United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
TRUSTEES OF THE HEAT AND FROST INSULATORS AND ALLIED WORKERS LOCAL 47 RETIREMENT TRUST FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
INTERNATIONAL INSULATION FABRICATORS, INC. and ROBERT S. RUELL, Defendants.
KENT United States Magistrate Judge.
an action to enforce collection of delinquent fringe benefit
contributions pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1145 and 29 U.S.C.
§ 1132(g)(2). Compl. (docket no. 1, PageID.3, 5-6). This
matter is now before the Court on plaintiffs' motion for
partial summary judgment (docket no. 27) and defendants'
motion for summary judgment (docket no. 30).
are the Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local
47(sometimes referred to as the “Union” and
“Local 47”), and the Trustees of the following
funds: Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 47
Retirement Trust Fund; Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied
Workers Local 47 Welfare Fund; Heat and Frost Insulators and
Allied Workers Local 47 Construction Industry Advancement
Fund; Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 47
Joint Apprenticeship Trust Committee; Heat and Frost
Insulators and Allied Workers Labor Management Cooperative
Trust (collectively referred to as the “Funds”).
Defendants are International Insulation Fabricators, Inc.
(sometimes referred to by the parties as “IIF” or
“IIFI”), and Robert S. Ruell
(“Ruell”), identified as the President,
Secretary, Treasurer and Director of IIF. See Compl.
bring this action pursuant to § 1145, which provides
Every employer who is obligated to make contributions to a
multiemployer plan under the terms of the plan or under the
terms of a collectively bargained agreement shall, to the
extent not inconsistent with law, make such contributions in
accordance with the terms and conditions of such plan or such
29 U.S.C. § 1145.
addition, § 1132(g) provides in pertinent part that:
(2) In any action under this subchapter by a fiduciary for or
on behalf of a plan to enforce section 1145 of this title in
which a judgment in favor of the plan is awarded, the court
shall award the plan --
(A) the unpaid contributions,
(B) interest on the unpaid contributions,
(C) an amount equal to the greater of --
(i) interest on the unpaid contributions, or
(ii) liquidated damages provided for under the plan in an
amount not in excess of 20 percent (or such higher percentage
as may be permitted under Federal or State law) of the amount
determined by the court under subparagraph (A),
(D) reasonable attorney's fees and costs of the action,
to be paid by the defendant, and
(E) such other legal or equitable relief as the court deems
29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2).
have moved for partial summary judgment (docket no. 27), in
which they seek an order as to liability, damages for the
period of April 2014 through December 31, 2014 in the amount
of $41, 728.33, audit fees of $904.13, interest, and
attorney's fees. Plaintiffs' Brief (docket no. 27,
PageID.80). If this relief is granted, plaintiffs would
proceed to trial to determine the amount of contributions
owed to them for the period beginning January 1, 2015.
claims arise from IIF's obligations as set forth in one
or more collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) between Local
47 and the Master Insulators Association (sometimes referred
to as the “Association”). According to
plaintiffs, “[d]efendants do not dispute the audit
calculations; their sole defense to this lawsuit is that IIF
was no longer obligated to contribute to the Plaintiff Funds
after sending its March 28, 2014 letter advising of an intent
‘to terminate its contract' with Local 47.”
Id. at PageID.84. Plaintiffs further state that the
narrow legal dispute to be resolved in this case and in their
Did IIF have the legal authority to terminate its obligations
under the CBA it conceded was fully in force on March 28,
2014 simply by sending a letter of intent? The answer is,
Id. (emphasis omitted). Plaintiffs contend that
defendant Ruell, while not the employer, is personally liable
for the amount owed by IIF because the contributions became
assets of the Funds when due, and “that individuals
such as Defendant Ruell who have discretionary authority over
plan assets are fiduciaries regarding those assets.”
Id. at PageID.90.
their motion for summary judgment, defendants contend that
they were not bound by any written agreement following the
expiration of the July 10, 2010 CBA and that they have no
further obligation to make any contributions after June 30,
2013 beyond those already made. Defendants' Motion for
summary judgment (docket no. 30). For their part, defendants
state that issue as follows:
Where defendant, International Insulation Fabricators, Inc.,
is not a member of an employer association, did not sign the
March 1, 2013 CBA, and did not authorize any other party to
sign a CBA on its behalf, is defendant obligated to make
contributions to the plaintiffs['] funds?
Brief (docket no. 31, PageID.208) (emphasis and uppercase
court shall grant summary judgment if 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). Rule 56 further provides that “[a]
party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed must support the assertion by”:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the
absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse
party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.
Civ. P. 56(c)(1).
Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476 (6th Cir. 1995),
the court set forth the parties' burden of proof in a
motion for summary judgment:
The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing an
absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case. Once the moving party has met its burden of production,
the nonmoving party cannot rest on its pleadings, but must
present significant probative evidence in support of the
complaint to defeat the motion for summary judgment. The mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence to support
plaintiff's position ...