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Unite Here Health v. La Plaza Secaucus, LLC

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 27, 2014

UNITE HERE HEALTH; and MATTHEW WALKER, a fiduciary of Unite Here Health, Plaintiffs,
v.
LA PLAZA SECAUCUS, LLC; and ROSDEV HOSPITALITY SECAUCUS, L.P., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARIA VALDEZ, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction [Doc. No. 20]. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3). By reason of the parties' consent under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), this Court has authority to enter final orders on the motion presented.

Plaintiff, UNITE HERE HEALTH (the Fund) is a welfare fund and an employee benefit trust fund that provides health and welfare benefits to workers affiliated with the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. Participating employers contribute to the Fund at regular intervals in exchange for benefit provision and management. Defendants La Plaza Secaucus, LLC and Rosdev Hospitality Secaucus, L.P. are two such employers.

Plaintiff filed suit under § 515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1145, in order to recover payments Defendants allegedly failed to make in the eight months leading up to the date the suit was filed, amounting to $366, 012.07. Plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction, requesting that the Court order Defendants to pay the full amount owed and that they be enjoined from selling or transferring assets pending payment to the Fund. Plaintiffs also ask that the Court issue an injunction "requir[ing] Defendants to pay undisputed amounts moving forward." (Pls.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Prelim. Inj. at 11-12.)

II. PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION MOTION

ERISA gives the Court discretion in granting equitable relief to Plaintiffs. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2)(E) (allowing for "such other legal or equitable relief as the court deems appropriate."). In the Seventh Circuit, "injunctions sought under ERISA are subject to the traditional equity analysis." See Gould v. Lambert Excavating, Inc., 870 F.2d 1214, 1221 (7th Cir. 1989).

In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, the movant must show that (1) it has no adequate remedy at law and will suffer irreparable harm if a preliminary injunction is denied; and (2) there is some likelihood of success on the merits of the claim. Ezell v. City of Chicago, 651 F.3d 684, 694 (7th Cir. 2011). If this threshold is met then the Court weighs the competing harms to the parties and considers the public interest. Planned Parenthood of Ind., Inc. v. Comm'r of the Ind. State Dep't of Health, 699 F.3d 962, 972 (7th Cir. 2012). "While ERISA does allow beneficiaries to seek injunctive relief... courts must make a case-by-case inquiry and not presume irreparable harm simply because a case involves an ERISA plan." BP Corp. N. Am. Inc. v. N. Trust Investments, N.A., No. 08 C 6029, 2008 WL 5263695, at *5 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 16, 2008).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

To prevail on its motion for injunctive relief, the Fund must show some likelihood of success on the merits. This is a low threshold, requiring only that Plaintiff's chance of prevailing is "better than negligible." Ty, Inc. v. Jones Group, Inc., 237 F.3d 891, 897 (7th Cir. 2001). Defendants do not give significant attention to Plaintiffs' claims for relief aside from a cursory reference to Defendants' motion to dismiss. Defendants have admitted that they "have withheld payments pending resolution of a dispute concerning the number of eligible employees and the amount to be paid under the Interim Agreement." (Answer to Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) Given the lack of dispute regarding the payments past due and the clarity of the ERISA statute as to appropriate relief when money is owed to an employee benefit trust fund, the Court concludes that there is a strong probability that Plaintiffs will succeed on the merits.

B. Irreparable Harm and No Adequate Remedy at Law

The harm to the Plaintiff is irreparable if it cannot be prevented or fully remedied by the final judgment after trial. Girl Scouts of Manitou Council, Inc. v. Girl Scouts of the United States, Inc., 549 F.3d 1079, 1089 (7th Cir. 2008). In arguing against a preliminary injunction Defendants primarily contend that Plaintiffs have not demonstrated irreparable ...


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