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CHICAGO DIST. COUN. OF CARP. PENSION FUND v. DK ENV. SYS.

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division


March 6, 2003

CHICAGO DISTRICT COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS PENSION FUND, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DK ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS, INC., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This action arises under Section 502 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") and Section 301 of the Taft-Hartley Act. 29 U.S.C. § 1132 and 185. The Chicago and Northeast Illinois District Council of Carpenters ("Union") entered into an agreement with DK Environmental Systems, Inc., under which DK agreed to submit monthly reports listing the number of hours worked by its carpenter employees and to pay fringe benefits to the Union's Trust Funds based upon these listed hours. Pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Trust Funds obtained certified payroll documents, which indicated hours worked by DK's carpenter employees. Once the Trust Funds received these documents, they were able to determine that the monthly reports submitted by DK allegedly understated the amount of hours worked by its carpenter employees and subsequently failed to pay $28,726.10 in contributions for the period of March 2001 through December 2001. As a result of their findings, the Trust Funds filed suit against DK.*fn1 On or about December 11, 2002, the Trust Funds served DK with several discovery requests) including a request for admissions. Within this request was a specific request for DK to admit that it failed to pay the aforementioned $28,726.10 plus statutory damages. DK failed to respond or deny the admission within 30 days. On the basis of this failure to deny, the Trust Funds moved for summary judgment. In response, DK moved for leave to file an answer to the Trust Funds' original request for admissions denying that it owes the entire amount.

DK's Motion for Leave to File an Answer

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36, DK's failure to respond to the Trust Funds' request for admissions within 30 days deems the requested admissions admitted. See United States v. Kasuboski, 834 F.2d 1345, 1349 (7th Cir. 1987). While this is a true statement of the law, I believe that its application in the present case would be too harsh a penalty to impose on DK, especially in light of the fact that the request was served simultaneously with other discovery. DK freely admits that it neglected the request for admission, and similar neglect was the same basis on which leave to file a late answer to a request for admission was granted in Marshall v. Sunshine and Leisure, Inc., 496 F. Supp. 354 (M.D. Fla. 1980). While I do not condone OK's behavior, I see no reason why I should not exercise discretion to allow them to file a late answer to the request for admission as the court did in Marshall. See also Ameribanc Sav. Banks, F.S.B. v. Resolution Trust Corp., 858 F. Supp. 576 (E.D. Va, 1994). Accordingly, I grant leave and hereby incorporate DK's answer to the request, filed instanter, into the summary judgment record.

Trust Funds' Summary Judgment Motion

Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue of material fact thus entitling the Trust Funds to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence for a jury to return a verdict in favor of DK on any particular issue. Methodist Medical Center of Illinois v. American Medical Sec. Inc., 38 F.3d 316, 319 (7th Cir. 1994). For the purposes of this motion, I must draw all justifiable inferences in the light most favorable to DK and must resolve any doubt against the Trust Funds. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

The Trust Funds claim that, based on DK's failure to answer its request for admissions, it is undisputed that they are owed $28,726.10 from March 2001 through December 2001. DK denies that it owes the entire amount,*fn2 but this blanket denial does not entirely preclude summary judgment because it is undisputed that DK owes at least $22,558.06 of the amount for November and December 2001 and $5,4441.94 in statutory damages. As such, summary judgment is appropriate as it relates to these amounts and is thus granted in favor of the Trust Funds. Hedberg v. Indiana Bell Telephone Co., Inc., 47 F.3d 928 (7th Cir. 1995); Transportation Communications Intern. Union v. CSX Transp., Inc., 30 F.3d 903, 904 (7th Cir. 1994). Summary judgment is inappropriate, however, as to the remaining $6,168.04 allegedly owed from March 2001 through October 2001 and any statutory damages for this amount. As such, summary judgment is denied as it relates to these amounts.

For the reasons above, DK's Motion for Leave of Court to Respond to Plaintiff's Request to Admit Pursuant to Rule 36(B), Instanter is GRANTED and the Trust Funds' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


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