United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
PUGET SOUND ELECTRICAL WORKER HEALTHCARE TRUST, et al., Plaintiffs,
SENTRY STORAGE PARTNERS II, LLC d/b/a BOBCAT CONSTRUCTION, Defendants.
ORDER LIFTING STAY AND GRANTING PLAINTIFFS'
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Alice Theiler, United States Magistrate Judge
Puget Sound Electrical Workers Healthcare Trust, Puget Sound
Electrical Workers Pension Trust, Puget Sound Electrical
Workers 401(k) Savings Plan Trust, Puget Sound Electrical
Joint Apprenticeship and Training Trust, and National
Electrical Benefit Fund (collectively, the “Trust
Funds”) move for summary judgment against defendant
Sentry Storage Partners II, LLC d/b/a BobCat Construction
(“BobCat Construction”). (Dkt. 15.) This matter
was brought pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. (ERISA), to
recover delinquent trust fund contributions, liquidated
damages, interest, accounting fees, attorney's fees, and
costs. The Court, for the reasons set forth below, herein
lifts the stay previously imposed and finds plaintiff
entitled to summary judgment.
Trust Funds allege defendant BobCat Construction breached the
terms of labor and trust agreements between the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 46 (the
“Union”) and BobCat Construction, to which the
Trust Funds are beneficiaries and/or parties, and that the
breach constitutes a violation of ERISA. (Dkt. 1.) Plaintiffs
voluntarily dismissed a previous lawsuit after defendant
complied with a request to audit relevant payroll and related
business records. See Puget Sound Electrical Workers
Healthcare Trust, et al. v. Sentry Storage Partners II,
LLC, No. 16-1504-RSL (Dkt. 4). A February 7, 2017
payroll compliance report completed as a result of the audit
determined defendant owed plaintiffs, for the period between
July 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015, a total of $193, 243.38,
comprised of $144, 470.24 in fringe benefit contributions,
$14, 789.32 in liquidated damages, $31, 054.57 in accrued
interest, and $2, 929.25 in accounting fees. (See
Dkt. 15 & Dkt. 17, Ex. 9.) In the current suit,
plaintiffs rely on the audit results in seeking damages, as
well as attorney's fees and costs. (See Dkts. 1
answering the complaint, defendant denied many of the
allegations, including that it owed plaintiffs the sums
requested. (Dkt. 6.) Defendant also sent a letter to
plaintiffs disputing their claims. (Dkt. 18, Ex. 15.)
Plaintiffs thereafter served discovery requests and requests
for admission on defendant in an effort to investigate
defendant's position. (Id., Exs. 16 & 17.)
Plaintiffs attest that defendant did not respond to the
requests, or request an extension of time to respond.
filed the motion currently under consideration on February
28, 2018. (Dkt. 15.) Defendant did not respond to the motion.
After receipt of a Notice of Filing of Bankruptcy of
Defendant Sentry Storage Partners II, LLC (Dkt. 20), the
Court issued a Bankruptcy Stay Order, removing the case from
the Court's active caseload, striking the date of
plaintiffs' pending motion for summary judgment, and
directing the parties to submit status reports and
notification of a final resolution of the bankruptcy
petition. (Dkt. 21.) Plaintiffs subsequently advised the
Court that, on May 2, 2018, the bankruptcy court issued an
order granting plaintiffs relief from the automatic stay and
consenting to lifting the stay to allow plaintiffs to obtain
an order, and judgment should they prevail, on their filed
and fully-briefed motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 22.) The
Court, as such, herein lifts the stay and addresses the
motion for summary judgment.
judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the nonmoving
party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential
element of his case with respect to which he has the burden
of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322-23 (1986). The Court must draw all reasonable inferences
in favor of the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
moving party bears the initial burden of showing the district
court an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325.
The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to establish a
genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co., 475 U.S. at 585-87. The opposing party must present
significant and probative evidence to support its claim or
defense. Intel Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indem.
Co., 952 F.2d 1551, 1558 (9th Cir. 1991).
did not, in this case, respond to plaintiffs' motion for
summary judgment. The Court, for the reasons described below,
finds no material issues of fact and plaintiffs entitled to
governs trusts for health and pension benefits, and obligates
participating employers to make contributions to
multi-employer trust funds in accordance with contract and
trust agreements. ERISA Section 515, 29 U.S.C. § 1145.
ERISA provides specific mandatory remedies for delinquent
contributions, including, in addition to the unpaid
contributions, liquidated damages, interest, attorney's
fees, and costs. § 1132(g)(2).
fund fiduciaries are obligated, both under ERISA and common
law, to ensure proper funding of trusts by sponsoring
employers. Cent. States, Se. & Sw. Areas Pension Fund
v. Cent. Transp., Inc., 472 U.S. 559, 570-73 (1985).
They are afforded broad authority to conduct audits in order
to ensure compliance. Id. Employers must, in turn,
keep adequate business and payroll records in order to permit
the calculation of benefits due under ERISA. Brick Masons
Pension Tr. v. Indus. Fence & Supply, Inc., 839 F.2d
1333, 1337-38 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Combs v. King,
764 F.2d 818 (11th Cir. 1985)). Where a trustee produces
evidence raising genuine questions as to the accuracy of an
employer's records and employee hours worked, the
employer must present evidence supporting its position as to
the amount of contributions payable. Id. at 1338.
case, the facts show defendant BobCat Construction executed a
letter of assent with the Union, thereby binding itself to
the Inside Construction master labor agreement between the
Union and the Puget Sound Chapter of the National Electrical
Contractors Association (“NECA”), and agreeing to
make monthly fringe benefit contributions to the Trust Funds
on behalf of its covered employees. (Dkt. 16, Exs. 1-2; Dkt.
18, Ex. 17 (Request for Admission Nos. 1, 2.) The letter of
assent and master labor agreement also bound BobCat
Construction to the terms and conditions of the five trust
agreements that comprise the Trust Funds, and include terms
as to damages owed as a result of any delinquent