United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
July 1, 2005.
THOMAS J. MORIARTY, Trustee on behalf of the TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 727 PENSION FUND; THE TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 727 HEALTH AND WELFARE FUND; and THE TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 727 LEGAL AND EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE FUND, Plaintiffs,
HURSEN HOLDINGS CORPORATION, an Illinois corporation d/b/a HURSEN FUNERAL HOME, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
This matter comes before the court on the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth
below, Plaintiff's motion is granted and Defendant's motion is
Plaintiff Thomas Moriarty ("Moriarty") serves as trustee for
the Pension (the "Pension Fund"), Health and Welfare (the "Health
and Welfare Fund"), and Legal and Educational Assistance Funds
(the "Legal Fund") (referred to collectively as the "Funds") of the Teamsters Local Union No. 727 (the "Union").
Defendant Hursen Holdings Corporation ("Hursen") owns and
operates the Hursen Funeral Home. Hursen is an employer member of
the Funeral Directors Services Association of Greater Chicago
("FDSA"), a multi-employer organization which collectively
bargains on behalf of its members with the Union. Throughout the
relevant time period in this action, two collective bargaining
agreements existed between the Union and the FDSA, one covering
Funeral Directors and Embalmers and another covering Auto Livery
Chauffeurs.*fn1 These collective bargaining agreements,
along with the Funds' trust agreements, obligate the FDSA and
other employer members to contribute to the Funds on a monthly
basis for all bargaining unit work. Bargaining unit work under
the Livery Chauffeurs Agreement consists of auto livery chauffeur
services, including driving funeral vehicles and the
transportation of deceased individuals. When such bargaining unit
work is performed, the Funds require employers to identify the
employees for whom contributions are owed, assess the total
amount of time worked, and remit the corresponding contributions.
Under the collective bargaining agreements, FDSA
member-employers also agree to be bound by the trust agreements
creating the Funds. Under the Funds' trust agreements, trustees
reserve the right to examine and audit the books and records of each employer. Thus, if an audit identifies delinquent
contributions, the trust agreements authorize the trustees to
recover such amounts.
On February 27, 2003, Bansley & Kiener LLP, an auditor retained
by Moriarty, completed a payroll audit of Hursen to determine
Hursen's compliance with contractual and statutory contribution
obligations. The audit revealed Hursen's allegedly delinquent
contributions to the Funds for work performed by employees of
Leyden Livery ("Leyden") during the time period of August 1, 1996
through June 30, 2002 (the "audit period"). Specifically, the
audit noted a $3,030.40 delinquency to the Health and Welfare
Fund, a $2,360.30 delinquency to the Pension Fund, and a $42.60
delinquency to the Legal and Educational Assistance Fund.
Although not a FDSA employer, Leyden employed livery drivers
bound by the collective bargaining agreement between the FDSA and
the Union. During the audit period, Hursen retained Leyden to
perform livery and transportation of deceased individuals for the
funeral home. Hursen, although admitting its failure to make
contributions for work performed by Leyden employees, asserts
that it was not required to make any such contributions.
Following unsuccessful attempts to collect the allegedly
delinquent contributions, Moriarty filed an action against Hursen
claiming violations under Section 502(a)(3) of the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") and Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA").
Both parties now move for summary judgment.
The standard for summary judgment is well-established. A motion
for summary judgment can only be granted when "the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with 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.
The court's function is not to judge the credibility of the
evidence, but rather to determine if "there is a genuine issue
for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249
(1986). The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of
establishing that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). In
determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the
court must view all facts and draw all reasonable inferences in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 255. Summary judgment is appropriate only when the court
determines that no reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving
party. McKenzie v. Illinois Dept. of Transp., 92 F.3d 473, 479
(7th Cir. 1996).
When parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, each
motion must be assessed independently, in light of the burden of
proof that each party would bear on an issue at trial. Santaella v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co.,
123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997). The filing of cross-motions for
summary judgment does not operate as a waiver of trial; rather,
each motion evidences only that the movant "thinks he is entitled
to judgment without trial, but wants a trial if the judge
disagrees." Miller v. LeSea Broadcasting, 87 F.3d 224, 230 (7th
Cir. 1996). Finally, summary judgment is appropriate where a
dispute concerns an interpretation of a written contract. ICEBU
v. Hyster-Yale Materials Handling, 83 F.3d 930, 923-33 (7th Cir.
1996). Where an agreement's language is unambiguous, the court
may determine meaning as a matter of law. Illinois Conference of
Teamsters and Employers Welfare Fund v. Mrowicki, 44 F.3d 451,
478 (7th Cir. 1994). With these considerations in mind, we turn
to the parties' motions.
The present case stands in an unusual posture. In all court
proceedings, William Pierson ("Pierson"), a nonattorney, has
appeared on behalf of Hursen. According to representations
Pierson has made to this court, he is one of two shareholders of
Hursen, a closely held corporation. To date, no attorney has
filed an appearance on behalf of Hursen. Although certain limited
circumstances allow for a nonattorney to represent a corporation,
the general rule is that a corporation cannot appear without an
attorney. See Strong Delivery Ministry Ass'n v. Board of Appeals of Cook
County, 543 F.2d 32 (7th Cir. 1976).
During a status hearing held on June 9, 2005, we admonished
Pierson that Hursen had until June 16 to either obtain counsel,
or supply a notarized affidavit in which the individual owners of
Hursen acquiesced to Pierson representing the corporation before
the court. Neither event has occurred. Thus, Hursen has not
responded to Moriarty's first amended complaint and is in
default. Accordingly, Moriarty is entitled to judgment in its
favor. In addition, as explained below, the merits entitle
Moriarty to judgment as a matter of law.
