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Knowles v. Dodds Masonry Construction Co., Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 24, 2019

STEPHEN KNOWLES Trustee of the Bricklayers of Indiana Retirement Fund, BRICKLAYERS AND TROWEL TRADES INTERNATIONAL PENSION FUND, BRICKLAYERS AND ALLIED CRAFTWORKERS INTERNATIONAL HEALTH FUND other AS SUCCESSOR TO BRICKLAYERS OF INDIANA HEALTH AND WELFARE FUND, INDIANA BRICKLAYERS LOCAL 4 JOINT APPRENTICESHIP TRAINING COMMITTEE, LOUISVILLE PENSION FUND, BRICKLAYERS LOCAL 4 IN/KY, INDIANAPOLIS PENSION FUND, Plaintiffs,
v.
DODDS MASONRY CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC., DK & L MASONRY, LLC, D AND K MASONRY, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF No. 15)

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         Plaintiff Stephen Knowles (“the Trustee”), in his capacity as the trustee of certain pension funds (“the Funds”) of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local No. 4 of Indiana and Kentucky and its affiliated locals (“the Union”), sued Defendants Dodds Masonry Construction Company, Inc. (“DMCC”), DK&L Masonry, LLC (“DK&L”), and D and K Masonry, LLC (“D&K”), under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), see 29 U.S.C. § 1132, for Defendants' failure to contribute to the Funds according to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Union.

         Now before the Court is a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), filed only by DK&L. (The Trustee has represented to the Court that he has agreed to dismiss the remaining Defendants.) For the reasons given below, the motion is denied.

         Background

         The complaint, together with the instrument attached to it, see Fed. R. Civ. P 10(c), alleges as follows. DMCC is an Indiana corporation engaged in the masonry and construction business, Am. Compl. ¶ 4(a), ECF No. 13, which employs or has employed members of the Union, a regional bricklayers union. Id. ¶ 5. As a result of prior collective bargaining agreements, the Union has established the Funds, a collection of pension funds benefitting Union members. Id. ¶ 3(b). Beginning on July 30, 1998, DMCC “entered into successive collective bargaining agreements with the Union” which required DMCC to contribute to the Funds for the benefit of “certain of its employees[, ]” presumably Union members. Id. ¶ 5.

         The Trustee has attached to the complaint a “Memorandum of Agreement” (“the Memorandum”) dated July 30, 1998. Am. Compl. Ex. A, ECF No. 13-1. The Memorandum was executed between DMCC as “Employer” and the Union. Id. at 2. “In consideration of the mutual promises of each other [sic], ” both parties adopted the latest version of an agreement “between the Union and the Indiana Mason Contractors Statewide Association, Inc., ” and “agree[d] to be bound by all of the terms and conditions thereof for the duration of such Agreement.” Id. Further, “[t]he parties agree[d] to be bound by the terms and conditions of any Trust Fund Agreements” contained in the agreement referred to. Id. The Memorandum was signed by James Dodds on behalf of DMCC, and by a representative for the Union. Id.

         In 2008, the Trustee sued DMCC to recover unpaid pension benefits, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 13, and obtained a judgment “in excess of $26, 000” against DMCC. Id. ¶ 8. Subsequently, DMCC went out of business. Id. After DMCC went out of business, James Dodds set up two new companies, Dodds of Indiana (“Dodds IN”) and Dodds of Kentucky (“Dodds KY”). Id. ¶ 9. In 2011, the Trustee again filed suit, this time against Dodds KY, id. ¶ 10, presumably again seeking to recover pension benefits that remained unpaid. Dodds KY then declared bankruptcy. Id. ¶ 11. At some point following the suit against DMCC, James Dodds created DK&L. See Id. ¶ 12.

         In the present action, the Trustee has once again sued to recover benefits that remain unpaid from DMCC, D&K, and DK&L. Id. ¶ 13. The three companies share several common aspects. For one, James Dodds plays a prominent role in all three. Not only does DMCC bear his name, id. ¶ 4(a), but he either controls or once controlled the labor relations policy of all three. Id. ¶ 7(a). The companies also share common management, id. ¶ 7(c), and common ownership. Id. ¶ 7(d). Finally, D&K and DK&L “share common employees, equipment, materials, and jobs” which had been or are currently used by DMCC. Id. at ¶ 7(b).

         Now before the Court is Defendant DK&L's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ECF No. 15.

         Standard of Decision

          “A pleading that states a claim to relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the complaint must “contain[] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” West Bend Mut. Ins. Co. v. Schumacher, 844 F.3d 670, 675 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009)). “‘A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         When considering the plausibility of the complaint, all well-pleaded facts are taken as true, though legal conclusions are not. McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). The complaint is “construe[d] . . . in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff], ” and “all reasonable inferences” are drawn in his favor. Burke v. 401 N. Wabash Venture, LLC, 714 F.3d 501, 504 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The facts are considered on the basis of whether they plausibly state a claim to relief that rises beyond a merely speculative level. McCauley, 671 F.3d at 616. (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         What constitutes a plausible claim depends on context, requiring the Court to apply its experience and common sense. McCauley, 671 F.3d at 616 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). At a minimum, however, plaintiffs are required to support their complaint with “‘some specific facts.'” Id. (quoting Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009)). How much specificity is required may vary from case to case, but “‘the plaintiff must give enough details about the ...


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