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.

Board of Trustees of the Pipe v. Master-Tech Refrigeration Service

December 8, 2010

BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE PIPE FITTERS RETIREMENT FUND, LOCAL 597; BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE PIPE FITTERS WELFARE FUND, LOCAL 597; BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE PIPE FITTERS TRAINING FUND, LOCAL 597; BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE CHICAGO AREA MECHANICAL CONTRACTING INDUSTRY IMPROVEMENT TRUST; THE PIPE FITTERS' ASSOCIATION, LOCAL 597 U.A.; BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE PIPE FITTERS' INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNT AND 401(K) PLAN; AND BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE PIPE FITTING COUNCIL OF GREATER CHICAGO, PLAINTIFFS/COUNTER-DEFENDANTS,
v.
MASTER-TECH REFRIGERATION SERVICE, CORP., DEFENDANT/COUNTER-PLAINTIFFS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael T. Mason, United States Magistrate Judge:

Hon. Michael T. Mason

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is plaintiffs/counter-defendants' motion to dismiss defendant/counter-plaintiff Master-Tech Refrigeration Service, Corp.'s counterclaim [23] and memorandum of law in support thereof [24]. Defendant has filed a response [34] and plaintiffs have filed a reply [40]. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

Plaintiffs bring this action pursuant to § 502 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132, and § 301 of the Labor Management-Relations Act ("LMRA"),29 U.S.C. § 185. (Compl. ¶ 1[1].) Plaintiffs include the Boards of Trustees of the Pipe Fitters Retirement Fund, the Pipe Fitters Welfare Fund, the Pipe Fitters Training Fund and the Pipe Fitters Individual Account and 401(k) Plan (collectively, the "Trust Funds"). (Id. ¶ 3.) Those Board of Trustees plaintiffs are authorized to administer the Trust Funds, which receive contributions from various employers pursuant to collective bargaining agreements between the employers and the Pipe Fitters Association, Local Union 597 (the "Union"). (Id.) Plaintiffs also include the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Area Mechanical Contractors Industry Improvement Trust (the "Industry Fund") and the Board of Trustees of the Pipe Fitting Council of Greater Chicago ("PFCGC"), which are authorized to administer the Industry Fund and the PFCGC, respectively. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.)

According to the allegations of plaintiffs' one-count complaint, defendant Master-Tech Refrigeration Service, Corp. ("Master-Tech") entered into a Subscription Agreement whereby it agreed to be bound by the provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") negotiated between the Union and the Mechanical Contractors Association. (Id. ¶ 9; see also Compl. at Ex. 1 - Subscription Agreement; CBA, Compl. at Ex. 2 - CBA.) Plaintiffs also allege that pursuant to the provisions of the Subscription Agreement and the CBA, Master-Tech became bound by the provisions of the Agreements and Declarations of Trust (collectively, the "Trust Agreements") that created the Trust Funds. (Id. ¶ 10.)

Relying on the provisions of the CBA and the Trust Agreements, plaintiffs contend that Master-Tech is required to provide monthly contribution reports of hours worked by "covered employees" and to pay contributions to the Trust Funds, the Industry Fund and the PFCGC for each hour worked at the negotiated rate. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiffs further allege that pursuant to the terms of the Trust Agreements, Master-Tech must pay monthly contributions to the Trust Funds for all owners or owners' family members who perform any covered work under the CBA based on the greater of (1) the number of hours worked by the owner or owner's family member under the CBA, or (2) 155 hours (the "155 Hour Rule"). (Id. ¶ 12; see also, Compl. at Exs. 3A, 3B, and 3C -Amendments to Trust Agreements.) The monthly reports and contributions are due on or before the 15th day of the calendar month following the calendar month in which the work was performed. (Compl. ¶ 12.)

According to plaintiffs' allegations, an audit of Master-Tech's payroll records on October 6, 2009 revealed a deficiency of $6,209.10 in unpaid contributions for the period of November 1, 2006 through June 30, 2009. (Id. ¶ 16; see also, Audit Report, Compl. at Ex. 4.) Plaintiffs further allege that Master-Tech owes a minimum of $20,897.57 in working contractor contributions under the terms of the Trust Agreements. (Compl. ¶ 17.) Lastly, plaintiffs allege that Master-Tech failed to submit monthly contribution reports for the period of September 2009 through February 2010, the review of which may reveal additional unpaid amounts. (Id. ¶ 18.)

Plaintiffs seek a judgment in their favor consisting of (1) $6,209.10 in deficient payments; (2) $20,897.57 in unpaid working contractor contributions; (3) $2,710.67 in liquidated damages, as well as $2,027.98 in unpaid interest pursuant to the provisions of the CBA, the Trust Agreements and § 502 of ERISA; and (4) reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. Plaintiffs also seek any other contributions, liquidated damages, attorneys' fees, or auditor fees that may be found due and owing upon further review of Master-Tech's missing contribution reports.

Master-Tech filed its answer denying liability to plaintiffs and also filed a counterclaim [15]. In its counterclaim, Master-Tech alleges the following: at all relevant times Master-Tech was a signatory to a collective bargaining agreement with the Union whereby it made payments for fringe benefit contributions and/or dues to the Trust Funds, PFCGC and the Union. (Countercl. ¶ 8.) With respect to the 155 Hour Rule discussed above, Master-Tech disputes that the plaintiffs "were authorized to enact and enforce the 155 Hour Rule" or that Master-Tech is obligated to pay plaintiffs in accordance with that Rule. (Id. ¶ 9-11.)

As such, Master-Tech alleges that any payments Master-Tech made under the 155 Hour Rule were unauthorized and should be returned. According to Master-Tech, it would be "inequitable" to allow plaintiffs to retain such payments. (Id. ¶ 12.) Master-Tech further alleges that because it made payments to plaintiffs by mistake, the retention of those payments would also be inequitable. (Id. ¶ 13.) Lastly, Master-Tech alleges that plaintiffs were unjustly enriched by the payments made pursuant to the 155 Hour Rule and those made by mistake. (Id. ¶ 14.) Based on those allegations, Master-Tech asks the Court to declare the 155 Hour Rule invalid, unenforceable, and/or unauthorized and to order plaintiffs to return to Master-Tech all monies paid under the 155 Hour Rule and all monies paid by mistake, plus interest thereon.

Plaintiffs now move to dismiss Master-Tech's counterclaim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Specifically, plaintiffs argue that (1) under no possible circumstances could the equities favor a refund to Master-Tech; (2) Master-Tech acquiesced to the increased contribution requirement and retained its benefit; (3) Master-Tech did not request a refund from the Trust Funds within the statutorily required time frame; and (4) the refund request is not yet ripe for proper review.

II. Legal Standard

To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Plausibility" does not imply that the Court should decide whose version to believe, or which version is more likely than not. Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400 (7th Cir. 2010). Instead, "a claim has facial plausibility when the party pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the opposing party is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. However, when a party's allegations "do not permit 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.