When parties agree to contribute to pension plans, ERISA
Section 515 requires that they do so consistent with the law and
to the extent promised. Central States Pension Fund v. Hartlage
Truck Service, 991 F.2d 1357, 1360 (7th Cir. 1993). The first
inquiry is to determine whether Hursen agreed to make
contributions under the collective bargaining agreements.
Initially, Hursen admits that it was a FDSA member during the
audit period and that it was bound by the collective bargaining
agreements between the FDSA and the Union. Hursen further
indicated assent to the collective bargaining agreements and
trust agreements when it submitted signed contribution reports
throughout the audit period. Thus, there can be no reasonable
dispute that Hursen was bound to the collective bargaining agreements and
trust agreements during the audit period.
Next, we turn to the substance of the various agreements, which
determines Hursen's obligations to the Funds. Central States,
S.E. and S.W. Areas Pension Fund v. Kroger Co., 73 F.3d 727, 730
(7th Cir. 1996). When examining agreements in the context of an
ERISA claim courts apply federal common law rules of
interpretation. See Central States, 79 F.3d at 731-32. Courts
look to the agreement's plain text and assess it in its entirety.
Id. In addition, a "document should be read to give effect to
all of its provisions and to render them consistent with each
other." Mastrobuono v. Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc.,
514 U.S. 52, 63 (1995).
In the 1995 Restated Pension Plan, "Employer" is defined as any
FDSA member "with respect to those Employees on whose behalf . . .
contributions are made to the Pension Fund." The term
"Employee" is defined as a person in "Covered Employment"
including "any Employee of an Employer for whose employment the
Employer is obligated by an Agreement with the Union to
contribute to the Pension Fund" (emphasis added). The plain text
makes no distinction between persons directly employed by a FDSA
member versus a FDSA member's mere utilization of any employee
covered by the agreements. Thus, the plain text of the trust
agreement allows for the interpretation that contributions on
behalf of any Union employee performing work for a FDSA member are required. The language warrants no
other result because limiting the definition of employee to an
FDSA member's own employees, as Hursen suggests, would render the
entire agreement ineffectual. Further, if the FDSA
employer-member intended to make pension contributions for its
own employees only, the agreement would have contained language
to that effect. Absent such language, the agreement is expansive
and would include all employees represented by the Union,
regardless of whether their services were directly solicited by
the FDSA employer.
Interpretation of the Auto Livery Chauffeurs collective
bargaining agreement in force from March 1, 1995 to February 28,
1998 leads to the same conclusion. In the definition section of
this agreement, "Employer" is defined as the FDSA and "Employee"
is defined as any Union auto livery chauffeur "in the employ
of an Employer member" (emphasis added). Further, the agreement
requires an employer to make contributions to the Funds on behalf
of "each Employee covered by this Agreement who is in the
employ of such Employer member" (emphasis added). Given the
purpose of the collective bargaining agreement as a whole, the
phrase "in the employ of" must be read expansively to cover not
only persons directly employed by an FDSA member-employer, but
also Union employees performing bargaining unit work for an FDSA
member-employer. The intent of the agreement to cover all Union members and not
merely those in direct employment, is further manifested in
Article VIII of the agreement, labeled "Extra Chauffeur." This
particular section provides minimum rates of pay when
member-employers temporarily utilize the services of third-party
chauffeurs. Since this provision applies to the types of workers
for which Hursen contends that contributions need not be made, it
is significant that Article VIII lacks any language relieving
employer-members of their contribution obligations. In fact, the
express language of Article V of the agreement obligates
member-employers to make contributions for extra chauffeurs.
Moreover, the agreement as a whole does not contain language that
would limit the definition of "Employee" in terms of a specific
relationship to a member-employer. Rather, the plain text extends
coverage to any Union member performing the duties of a
chauffeur, regardless of specific employment relationships. Given
the critical nature of this distinction, had the parties to the
collective bargaining agreement intended to restrict the benefits
of Union membership to persons directly employed by FDSA
member-employers, such an intention would be expressly reflected;
that is not the case here.
In addition, examination of the parties' past dealings leads to
the same conclusion. When considering the intent of parties to a
collective bargaining agreement, the court may examine past
bargaining history so long as it is not inconsistent with the terms of the contract. Bhd. of Maint. of
Way Employees v. Atchison, 138 F.3d 635, 640-41 (7th Cir. 1997).
Here, both John Coli, the Union's chief negotiator for the Livery
collective bargaining agreements, and Thomas Moriarty, the FDSA's
chief negotiator for previous collective bargaining agreements,
have asserted that the Union and FDSA have historically agreed
that the collective bargaining agreements require contributions
for all bargaining unit work, regardless of employment status or
Union membership. Hursen presents no evidence to rebut the
parties' historical interpretation of the agreements. Indeed, the
July 1, 2002 Livery agreement provides that an employer who
subcontracts for livery services in violation of the provision
may be liable for contributions for the bargaining unit work
performed. Because Hursen admits to subcontracting for livery
services in its motion for summary judgment, it necessarily
follows that Hursen is liable for fund contributions on behalf of
Leyden employees performing bargaining unit work.
We therefore conclude that the agreements are lawful, the
language is unambiguous, and the history between the parties
indicates that Moriarty is entitled to delinquent contributions
to the Funds.
For the foregoing reasons, Moriarty's motion for summary
judgment is granted and Hursen's motion for summary judgment is
denied. We grant judgment in favor of the Health and Welfare Fund and against Hursen in the total
amount of $7,641.81, in favor of the Pension Fund and against
Hursen in the total amount of $6,463.56, and in favor of the
Legal Fund and against Hursen in the total amount of $151.27.
These amounts represent the total of delinquent contributions,
interest, liquidated damages, and audit costs to each Fund. Any
additional awards Moriarty wishes to pursue may be brought by
separate motion in conformity with the rules of this court.