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Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, and v. Mills Investments

October 14, 2011

CENTRAL STATES, SOUTHEAST AND SOUTHWEST AREAS PENSION FUND, AND HOWARD MCDOUGALL, AS TRUSTEE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MILLS INVESTMENTS, LLC, A MICHIGAN LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, RODNEY MILLS, AN INDIVIDUAL, AND SHAWN M. MILLS, AN INDIVIDUAL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund ("Pension Fund") and Trustee, Howard McDougall, have sued Mills Investments, LLC, Rodney Mills and Shawn M. Mills for collection of withdrawal liability, interest and penalties incurred by an employer as a result of a withdrawal from a multiemployer pension plan. This action arises under Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA") as amended by the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. Before the Court is defendants' motion for transfer of venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion.

Facts

The Pension Fund is a multiemployer pension plan administered from its principal place of business in Rosemont, Illinois. (Compl. ¶¶ 3-4.) Mills Investments is a limited liability company organized under the laws of the State of Michigan. (Id. ¶ 8.)

As of August 22, 2009, Shawn M. Mills owned fifty percent of the ownership interests of Mills Investments and Rodney Mills owned 47.756 percent of the ownership interests of Mills Investments. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) As of that date, Mills Investments and Rod Mills & Son were a group of trades or businesses under common control (the "Mills Controlled Group"). (Id. ¶ 15.) On August 22, 2009, the Pension Fund determined that the Mills Controlled Group ceased to have an obligation to contribute to the Pension Fund thereby effecting a complete withdrawal from the Pension Fund. (Id. ¶ 18.) In September 2009, Rod Mills & Son was liquidated and its remaining assets were distributed. (Id. ¶ 26.) Between January 2008 and July 2009, Shawn M. Mills caused Rod Mills & Son to transfer at least $165,939.58 to himself and Rodney Mills ("the transfers"). (Id. ¶ 27.)

As a result of the complete withdrawal, the Mills Controlled Group incurred withdrawal liability to the Pension Fund in the amount of $202,709.08. (Id. at ¶ 19.) On or about January 20, 2010, the Mills Controlled Group, via Rod Mills & Son, received from the Pension Fund a notice and demand for payment of withdrawal liability by February 1, 2010. (Id. ¶ 20.) Rod Mills & Son failed to make the payment to the Pension Fund and on February 11, 2010, the Pension Fund filed suit. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) On March 24, 2010, a default judgment was entered in favor of the Pension Fund and against Rod Mills & Son in the amount of $245,794.87. (Id. ¶ 24.) No portion of that judgment has been paid. (Id.) The Pension Fund requests relief in the amount of $202,709.08 for the withdrawal liability, pre-judgment interest on the withdrawal liability, twenty percent of the unpaid withdrawal liability, attorney's fees and costs and post-judgment interest. (Id. ¶ 31.)

Discussion

For the convenience of parties and witnesses, and in the interests of justice, a federal district court may transfer any civil action to any other district where it may have been brought.

28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). "Transfer of venue is appropriate when '(1) venue was proper in the transferor district, (2) venue and jurisdiction would be proper in the transferee district, and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and the witnesses, as well as the interests of justice.'" First Nat'l Bank v. El Camino Res., 447 F. Supp. 2d 902, 911 (N.D. Ill. 2006) (quoting Federated Dep't Stores, Inc. v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n, No. 00 C 6169, 2001 WL 503039, at *1 (N.D. Ill. May 11, 2001).

I. Both Illinois and Michigan Are Proper Venues

Defendants concede that venue is proper in the Northern District of Illinois. (Defs.' Mot. Transfer ¶ 12.) Further, the Pension Fund concedes that venue in the Eastern District of Michigan would be proper. (Pls.' Resp. Defs.' Mot. Transfer ¶ 3.) Thus, the issues are whether the convenience of the parties and the interests of justice favor transfer.

II. Convenience of Parties and Interests of Justice

In order to transfer venue under § 1404(a), the transferee court must clearly be more convenient than the transferor court. Amoco Oil Co. v. Mobil Oil Corp., 90 F. Supp. 2d 958, 960 (N.D. Ill. 2000). To fully assess the third element of the transfer analysis, the court must address the parties' private interests and the courts' public interests. Medi USA, L.P. v. Jobst Inst., Inc., 791 F. Supp. 208, 210 (N.D. Ill. 1992). Private interest factors include: (1) plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) the situs of the material events, (3) the relative ease and access to sources of proof, (4) the convenience of the parties and (5) the convenience of the witnesses. Amoco Oil, 90 F. Supp. 2d at 960. The public interest factors include: (1) how quickly the case will proceed to trial; (2) the court's familiarity with the applicable law; and (3) the relationship of the parties to and the desirability of resolving the controversy in a particular community. Medi USA, 791 F. Supp. ...


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