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Trustees of Michiana Area Electrical Workers Pension Fund v. La Place's Electric Co. Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

August 10, 2018

TRUSTEES OF THE MICHIANA AREA ELECTRICAL WORKERS PENSION FUND, Plaintiffs,
v.
LA PLACE'S ELECTRIC COMPANY, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 44] filed by the Plaintiffs, the Trustees of the Michiana Area Electrical Workers Pension Fund, on June 11, 2018. The Defendants have not responded or otherwise opposed this Motion as of the date of this Opinion and Order.

         BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiffs previously moved for summary judgment [ECF No. 32] against Defendants La Place's Electric Company, Inc. (LECI); LaPlace Electric, Inc. (LEI); and Harold Oscar LaPlace, [1] and asked the Court to hold that each Defendant owed withdrawal liability jointly and severally to the Plaintiffs under 29 U.S.C. § 1381 of the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (MPPAA). On February 15, 2017, the Court issued an Opinion and Order [ECF No. 38] granting summary judgment against Defendants LECI and LEI, but withheld summary judgment as to Defendant LaPlace.[2]

         LaPlace owned and operated LECI for 43 years as a union shop, but in 2010 LECI ceased operations due to financial difficulties. Thereafter in 2011, LaPlace established a new Indiana corporation, LEI. Like LECI, LEI was wholly owned and operated by LaPlace. Unlike LECI, LEI was a non-union shop. LaPlace used LEI to perform electrical contracting work without paying the periodic pension fund contributions to the Plaintiffs' fund that LECI was required to pay under various collective bargaining agreements and a series of participation agreements. On these and additional facts non-germane to the present analysis, the Court found that LECI was liable to the Plaintiffs for withdrawal liability and that LEI was jointly and severally liable because both entities were involved in the same trade or business and were under the same common control. However, the Court reasoned that the factual record was not developed sufficiently to determine whether LaPlace was personally liable. (Opinion & Order 10.)

         The Plaintiffs now present additional evidence to establish that LaPlace was personally liable. This evidence shows that:

• LaPlace was the sole owner of LEI;
• His wife, Branda LaPlace, performed data entry work for LEI and also mailed bills on LEI's behalf;
• Brenda claimed to have no ownership interest in LEI, that she was not employed by LEI, and that she did not receive wages or a salary from LEI;
• Despite this, LaPlace would write checks from LEI's account for Brenda's personal spending;
• LaPlace's son, Gene “Bud” LaPlace, was paid $30 per hour for 40 hours per week, regardless of how many hours he actually worked;
• LEI's business office was in one of LaPlace's bedrooms at his Indiana home;
• LEI paid for electric, utilities, and trash collection at the Indiana home, with no attempt to limit payment for the one room actually used by LEI;
• Brenda used her own van to drive LaPlace around for business, and never tracked the mileage, but then received ...

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