Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

CENTRAL STATES v. PNEUMATIC TRUCKING

December 3, 2004.

CENTRAL STATES, SOUTHEAST and SOUTHWEST AREAS PENSION FUND, and HOWARD McDOUGALL, Plaintiffs,
v.
PNEUMATIC TRUCKING, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRY LEINENWEBER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, a multi-employer benefit plan and trust, and Howard McDougall, a Central States trustee, (hereinafter, collectively "Central States") bring this ERISA action to recover delinquent contributions allegedly owed by Defendant Pneumatic Trucking, Inc. (hereinafter, "Pneumatic"), an employer. Central States claims Pneumatic owes contributions for the period of June 1, 2003 through July 31, 2004 pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement and a participation agreement. Before the Court are both parties' Motions for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, Central States' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part and Pneumatic's Motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

  Central States is an employee benefit plan and trust financed by contributions paid by multiple participating employers pursuant to collective bargaining agreements with local International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("IBT") unions. (Stip. Facts ¶¶ 1-2). Central States holds and invests contributions to provide benefits to plan participants and beneficiaries. See id. ¶ 2. Pneumatic is an employer who made contributions to the Central States fund.

  On or about June 19, 2000, Pneumatic and Teamsters Local 406 entered into a collective bargaining agreement covering the period from November 29, 1999 through July 31, 2004 (the "CBA"). See id. ¶ 7. The CBA required that Pneumatic make weekly contributions to Central States on behalf of its bargaining unit employees. (Pls. SOF ¶ 8). Pneumatic and Local 406 also entered into a participation agreement with an effective date of November 29, 1999 (the "PA"), which set forth the terms and conditions for Pneumatic's participation in the pension fund. (Stip. Facts ¶ 5). Under the PA and the CBA, Pneumatic was bound by the Central States Trust Agreement, the Central States Pension Plan, and all rules and regulations adopted by the Trustees of the Pension Fund. (Pls. SOF ¶¶ 16-17).

  Pneumatic claims that in January 2001, it agreed with Local 406 to amend the CBA such that Pneumatic would be obligated to contribute to a 401(k) plan instead of contributing to Central States. (Def. SOF ¶ 9). In 2002, the IBT transferred the bargaining rights from Local 406 to Local 164. (Stip. Facts ¶ 11). Although Central States denies that an agreement existed between Pneumatic and Local 406 after the January meeting, both parties agree that the proposed amendment was not reduced to writing and signed by the parties until after the IBTs transferred administration of Pneumatic's collective bargaining agreement to Teamsters Local 164. (D. SOF ¶ 10). A facsimile sent by Thomas Freyling, an employee of Local 406, containing proposed language for the amendment was sent prior to the time when the parties executed a written agreement.

  The parties exchanged various items of correspondence in 2003, including a letter on October 22, 2003 from a Pneumatic attorney to Central States' manager of collections. The letter also copied Central States' Contracts Department and was sent by certified mail. In the letter, Pneumatic claims that it had not been obligated to contribute to Central States since May 11, 2003. (Oct. 22 letter, Ex. P). The letter also indicates that Pneumatic is no longer obligated to contribute due to an agreement with Local 406. See id. Pneumatic enclosed an unsigned copy of sample language for the proposed amendment sent by Local 406 employee Freyling with the letter.

  Beginning about January 11, 2003, Pneumatic requested that Local Union 164 enter into a written amendment of the CBA to provide for a 401(k) plan rather than contributions to Central States. (Stip. Facts ¶ 13). Local 164 did not comply with this request. See id. Pneumatic filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB against Local 164. See id. ¶ 12. The parties eventually agreed to settle the case, and in December 2003, Local 164 entered into a settlement agreement with Pneumatic. See id., Ex. H. Under the settlement agreement, Local 164 agreed to sign the contract amendment proposed by Pneumatic, provided that it was approved by a majority of the bargaining unit. See id., Ex. I-J. A majority of the bargaining unit approved Pneumatic's proposal on January 31, 2004. See id. ¶ 17. On May 5, 2004, Local 164 executed the amendment requiring Pneumatic to switch from contributions to Central States to the 401(k) plan, which purports to be effective on June 1, 2003 (the "Amendment"). See id. Central States did not participate in the NLRB proceeding or the NLRB settlement and did not sign or participate in the negotiation of the Amendment. (Priede Aff. ¶ 27). Pneumatic asserts that a copy of the Amendment was received by Central States' Contracts Department on July 16, 2004. (Pls. SOF ¶ 55). Central States conversely claims that it did not receive a signed copy of the Amendment until August 11, 2004. (Pls. ASOF ¶ 76).

  Pneumatic ceased making contributions to Central States on June 1, 2003. See id. ¶ 75. Pneumatic also stopped making contributions to the § 401(k) plan for the period prior to July 31, 2004. See id. ¶ 77. II. LEGAL STANDARD

  A. Applicable Law

  Central States bring this Motion under Section 515 of ERISA, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 1145. Section 515 of ERISA provides that:
Every employer who is obligated to make contributions to a multi-employer plan under the terms of the plan or under the terms of a collectively bargained agreement shall, to the extent not inconsistent with law, make such contributions in accordance with the terms and conditions of such plan or agreement.
29 U.S.C. § 1145 (1994). Section 515 gives pension funds, the right to "enforce the writings according to their terms." Central States, Southeast & Southwest Areas Pension Fund v. Gerber Truck Serv., Inc., 870 F.2d 1148, 1149 (7th Cir. 1989) (en banc) ("Gerber"). There is no dispute that Central States is a multi-employer plan and that Pneumatic is an employer within the meaning of the statute. (Stipulation of Facts ¶¶ 2, 4). Therefore, the Court must look to the language of the agreements at issue to determine the extent of Pneumatic's contributions obligations.
  A successful fund under Section 515 may receive various forms of relief. Section 502(g)(2) of ERISA provides:
(2) In any action under this subchapter by a fiduciary for or on behalf of a plan to enforce section 1145 of this title in which a judgment in favor of the plan is awarded, the court shall award the plan —
(a) the unpaid contributions;
(b) interest on the unpaid contributions;
(c) an amount equal to the greater of —
(i) interest on the unpaid contributions, or (ii) liquidated damages provided for under the plan in an amount not in excess of 20 percent . . .;
(d) reasonable attorney's fees and costs . . .; and
(e) such other legal or equitable relief as the court deems appropriate.
. . . interest on unpaid contributions shall be determined by using the rate provided under the plan, or, if none, the rate prescribed under . . . Title 26.
29 U.S.C. 1132 (g) (2).

  B. Applicable Agreements

  1. The ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.