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Trustees of the Eighth District Electrical Pension Fund v. Craft Electric Co.

March 31, 2010

THE TRUSTEES OF THE EIGHTH DISTRICT ELECTRICAL PENSION FUND, DELINQUENCY COMMITTEE OF THE EIGHTH DISTRICT ELECTRICAL PENSION FUND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CRAFT ELECTRIC COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The Court has before it a motion for summary judgment by plaintiff Trustees. The motion was heard on March 19, 2010, and the Court permitted additional briefing that was received on March 24, 2010. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant the motion.

LITIGATION BACKGROUND

The plaintiff Trustees operate pension and welfare funds for electricians and apprentices. They allege in this lawsuit that Craft Electric Co. owes $153,230.37 to the funds, and seek a summary judgment for that sum.

In February of 2007, Craft signed a Letter of Assent with two local unions -- Locals 449 and 532 -- affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The Letter of Assent with Local 449 bound Craft to the terms of the Eastern Counties Inside Wireman Collective Bargaining Agreement (Eastern Inside CBA). This agreement covers inside electrical work done in Idaho's eastern counties. The Letter of Assent with Local 532 bound Craft to the terms of the Bozeman Inside CBA that covers inside electrical work in Western Montana.

Both CBAs required employers to make contributions to the Eighth District Pension and Benefit Funds for covered work. In the event that Craft failed to pay all amounts due, the CBAs provided that Craft would be liable for liquidated damages, interest, audit fees, and attorney fees. Both CBAs contained provisions binding Craft and the local unions to the Second Amended and Restated Agreement and Declaration of Trust of the Eighth District Electrical Pension Fund (Trust Agreement). See Bodell Declaration at Exhibits B & C.

In March of 2008, Craft consented to an audit of its payroll accounts to determine whether any amounts were owed to the funds. Auditor Gus Sand filed his Declaration stating that he audited Craft to compare (1) the wages Craft paid between February 21, 2007 and March 4, 2008 with (2) the amounts Craft was required to pay into the funds on those wages for that same period. See Declaration of Sand at p. 2. That audit examined wages paid to seven Craft employees: (1) Ken Hoffman, (2) Chris Maybee, (3) Leonard Sheetz Jr., (4) Seth Wolfe, (5) Edward Sheetz, (6) Marc Crapo, and (7) Brian Sheetz. The audit revealed that Craft owed $84,244.04 to the funds under the terms of the two CBAs. Id. Auditor Sands also concluded that Craft owed $30,670.38 in liquidated damages, $34,333.47 in interest, and $4,002.48 in audit fees. Id.

On the basis of that audit, the Trustees filed this suit to collect those sums. Craft responds by seeking to strike the Declaration of Sands. Craft also argues that the CBAs are partially ambiguous because they contain provisions adopting and agreeing to a document -- the Second Amended and Restated Agreement and Declaration of Trust of the Eighth District Electrical Pension Fund -- that has not been provided to the Court.

Craft argues further that the CBAs are ambiguous for failing to define the term "employee." Neither CBA, Craft asserts, addresses whether "employee" means an individual within the bargaining unit. Craft argues further that five of the seven employees whose wages were audited by Sands are all owners or managers of Craft, see Affidavit of Hoffmann, and were therefore not entitled to any pension fund contributions because they were not within the bargaining unit. The other two employees -- Marc Crapo and Chris Maybee -- merely built shelves and swept floors, and did no electrical work. Id.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut," but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, id. at 255, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court ...


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