of action are not yet ripe for review. Plaintiffs have cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). For the reasons stated below, both motions are denied.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the Complaint and are presumed true for purposes of the instant motions.

The Trustees are fiduciaries of jointly administered multi-employer labor management trust funds, as those terms are defined by ERISA (the "Funds"). The Funds are employee benefits plans that provide fringe benefits to eligible employees, retirees, and dependents. According to plaintiffs, the Funds were established and are maintained by Local 363, United Electrical Workers of America, IUJAT (the "Union"), and various employers participate in the Funds pursuant to the terms of their respective collective bargaining agreements and trust indentures.

Crana is a for-profit corporation organized and existing pursuant to the laws of the State of New York. Crana and the Union are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA"), which obligates Crana to make certain contributions to the Funds. The amount of Crana's contributions is calculated pursuant to rate schedules set forth in the CBA, which account for all work performed by covered employees.

Plaintiffs allege that defendant has failed to make $108,508.32 in contributions to the Funds for the period between February 1, 2005 and July 31, 2006. In their First Claim for Relief, plaintiffs asserts that defendant's failure to make those contributions violated the CBA, to which the Funds are third party beneficiaries. Plaintiffs contend that they are entitled to contribution reports, which set forth the hours that each of Crana's employees worked and the amount of contributions due, as well as payment of unpaid benefit contributions in the minimum amount of $108,508.32 plus liquidated damages, interest, costs and attorneys' fees.

In their Second Claim for Relief, plaintiffs allege that defendant's failure to pay the contributions violates ERISA, and pursuant to Sections 502 and 515 of that statute, plaintiffs are entitled to $108,508.32 in unpaid contributions plus statutory damages, interests, attorneys' fees, and costs.

In the Third Claim for Relief, plaintiffs allege that during the pendency of this action, "additional contributions and/or delinquency charges may become due and owing." (Compl. ¶ 27.) Plaintiffs assert that any additional contributions or charges that defendant fails to pay "should be included plus interest as part of this action." (Id.)

Finally, in the Fourth Claim for Relief, plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction that would enjoin Crana from committing any further violations of the CBA.

DISCUSSION

I. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the First and Second Claims for Relief is Denied

A. Introduction

Defendant moves to dismiss the First and Second Claims for Relief pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). Although defendant does not set forth the applicable legal standard, the Court notes that it may resolve a motion made under Rule 12(b)(1) by "refer[ring] to evidence outside the pleadings." Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). Here, the entire set of facts underpinning defendant's motion stem from allegations and documentary evidence outside the four corners of the Complaint, which are set forth in the Affidavit of Jason S. Samuels, dated August 27, 2010 (the "Samuels Aff.") and the exhibits attached thereto. However, as discussed more fully, infra, the Court concludes that defendant's motion to dismiss the First and Second Claims for Relief pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata is more appropriately made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). It is well-settled that when resolving motions made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court is generally limited to reviewing the factual allegations contained in the Complaint. (See, infra.) The Court, therefore, sets forth the following factual recitation -- gleaned from the Samuels Affidavit and its exhibits -- for context only, and does not rely on these facts or extrinsic materials in rendering its decision.

B. Factual Allegations Proffered by Defendant

At some point prior to 2005,*fn2 non-party Vanguard Construction & Development Co. Inc. ("Vanguard") was awarded a government contract (the "Contract") and began serving as the prime contractor on a renovation project at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian ("Smithsonian Project"). (Samuels Aff., Ex. D at ΒΆ3.) Vanguard subsequently entered into a subcontract with Crana pursuant to which Crana was to provide the electrical and security systems work on the Smithsonian ...


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