overpayments of pension contributions. With those facts in mind, the court finds that the interpretation adopted by the Board is a reasonable interpretation of the plan's language and the evidence in the case and, accordingly, cannot be found to be arbitrary and capricious.
Second, a review of the 1995-2000 Agreement, which the Board also reviewed prior to making its ruling, buttresses the Board's interpretation of the predecessor collective bargaining agreement, the 1989-1995 Agreement. According to the Board's decision, the 1989-1995 Agreement concluded at a Benefit Class 16C. The 1995-2000 Agreement lists does not list specific Benefit Class levels, but sets forth rates which correspond with Benefit Class levels 16C, 17b(A), 17b(B), 17b(C), and 17b(D), respectively, for the five years of the agreement's viability. But the 1995-2000 Agreement restricts the increases to single level increments, and requires employers to remain at each benefit level for at least twelve months. Also, because the two agreements overlap, the initial 1995-2000 Agreement Benefit Class level must be the same as the final rate of the 1989-1995 Agreement. Therefore, if Gateway was classified at a Benefit Class 15C for the entire duration of the earlier contract, Gateway would not reach Benefit Class 17 status until the third year of the 1995-2000 Agreement (level 15 for the initial year, 1995, level 16 for the second year, 1996, and level 17 for the third, fourth, and fifth years). Put another way, an interpretation contrary to that of the Board would have two effects. First, Gateway would have to pay for pension contributions relating to Benefit Class 16 rates, but, for the entire 1996 year, its employees would receive benefits computed using the Benefit Class 15C variable. Second, Gateway would pay a total of $ 96,000 more than the amount necessary to fund the Benefit Class 15 benefit level. These effects would be unjust not only to the Gateway retirees but to Gateway itself.
Upon consideration of the above facts, which were all presented to and considered by the Board prior to its decision, the court finds the Board's decision to be well-grounded in reason. Gateway failed to provide the court with any evidence to show that the Board disregarded an important document or failed to appreciate a certain document's significance. Absent direction by Gateway, and after the court's own research of the data submitted to the Board, the court concludes that the Board based its decision that the relevant contract provisions obligated Gateway to make the alleged overpayments to be reasonable, just, and consistent with the relevant contract terms. The Board's determination was not arbitrary and capricious, and thus its decision that the payments were mandated by the pension plan and trust agreement must stand. As a result, the court need not discuss whether equity favors the return of the alleged mistakenly-paid contributions. Nevertheless, the court will continue.
B. Equitable Restitution
Even if the court found the Board's decision to be arbitrary and capricious, it nonetheless would have denied the motion because "the equities do not favor" restitution. Central States argues that "there is no equity in Gateway's claim because Central States and Gateway's retirees changed their positions based upon Gateway's payments." The court agrees.
The common law action of restitution is "a device to avoid unjust enrichment." Central States Health and Welfare Fund v. Pathology Labs. of Ark., P.A., 71 F.3d 1251 (7th Cir. 1995). Gateway claims that it is deserving of the $ 440,000 reimbursement because it paid the amount "by mistake." However, Gateway overlooks a very important fact: Central States relied upon this supposed mistake to its detriment; to date, Central States paid Gateway retirees $ 280,000.35 (using Gateway's calculation) in excess of the Benefit Class 15C amounts. Further, Central States forecasts that it will pay a total of $ 1.3 million as a result of the alleged overpayment. Gateway disputes the $ 1.3 million figure, but itself figures the amount to be approximately $ 900,000. In other words, the facts in the record reveal that Central States did not receive an enrichment -- a necessary predicate to a finding of unjust enrichment -- as a result of the alleged overpayments. Instead, Gateway has received exactly what it paid for, increased pension benefits for its retired employees, and Central States will pay $ 1.3 million more than it would have had Gateway made Benefit Class 15C contributions the entirety of the contract period. Absent an enrichment, let alone an unjust one, the court finds that Gateway is not equitably entitled to a refund of its $ 440,000 in supposed excess contributions. See Construction Indus. Ret. Fund v. Kasper Trucking, Inc., 10 F.3d 465, 467 (7th Cir. 1993) ("The welfare fund pooled the money to provide [health care] benefits for all persons on whose behalf contributions were made. Because the drivers received the health coverage for which they paid for . . ., no one is entitled to restitution."). Accordingly, the court would have granted Central States motion, thus denying that of Gateway, had the court found that the Board's decision was arbitrary and capricious.
Because the Board's decision (that the applicable contract provisions obligated Gateway to make the alleged overpayments) was not arbitrary and capricious, the court is without authority to overturn the Board's ruling. However, had the court found the Board's determination to be unreasonable and factually unsupported, it would have nevertheless found that the relevant equitable factors out against ordering restitution.
As a result of the above holdings, the court makes the following findings:
(1) Regarding Central State's Complaint in Case No. 95 C 5020, the court declares that Gateway is not entitled to the requested refund amount, and enters judgment in favor of Central States and against Gateway;
(2) Regarding Gateway's Counterclaim in Case No. 95 C 5020, the court finds that the undisputed facts in the record do not warrant equitable restitution, and enters judgment in favor of Central States and against Gateway;
(3) Because the court enters judgment in favor of Central States on both the original Complaint and the Counterclaim in 95 C 5020, the court terminates the case. That case is dismissed in its entirety;
(4) Regarding Gateway's Complaint in Case No. 95 C 5066, the court finds that the undisputed facts in the record do not warrant equitable restitution, and enters judgment in favor of Central States and against Gateway;
(5) Because the court enters judgment in favor of Central States on the Complaint in 95 C 5066, the court terminates the case. That case, too, is dismissed in its entirety.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
CHARLES RONALD NORGLE, SR., Judge
United States District Court
JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE
Decision by Court. This action came to a hearing before the Court. The issues have been heard and a decision has been rendered.
IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that in Case No. 95C 5020, judgment is entered in favor of Central States and against Gateway on Centeral States Complaint and on Gateway's counterclaim, judgment is entered in favor of Central States and agains Gateway. In Case No. 95 C 5066, judgment is entered in favor of Central States and against Gateway on Gateway's Complaint. Both Case Nos., 95 C 5020 and 95C 5066 are hereby dismissed int their entirety.
December 17, 1996