United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AGAINST
ROBERT S. LASNIK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on “Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support Against
Santa Clarita Convalescent Corporation.” Dkt. # 30.
Santa Clarita is an employer who participated in
plaintiff's multiemployer benefits plan under the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”). In 1980, Congress amended ERISA to
guard against the risk that an employer's withdrawal from
a multiemployer benefit plan would leave the plan
underfunded. The Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act
(“MPPAA”) allows plans, such as plaintiff, to
impose withdrawal liability on employers who pull out of a
multiemployer plan in an amount equal to a proportionate
share of the employer's unfunded vested benefits.
Central States, Se. and Sw. Areas Pension Fund v. Schilli
Corp., 420 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2005).
has provided evidence that Santa Clarita withdrew from the
multiemployer benefits plan in January 2015. In March 2015,
plaintiff received an email from Henry Kim, who identified
himself as the President/managing member of 23801 Newhall
Avenue, LLC. Mr. Kim notified plaintiff that,
“[e]ffective January 5, 2015, there has been a change
of ownership at Santa Clarita Convalescent Hospital. The
legal entity name is 23801 Newhall Avenue, LLC. The dba is
Santa Clarita Post Acute Care Center . . . Please email all
correspondence to 23801 Newhall Ave., Newhall, CA
91321.” Dkt. # 31-2.
August 2016, plaintiff sent a certified letter to the address
provided by Mr. Kim notifying Santa Clarita that the Trust
Fund had assessed a withdrawal liability in the amount of
$69, 731.80 and demanding payment on a specified schedule.
Santa Clarita made no response: it did not request a review
of the Trust Fund's determination, make the specified
periodic withdrawal liability payments, or initiate
arbitration. Plaintiff sent notification and demand letters
to three other addresses related to Santa Clarita in
September 2016, November 2016, and April 2017. The first two
were returned to plaintiff unclaimed. The third was not
returned, but it was apparently sent via first-class mail to
the address provided by Mr. Kim in his March 2015 email.
Santa Clarita made no response. Plaintiff filed this lawsuit
on July 3, 2017, and served Santa Clarita at both the Newhall
Avenue address and through its registered agent.
seeks a summary determination that Santa Clarita is liable
for the withdrawal liability payments that were assessed,
liquidated damages, interest, and attorney's fees and
costs. Santa Clarita asserts failure to provide notice of
withdrawal liability as an affirmative defense (Dkt. # 21 at
6) and requests that the summary judgment motion be denied as
premature under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d) so that it may pursue
discovery from Mr. Kim and certain union representatives
regarding “notice and payment issues.” Dkt. # 32.
in the record or in defendant's Rule 56(d) request
indicates that Santa Clarita made any payments, much less
that discovery regarding payments will assist it in opposing
plaintiff's motion. As for the notice issue, even if the
Court assumes that the four letters sent by plaintiff all
went astray, service of the complaint in this action provided
Santa Clarita with sufficient notice under the MPPAA. See
Nw. Adm'rs, Inc. v. N. Distrib., LLC, 2011 WL
252946, at * 2 (W. D. Wash. Jan. 26, 2011) (collecting cases
holding “that the filing and service of a civil
complaint constitutes[s] sufficient notice under the
MPPAA”). The complaint in this case met the statutory
notice requirements: it notified Santa Clarita of the amount
of the withdrawal liability, the schedule for payments, and
that payment was sought. See 29 U.S.C. §
intended that disputes over withdrawal liability would be
resolved quickly, and established a procedural bar for
employers who fail to arbitrate disputes over withdrawal
liability in a timely manner.” Bowers v.
Transportacion Maritima Mexicana, S.A., 901 F.2d 258,
263 (2nd Cir. 1990) (quotation marks omitted). Despite the
notice provided by service of the complaint in this matter,
Santa Clarita has not requested review of the liability
determination (29 U.S.C. § 1399(b)(2)) or sought
arbitration (29 U.S.C. § 1401(a)). Nor has Santa Clarita
made payments toward the withdrawal liability, which were due
“notwithstanding any request for review or appeal of
the determinations of the amount of such liability or of the
schedule” for payments. 29 U.S.C. § 1399(c)(2).
None of these facts is disputed. The Court therefore finds as
a matter of law that Santa Clarita has waived its ability to
contest the assessment or amount of the withdrawal liability.
See Teamsters Pension Trust Fund v. Allyn Transp.
Co., 832 F.2d 502 (9th Cir. 1987) (affirming district
court decision that failure to initiate arbitration within
the statutory period resulted in liability as calculated by
the trust fund); Nw. Adm'rs, 2011 WL 252946, at
*2. In these circumstances, discovery will not assist
defendant in mounting an opposition to plaintiff's
of the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that Santa Clarita
is liable for the withdrawal liability amount assessed, plus
liquidated damages, interest from the first scheduled payment
date after the complaint was served, and fees and costs.
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. # 30) is
GRANTED and Santa Clarita's Rule 56(d) request (Dkt. #
32) is DENIED. Judgment will not be entered at this time
because plaintiff has ...