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TRANSPERSONNEL, INC. v. ROADWAY EXPRESS

April 21, 2004.

TRANSPERSONNEL, INC., Plaintiff
v.
ROADWAY EXPRESS, INC., Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Transpersonnel, Inc. ("Transpersonnel") filed a two-count complaint against Roadway Express, Inc. ("Roadway"). In Count I, Transpersonnel seeks a declaratory judgment that Roadway is an "employer" under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act ("MPPAA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1381-1453. In the alternative, in Count II, Transpersonnel seeks a declaratory judgment that Roadway is obligated under a written agreement with Transpersonnel to reimburse Transpersonnel for any withdrawal liability relating to the Local 705 International Brotherhood of Teamsters Pension Fund ("Pension Fund").

The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment on both counts. For the reasons stated herein, summary judgment is granted as to Count I in favor of Transpersonnel. Given that Transpersonnel seeks the relief in Count n as an alternative, the Court need not reach Count n. Accordingly, Count II is dimissed without prejudice as moot.

  LEGAL STANDARDS

  Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law," Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Pugh v. City of Attica, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986)). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510. The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). A party will successfully oppose summary judgment only if it presents "definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion." Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. Roebuck & Co., 233 F.3d 432, 437 (7th Cir. 2000). The Court "considers the evidentiary record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor." Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002).

  On cross motions for summary judgment, each movant must individually satisfy the requirements of Rule 56. Proviso Ass'n of Retarded Citizens v. Village of Westchester, 914 F. Supp. 1555, 1560 (N.D. Ill. 1996). Thus, the traditional standards for summary judgment still apply even though both parties have moved for summary judgment. Blum v. Fisher and Fisher, Attorneys at Law, 961 F. Supp. 1218, 1222 (N.D. Ill. 1997). The Court considers the merits of each cross motion separately and draws all reasonable inferences and resolves all factual uncertainties against the party whose motion is under consideration. Chicago Truck Drivers, Helpers and Warehouse Workers Union (Ind.) Pension Fund v. Kelly, No. 95 C 0501, 1996 WL 507258, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 4, 1996).

  BACKGROUND

  On May 2, 1986, Roadway and Transpersonnel entered into a written agreement ("Agreement") pursuant to which Transpersonnel agreed to lease truck drivers to Roadway for Roadway to use in its operations as a common carrier. (R. 18-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 9; R. 26-1, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Response ¶ 9; R. 20-1, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 1; R. 28-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Response ¶ 1.) Transpersonnel executed successive collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs") with the leased drivers' union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffers, Warehousemen, and Helpers of America ("Union"). (R. 20-1, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 2; R. 28-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Response ¶ 2.) The CBAs obligated Transpersonnel to make contributions to the Pension Fund. (Id. ¶ 3.) Roadway did not sign the CBAs. (Id. ¶ 4.)

  The Agreement required Roadway to reimburse Transpersonnel for the contributions that Transpersonnel made to the Pension Fund. (R. 18-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 15; R. 26-1, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Response ¶ 15.) Schedule A of the Agreement provides in part:
[Roadway] agrees to reimburse [Transpersonnel], at cost, for all applicable employee benefits, including health, welfare and pension fund contributions, and other similar items paid to or on behalf of [Transpersonnel's] employees as a result of a union agreement obligation, including benefits furnished, paid, or accruing of any statute, regulation or rule related to such agreement, benefit or payment. [Roadway] agrees that [Transpersonnel's] right to payment for the amounts specified survives any cancellation of the main agreement.
(Id. ¶ 15) (emphasis added.)

  If Roadway became displeased with a particular leased driver, Roadway had the authority to instruct Transpersonnel not to send that driver back to Roadway. (Id. ¶ 34.) Further, Roadway had authority to dispatch the leased drivers, direct the loading and unloading of vehicles, set the drivers' routes, and direct the drivers as to pick-ups, deliveries, and other matters related to the drivers' day-to-day operations. (Id. ¶ 11.)

  Roadway terminated the Agreement in 1992, and Transpersonnel thereafter stopped making contributions to the Pension Fund on behalf of the leased drivers. (Id. ¶ 36.) On July 1, 2002, the Pension Fund issued a Notice and Demand on Transpersonnel for partial withdrawal liability under the MPPAA for the years 1995, 1997, and 1998, totaling $441,846.96.*fn1 (R. 18-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 38; R. 26-1, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Response ¶ 38; R. 20-1, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 7; R. 28-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Response ¶ 7.) The Pension Fund requested Transpersonnel to make interim payments on this liability, and Transpersonnel requested review of the Pension Fund's Notice and Demand. (Compl. ¶¶ 18-19.) Transpersonnel filed a demand for arbitration on the issue of the amount of its withdrawal liability. (Id. ¶ 21.) The Pension Fund has not pursued Roadway for withdrawal liability. (R. 18-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 39; R. 26-1, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Response ¶ 39; R. 20-1, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 8; R. 28-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Response ¶ 8.)

  ANALYSIS

 I. The MPPAA Statutory Framework

  Under the MPPAA, "[i]f an employer withdraws from a multi-employer plan in a complete withdrawal or a partial withdrawal, then the employer is liable to the plan in the amount determined under this part to be the withdrawal liability." 29 U.S.C. § 1381(a). "The primary purpose of the legislation is to protect retirees and workers who are participants in such [multi-employer pension] plans against the loss of their pensions. The Act is designated to foster plan continuation and growth because plan continuation and growth provide participants and ...


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