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Natale v. Central Parking Systems of New York Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

August 5, 2013

RALPH NATALE, ROY KOHN, DAVID PEREZ AND KIRK CONAWAY, AS TRUSTEES OF HEALTH FUND 917 AND THE LOCAL 917 PENSION FUND; HEALTH FUND 917 and THE LOCAL 917 PENSION FUND, Plaintiffs,
v.
CENTRAL PARKING SYSTEMS OF NEW YORK. INC. and SONYA MITCHELL, Defendants

For the Plaintiffs: Susan M. Bruno, Esq., Of Counsel, Law Offices of Campbell & Associates, Floral Park, NY.

For the Defendants: Douglas E. Rowe, Esq., Of Counsel, Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman, LLP, East Meadow, NY.

Page 408

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

ARTHUR D. SPATT, United States District Judge.

On November 26, 2010, the Plaintiffs John Vacca, David Perez, Kirk Conway, and Roy Kohn as Trustees of the Health Fund 917 and the Local 917 Pension Fund and the Health Fund 917 and the Local

Page 409

917 Pension Fund (collectively the " Plaintiffs" ) commenced this action against the Defendants Central Parking System of New York, Inc. (" Central" ) and John Doe (collectively the " Defendants" ). On April 18, 2012, the Court granted the Defendants' motion to amend the complaint and substitute Sonya Mitchell (" Mitchell" ) in place of John Doe.

Presently before the Court is the Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (" Fed. R. Civ. P." ) 56 to dismiss the damages claims on behalf of fourteen employees of Central. For the following reasons, the Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Central is a New York company operating parking locations throughout New York. The Plaintiffs Ralph Natale, Kirk Conaway, Roy Cohn, and David Perez are trustees and fiduciaries of Health Fund 917 and the 917 Pension Fund (the " Funds" ). The Funds were established pursuant to collective bargaining agreements (" CBAs" ) entered into between Local 917 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the " Union" ) and various employers operating in the New York City Metropolitan area, including Central. The CBAs required these employers to make certain contributions to the Funds for covered employees.

Excluded from the CBAs are " [s]upervisory employees, including but not limited to managers, assistant managers, supervisors and assistant supervisors . . . with the authority to hire, promote, discipline, or otherwise effect changes in the status of employees or effectively recommend such action" (" Status Authority" ). (Decl. of Douglas Rowe Ex. A ¶ 30.) Also, " [p]rofessional, clerical, maintenance, inventory, secretarial, security/guards [sic], and management employees are excluded from the [CBAs]." (Rowe Decl. Ex. A ¶ ¶ 30-31.)

In June 2010, the accounting firm of Steinberg, Steckler & Picciuro performed an audit of Central's payroll records, including contributions made to the Funds for the period of July 1, 2004 through December 31, 2004. The firm allegedly discovered $86,975.86 in unpaid health contributions and $17,590.08 in unpaid pension contributions on the part of Central.

On November 26, 2010, the Plaintiffs filed this complaint pursuant to sections 404, 406, 502, and 515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (" ERISA" ), against Central and John Doe. The claims against Central were brought to compel contributions due to the Plaintiff Funds that were identified during the audit.

On November 26, 2010, the Plaintiffs filed this complaint pursuant to sections 404, 406, 502, and 515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (" ERISA" ), against Central and John Doe. The claims against Central were brought to compel contributions due to the Plaintiff Funds that were identified during the audit.

In addition, the Plaintiffs brought three separate causes of action only against the Defendant John Doe. In particular, the Complaint alleged that, " Doe was a person with discretion and/or authority to pay contribution[s] to the Health Fund 917 and the Local 917 Pension Fund on behalf of Central," and " Doe exercised authority and/or control over payment of contributions and monies due to the Fund from Central." (Compl. ¶ ¶ 31-32.) Therefore, the claims against Doe are premised in part on the allegation that Doe caused Central not to make the required contributions, thus breaching Doe's fiduciary duty under Section 404 of ERISA.

On October 28, 2011, the last day of discovery, the Plaintiffs deposed Sonya Mitchell, Central's payroll manager. According to the Plaintiffs, they learned at that time that Mitchell was the person (1) vested by Central with discretion and control over payment of the allegedly delinquent contributions and (2) who determined not to pay the amounts at issue in this case.

Page 410

On April 18, 2012, the Court granted the Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint and add Sonya Mitchell as a defendant in place of John Doe.

On March 16, 2013 the Defendants filed this motion for Partial Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 with regard to damages for twenty eight employees and also sought an order directing the Plaintiffs to furnish a newly revised auditor's findings. The Defendants maintained that the auditor's findings were flawed insofar as the audit included twenty eight employees that were purportedly excluded from the CBAs. The Plaintiffs conceded that fourteen of the twenty eight disputed employees were incorrectly included.

Therefore, after the Defendants filed their Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, the Plaintiffs removed from the action their claims for damages for fourteen employees. The remaining fourteen employees (the " disputed employees" ) are Christine A. Joule, Manager; Koduah Mensah, Manager; Robert Gonzalez, Supervisor; Kwaku Boama, Manager; Robert Floreska, Manager/New York Supervisor; Suruj Persaud, Assistant Manager; Henry Amartey, Assistant Manager/New York Supervisor; Charles Pryor, Supervisor; Kenrick McPherson, Supervisor; Gabriel Alexis, Manager; Esmeralda Beaujuin, Assistant Manager/New York Supervisor; Mehari Haile, Assistant Manager; Victor Santana, Maintenance Supervisor; Dioncio Dominguez, Manager.

With respect to these fourteen disputed employees, the Plaintiffs insist that although Central has shown that they were managers, assistant managers, or supervisors, Central must also show that each and every one of them had Status Authority as well. Central contends that all of its managers, assistant managers, supervisors and assistant supervisors enjoy Status Authority by virtue of their position and that management employees are excluded from the CBAs regardless of Status Authority. In response, the Plaintiffs point to contributions made by Central on behalf of some managers, assistant managers, and supervisors as proof that not all managers and assistant managers are excluded. The Defendants assert that these contributions were made in error and do not bear on its position that all such employees have Status Authority and are thus excluded from the CBAs.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

" [S]ummary judgment is appropriate where there exists no genuine issue of material fact and based on the undisputed facts, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 272 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting D'Amico v. City of New York, 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir. 1998)) (internal quotation marks omitted). " In deciding whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, [the Court] must interpret all ambiguities and draw all factual inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Id. (citing Ford v. McGinnis, 352 F.3d 582, 587 (2d Cir. 2003).

In Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986), the Supreme Court explained that Rule 56 " mandates the entry of summary judgment . . . against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322. Accord Virgin A. Airways v. British Airways, 257 F.3d 256, 273 (2d Cir. 2001); Citizens Bank of Clearwater v. Hunt, 927 F.2d 707, ...


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