United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
TRUSTEES OF THE MICHIANA AREA ELECTRICAL WORKERS PENSION FUND, Plaintiff,
LA PLACE'S ELECTRIC COMPANY, INC., LAPLACE ELECTRIC, INC., and HAROLD OSCAR LAPLACE, Individually and d/b/a LAPLACE ELECTRIC, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
[ECF No. 32] filed by the Plaintiffs, Trustees of the
Michiana Area Electrical Workers Pension Fund. The Plaintiffs
filed the Complaint [ECF No. 1] on July 14, 2014, seeking
unpaid pension fund withdrawal liability from the Defendants,
Harold Oscar LaPlace, La Place's Electric Company, Inc.
(“LECI”), and LaPlace Electric, Inc.
(“LEI”). The parties commenced the discovery
period on December 14, 2014, which ended on October 7, 2015.
On December 7, 2015, the Plaintiffs filed this Motion and
their Memorandum in Support [ECF No. 33]. On February 1,
2016, the Defendants filed their Response [ECF No. 36]. On
February 15, 2016, the Plaintiffs filed their Reply [ECF No.
37]. The Motion is now fully briefed and ripe for ruling.
following facts are undisputed. The Plaintiffs are trustees
of the Michiana Area Electrical Workers Pension Fund (the
“Fund”). They filed this suit against the
Defendants under 29 U.S.C. § 1381 of the Multiemployer
Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (the
“MPPAA”), seeking to obtain unpaid pension fund
withdrawal liability from the Defendants. LaPlace, who is 81
years old, filed articles of incorporation for LPEC, an
Indiana corporation, in 1967. (Resp. to Pls.' First
Interrog. ¶ 2, ECF No. 33-1.) He owned and operated LPEC
for 43 years as a union shop, “always” utilizing
labor from the International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers 153 (“Local 153”), of which he himself
was also a member. (Id. ¶ 4.) LaPlace wholly
owned LECI from its incorporation to its dissolution.
(Id. ¶ 3.) Over the course of LECI's
existence, the entity participated in various collective
bargaining agreements (“CBAs”) and signed a
series of Assent of Participation Agreements
(“Participation Agreements”) with Local 153.
(Sullivan Aff. ¶ 4, ECF No. 33-2.) The Participation
Agreements bound LECI to follow the provisions of the CBAs.
These provisions included an obligation that LECI make
periodic pension fund contributions to the Plaintiffs'
fund. (Id. ¶ 5; Participation Agreement 1, ECF
No. 33-3.) All LECI employees were members of Local 153.
(Resp. to Pls.' First Interrog. ¶ 2.)
2006-2007, LaPlace began experiencing financial difficulty.
He was unable to secure Local 153's and the Fund's
increase in their bond requirement (from $10, 000 to $40,
000). With consent of Local 153 and the Fund, LaPlace
established a line of credit in lieu of the bond. He
continued to contribute to the Fund, but eventually was
unable to make his required contributions. In 2010 LECI
ceased operations. (Resp. to Pls.' First Interrog. ¶
2(d).) And on or about March 19, 2010, LECI was
administratively dissolved by the Indiana Secretary of State.
(Resp. to Pls.' Req. for Admis. ¶ 2, ECF No. 33-11.)
LECI paid contributions to the Fund until September 2010.
(Sullivan Aff. ¶ 7.) LECI did not pay contributions to
the Fund for any period of time after the September 2010
contributions were paid. (Resp. to Pls.' Req. for Admis.
¶ 3.) Thereafter, the Fund determined that LECI withdrew
its participation during the plan year ending June 30, 2011.
(Sullivan Aff. ¶¶ 9-10.)
after LaPlace dissolved LECI, he filed articles of
incorporation for a new entity, LEI, also an Indiana
corporation, with the Secretary of State in 2011. (Resp. to
Pls.' Req. for Admis. ¶ 2.) Like LECI, LaPlace also
wholly owned and operated LEI. (Id. ¶¶ 5,
9.) In addition, LaPlace continued to employ his son, Bud
LaPlace, who resigned his union membership at Local 153 in
2010, the same year that LaPlace dissolved LECI. LEI is a
non-union shop and not a signatory to the CBA or
Participation Agreements with Local 153 like LECI was.
Fund and Local 153 soon became aware that LaPlace was still
performing electrical contracting work in its jurisdiction
even after he had dissolved LECI. The Fund took steps to
determine LECI's withdrawal liability for having
continued to perform covered work as LEI, work that would
require Fund contribution. The Fund's administrator, TIC
International Corporation requested Cheiron, Inc., the
Fund's actuarial firm, to prepare actuarial calculations.
Cheiron assessed the total withdrawal liability amount at
$246, 910.00, at 13 quarterly payments of $19, 330.00 and a
final payment of $17, 169.00 (Cheiron Assessment 1, ECF No.
33-24.) On February 25, 2011, the Fund notified LECI of its
continued obligation to pay withdrawal liability because it
continued to operate in the electrical contracting industry
February 2013, Stanley Miles, Local 153's business agent
and membership development coordinator, reviewed the
electrical contracting permit database for the City of
Mishawaka, Indiana, and discovered a permit issued to LEI on
February 21, 2013. (Miles. Aff. ¶ 9, ECF No. 33-12). On
March 15, 2013, Miles took his investigation to the Mishawaka
CVS as part of his official duties for Local 153 and
discovered Bud performing electrical work there. Bud
confirmed to Miles that he was “working for [his]
dad.” (Id. ¶ 10.) Miles continued to
monitor the Mishawaka electrical contractor permitting
database thereafter, and found permits issued to LEI through
October 23, 2015.
October 15, 2013, the Fund's attorney sent a letter to
LECI's attorney, reaffirming a demand for payment, with
the deadline of November 1, 2013 for LECI to make its first
quarterly payment. When LECI failed to pay, the Fund's
attorney sent another letter to LECI's attorney,
notifying him that LECI was in default, and provided him with
an opportunity to cure, pursuant to ERISA § 4219(c)(5).
admits that it did not request review of the withdrawal
liability assessment pursuant to ERISA § 4219(b)(2)(A).
LECI also admits it did not initiate arbitration within the
deadlines set forth in ERISA § 4219(b)(2).
judgment is warranted when “the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is the moment in
litigation where the non-moving party is required to marshal
and present the court with evidence on which a reasonable
jury could rely to find in his favor. Goodman v.
Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir.
2010). A court's role in deciding a motion for summary
judgment “is not to sift through the evidence,
pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to
believe. A court has one task and one task only: to decide,
based on the evidence of record, whether there is any
material dispute of fact that requires a trial.”
Waldridge v. Am. Heochst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920
(7th Cir. 1994). Although a bare contention that an issue of
material fact exists is insufficient to create a factual
dispute, a court must construe all facts in a light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, view all ...