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Miller v. Janlab, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

October 28, 2014

LENORE F. MILLER, as Trustee and Fiduciary of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store International Union and Industry Pension Fund, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JANLAB, INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ROGER B. COSBEY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Retail, Wholesale and Department Store International Union and Industry Pension Fund (the "Fund"), together with its Trustees and Fiduciaries, filed this action against Defendant JanLab, Inc., on September 25, 2013, to recover withdrawal liability pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). (Docket # 1.) Now before the Court is a fully-briefed Motion to Intervene filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2) and (b) by Longe Enterprises Corporation, who purchased JanLab's assets in September 2012. (Docket # 13, 16, 19.)

For the following reasons, Longe's motion will be DENIED.

A. Factual and Procedural Background

The Fund was created and is maintained for the purpose of collecting and receiving contributions and providing pension benefits to eligible participants in accordance with an Agreement and Declaration of Trust (the "Trust Agreement") and various collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs") between the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store International Union ("RWDSIU") or its local affiliated unions, and employers engaged in activities affecting commerce. (Compl. ¶ 3.) At all relevant times to this dispute, JanLab was a party to a series of CBAs with a local union affiliated with RWDSIU, and accordingly, assumed the obligations imposed by the Trust Agreement. (Compl. ¶ 6.)

Pursuant to the CBAs and the Trust Agreement, JanLab agreed to, and in fact did, make benefit contributions to the Fund on behalf of its employees covered by the CBAs. (Compl. ¶ 8.) As of March 31, 2012, however, JanLab ceased making contributions to the Fund. (Compl. ¶ 9.) Then JanLab failed to make payments in response to the Fund's subsequent written demands that JanLab pay withdrawal liability in the amount of $70, 721.00 pursuant to ERISA § 4219. (Comp. ¶¶ 10-12.)

Plaintiffs filed this suit against JanLab on September 25, 2013, asking the Court to find JanLab liable for the outstanding withdrawal liability, plus interest, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. (Docket # 1.) After JanLab failed to appear, a default was entered against it on June 24, 2014. (Docket # 7-8.) Two weeks later, Plaintiffs moved for the entry of a default judgment against JanLab in the amount of $133, 230.85, plus per diem interest from June 8, 2014, until the date of entry of judgment. (Docket # 10.)

On August 29, 2014, Longe filed the instant motion to intervene of right under Rule 24(a)(2), or in the alternative, for permissive intervention under Rule 24(b). (Docket # 13.) Longe explains that it purchased JanLab's assets on September 15, 2012, and its interest in this litigation is "to ensure that RWDSIU will not attempt to hold Longe liable for JanLab's withdrawal liability...." (Mot. to Intervene ¶ 13.)

In that regard, Longe explains that although its attorneys have repeatedly informed RWDSIU since November 2012 that they represent Longe, not JanLab (Mot. to Intervene ¶ 4, Ex. A), RWDSIU sent JanLab a written demand for payment in December 2012 and addressed it to Longe's attorney (Docket # 10, Ex. D). Then, after receiving notice from RWDSIU of JanLab's default in June 2014 and learning that RWDSIU would not name any additional defendants in this suit, Longe sought assurance from RWDSIU that it was not alleging Longe was liable for JanLab's obligation to pay withdrawal liability; RWDSIU, however, would not provide such assurance. (Mot. to Intervene ¶ 11.) Near that same time, after Longe's own employees elected to decertify from the Fund, RWDSIU failed to respond to Longe's requests to provide it with a written demand of the amount of its withdrawal liability. (Mot. to Intervene ¶ 8.)

B. Intervention of Right

"There are four requirements for intervention of right under [Rule 24(a)], in the absence of a statute giving an absolute right to intervene: (1) timeliness, (2) an interest relating to the subject matter of the main action, (3) at least potential impairment of that interest if the action is resolved without the intervenor, and (4) lack of adequate representation by existing parties." Reid L. v. Ill. State Bd. of Educ., 289 F.3d 1009, 1017 (7th Cir. 2002); accord Sokaogon Chippewa Cmty. v. Babbitt, 214 F.3d 941, 945-46 (7th Cir. 2000); Sec. Ins. Co. of HartFord v. Schipporeit, Inc., 69 F.3d 1377, 1380 (7th Cir. 1995); Reich v. ABC/York-Estes Corp., 64 F.3d 316, 321 (7th Cir. 1995). "The burden is on the party seeking to intervene of right to show that all four criteria are met." Reid, 289 F.3d at 1017; Reich, 64 F.3d at 321 ("The failure to meet any one factor dictates denial of the petition.").

Ultimately, JanLab meets only one of the four criteria required under Rule 24(a)(2), and thus, its motion to intervene of right will be denied.[1]

1. Timeliness

The first requirement, timeliness, "forces interested non-parties to seek to intervene promptly so as not to upset the progress made toward resolving a dispute." Grochocinski v. Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 797 (7th Cir. 2013). "The test for timeliness is essentially one of reasonableness: potential intervenors need to be reasonably diligent in learning of a suit that might affect their rights, and upon so learning they need to act reasonably promptly." Reich, 64 F.3d at 321. Four factors are considered when determining whether a motion is timely: "(1) the length of time the intervenor knew or should have known of [its] interest in the case; (2) the prejudice caused to the original parties by the delay; (3) ...


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