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The Annuity, Pension, Welfare and Training Funds of the International v. Central Enterprises

October 15, 2012

THE ANNUITY, PENSION, WELFARE AND TRAINING FUNDS OF THE INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS LOCAL 14-14B, AFL-CIO BY ITS TRUSTEES EDWIN L. CHRISTIAN, CHRIS CONFREY, JOHN
CRONIN, DON DENARDO, RENZO COLLAVINO, DANIEL NOESGES, DENISE M. RICHARDSON, AND JOHN F. O'HARE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CENTRAL ENTERPRISES, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs are the Annuity, Pension, Welfare, and Training Funds of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14-14B ("the Local 14 Trust Funds"). On March 1, 2011, the Local 14 Trust Funds filed suit against Central Enterprises, Inc. ("Central Enterprises"), alleging that Central Enterprises violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq., and the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, by failing to make required contributions to employee benefit plans. Plaintiffs seek to recover the unpaid contributions, as well as interest, statutory damages, attorneys' fees, and costs. Presently before the Court is plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, which defendant has not opposed. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' motion is granted.

I.

Because plaintiffs' motion is unopposed, the Court considers the following facts, proffered by plaintiffs and supported by documentary evidence, to be undisputed for purposes of this motion. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)(2) (authorizing district courts to consider unopposed facts undisputed); Vt. Teddy Bear Co. v. 1--800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244, 246 (2d Cir. 2004) (noting that the non-movant's failure "allow[s] the district court to accept the movant's factual assertions as true," provided that the court is "satisfied that the citation to evidence in the record supports the assertion"); see also LOCAL R. CIV. P. 56.1(c) (directing district courts to admit facts contained in the Rule 56.1 Statement of Material Facts "unless specifically controverted by a correspondingly numbered paragraph in the statement required to be served by the opposing party").

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14-14B, AFL-CIO ("Local 14") entered into a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with defendant Central Enterprises, which has been in effect since April 16, 1996. See James M. Steinberg Aff., Ex. C (CBA); see also Steinberg Aff. at 2; Pl's. 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 1.*fn1 The president and vice- president of Central Enterprises signed the CBA. See Ex. C at 2. Defendant agreed to remit contributions to the Local 14 Trust Funds and agreed to be bound to the Trust Agreements, which established these trust funds. See id; Pl's. 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 2-4. Pursuant to the Trust Agreements, contributing employers must remit all fringe benefit contributions according to the procedures established by the Local 14 Trust Funds. See Pl's. 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 4; Steinberg Aff., Ex. D (Sample Local 14 Trust Agreement)*fn2 ; Steinberg Aff. at 2.

Plaintiffs contend that, from March 1, 2008, through February 28, 2009, defendant employed Local 14 members but failed to pay required fringe benefit contributions. After defendant consented to an audit, plaintiffs' audit representative reviewed defendant's payroll records and calculated a deficiency of $8,870.71, representing unpaid contributions and interest. See Steinberg Aff., Ex. E (Audit); see also Pl's. 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 5; Marlene Monterroso Aff. at 2; Steinberg Aff. at 2-3. The audit reviewed the three-year period of July 1, 2007, through February 28, 2010, which encompasses the year-long period of the alleged deficiency. See Monterroso Aff. at 2. Defendant has not paid any portion of this deficiency. See Pl's. 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 6; Edwin L. Christian Aff. at 2; Monterroso Aff. at 3.

After plaintiffs filed their complaint, defendant submitted an answer with cursory denials of plaintiffs' allegations. See Steinberg Aff., Ex. A (Complaint), Ex. B

(Answer). Although the parties engaged in settlement discussions, they were unable to reach an agreement. On January 20, 2012, defense counsel informed plaintiffs that Central Enterprises did not agree to the proposed settlement and that counsel was ending its representation. However, defense counsel did not move to be relieved, nor did he appear at a March 8, 2012 proceeding. Plaintiffs then moved for summary judgment. The Court stated that it would deem plaintiffs' motion to be unopposed if defendant did not file opposition papers by April 20, 2012. In a letter dated March 20, 2012, defendant's new counsel informed plaintiffs' counsel that Central Enterprises "has no assets with which to pay legal fees . . . or to pay a settlement or a judgment" and "[a]ccordingly, it will not oppose the summary judgment."

II.

A. Standard Governing Unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The district court must review all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, see Overton v. N.Y. State Div. of Military & Naval Affairs, 373 F.3d 83, 89 (2d Cir. 2004), and must "resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party," Byrnie v. Town of Cromwell Bd. of Educ., 243 F.3d 93, 101 (2d Cir. 2001). To defeat a "properly supported" motion for summary judgment, the non-movant "must come forward with affidavits, depositions, or other sworn evidence as permitted by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, setting forth specific facts showing that there exists a genuine issue of material fact." Rule v. Brine, Inc., 85 F.3d 1002, 1011 (2d Cir. 1996).

Even when, as here, a motion for summary judgment is unopposed, the Second Circuit has made clear that "the district court may not grant the motion without first examining the moving party's submission to determine if it has met its burden of demonstrating that no material issue of fact remains for trial." Amaker v. Foley, 274 F.3d 677, 681 (2d Cir. 2001). If the evidence submitted is insufficient to meet the moving party's burden of production, see FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c), then "summary judgment must be denied even if no opposing evidentiary matter is presented." Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Vt. Teddy Bear, 373 F.3d at 242 ("Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, governing summary judgment motions, does not embrace default judgment principles."). The undisputed facts must show that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Vt. Teddy Bear, 373 F.3d at 244; see also FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)(3) (authorizing a court to "grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that the movant is entitled to it" in cases where a party fails to address or support another party's factual assertions).

B. Merits of Plaintiffs' ERISA Claim

Plaintiffs assert that there are no material issues of fact in dispute that prevent the Court from granting judgment on plaintiffs' claim that defendant failed to pay required contributions for the ...


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