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SULLIVAN v. WILLIAM A RANDOLPH

October 5, 2005.

JAMES T. SULLIVAN ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
WILLIAM A RANDOLPH, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and motion to strike and on Defendant William A. Randolph, Inc.'s ("Randolph") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we deny Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and their motion to strike and grant Randolph's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiffs allege that as of January 1, 2000, there was a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") in effect between Randolph and its employees' union. Plaintiffs specifically contend that Randolph agreed to be bound by a CBA in 2000 ("2000 CBA") and another CBA in 2001 ("2001 CBA"). Plaintiffs further allege that, pursuant to the CBAs, Randolph was obligated to make contributions into Plaintiffs' pension funds ("Funds") and that Randolph was obligated to permit the Funds to audit Randolph's books and records to assess Randolph's compliance with its contribution obligations. According to Plaintiffs, Randolph breached the CBAs by failing to make contributions to the Funds and by refusing to allow the Funds to audit Randolph's records. After the instant action was commenced, Randolph did allow an accounting firm hired by Plaintiffs to audit Randolph's records ("Audit") and the Audit report indicated that at least $30,997.76 was due to the Funds as of February 15, 2005. Plaintiffs brought the instant action alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., and the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 141 et seq.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In seeking a grant of summary judgment the moving party must identify "those portions of `the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences that favor the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

  DISCUSSION

  I. Motion to Strike and Local Rule 56.1

  Plaintiffs move to strike ceratin affidavits provided by Randolph that questions among other things, the authenticity of certain related documents. Randolph, however, correctly points out that all of the concerns expressed in Plaintiffs' motion to strike should have been addressed by Plaintiffs during discovery. Plaintiffs cannot remedy their own lack of diligence during discovery by seeking to strike evidence that Plaintiffs neglected to examine and investigate during discovery. Plaintiffs have not provided any sufficient justification that would warrant striking the affidavits and, therefore, we deny Plaintiffs' motion to strike.

  In regard to Local Rule 56.1, Plaintiffs make a variety of evasive responses to Randolph's statement of material facts and, therefore, such facts are deemed undisputed. Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, when a party files a motion for summary judgment, each party must prepare a statement of material facts and each party is required to respond to the opposing party's statement of material facts and either admit or deny each fact. A denial is improper if the denial is not accompanied by specific references to admissible evidence or at least evidence that represents admissible evidence. Dent v. Bestfoods, 2003 WL 22025008, at *1 n. 1 (N.D. Ill. 2003); Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 585 (N.D. Ill. 2000) (stating in addition that "[t]he purpose of the 56.1 statement is to identify for the Court the evidence supporting a party's factual assertions in an organized manner: it is not intended as a forum for factual or legal argument"). Pursuant to Rule 56.1, any facts included in a party's statement of facts that are not properly denied by the opposing party are deemed to be admitted. Local Rule 56.1; Dent, 2003 WL 22025008, at *1 n. 1; see also Jankovich v. Exelon Corp., 2003 WL 260714, at *5 (N.D.Ill. 2003) (indicating that evasive denials that do not directly oppose an assertion are improper and thus the contested fact is deemed to be admitted pursuant to Local Rule 56.1). A court is not "obliged in our adversary system to scour the record looking for factual disputes and may adopt local rules reasonably designed to streamline the resolution of summary judgment motions." Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920, 922 (7th Cir. 1994) (stating in addition that a local rule pertaining to summary judgment "is more than a technicality"). Further, the 7th Circuit has held "that a district court is entitled to expect strict compliance with Rule 56.1." Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004) (stating in addition that "[s]ubstantial compliance is not strict compliance").

  In the instant action, a variety of facts are apparently contested by Plaintiffs, but when the requirements of Local Rule 56.1 are applied, these facts are deemed undisputed. For example, Randolph asserts in its statement of fact paragraph 4 that Randolph has not employed covered employees since 1997 and did not employ covered employees during the Audit period. (D SF 4). Plaintiffs respond by stating that the facts are disputed in part. In an effort to avoid the fact that Plaintiffs have no evidence to contradict Randolph's statement of fact, Plaintiffs simply make a facial challenge, without proper justification, to the evidence presented by Randolph.

  II. Whether Randolph Was Bound by CBAs

  Randolph argues that after 1997, when it made some contributions for two isolated months, Randolph was not a party to a CBA associated with Plaintiffs and in particular was not a party to the 2000 CBA or the 2001 CBA. Randolph argues that it is not obligated under either the 2000 CBA or the 2001 CBA. In fact Plaintiffs concede that Randolph is not a signatory on the 2000 CBA. Rather, Plaintiffs argue that Randolph impliedly joined the CBAs in light of its prior conduct. See Moriarty v. Larry G. Lewis Funeral Directors Ltd., 150 F.3d 773, 777 (7th Cir. 1998) (stating that the "general principles of contract law permit an employer to adopt a collective bargaining agreement by a course of conduct plus a writing such as the certification line on the contribution report; a signature at the bottom of the collective bargaining agreement itself is unnecessary"). Specifically, Plaintiffs point out that Randolph paid contributions to the Funds for work done in June and July of 1997. Randolph also points out that after 1997, Randolph continued to file monthly reports with the Funds for 2½ years prior to the Audit period and that Randolph attempted to formally terminate its participation in the CBAs on February 17, 2005.

  We note also that Plaintiffs blatantly misstate the facts in this case in an effort to cloud the issues at hand. Plaintiffs argue that "[e]ven if there were no executed agreement covering 2000, which Defendant does not actually contend, Defendant would still be bound by virtue of having paid contributions and filed reports for 2½ years prior to 2000 and for the entire year 2000 and for 3½ years thereafter." (Ans. D SJ 4) (emphasis added). Such a statement suggests that during 2000 and afterwards, Randolph filed monthly statements and made contributions for covered work done by members of the bargaining unit. However, a close examination of Plaintiffs' generalized statement reveals that it is in fact inaccurate. It is undisputed pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 that Randolph only employed members of the bargaining unit that were covered by the CBA during June and July of 1997, and that Randolph only made contributions during that period. Although Randolph admits to continuing to file ...


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