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Service Employee International Union National Industry Pension Fund v. Aliquippa Community Hospital

June 25, 2009

SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL INDUSTRY PENSION FUND, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ALIQUIPPA COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs Service Employee International Union National Industry Pension Fund (the "Fund") and its Trustees*fn1 (together with the Fund, "Plaintiffs") bring suit against Defendant Aliquippa Community Hospital ("Aliquippa" or "Defendant") pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(a)(3), (d)(1) & (g), and the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, as amended, ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), to collect unpaid collectively bargained contributions, remittance reports, interest, and liquidated damages owed by Defendant. Although Defendant-through its then-attorneys of record-was initially responsive to the instant lawsuit, Plaintiffs and the Court were subsequently advised that Aliquippa had sold its assets and ceased operations. Efforts to reach Aliquippa's former officers have proven unsuccessful, and Defense counsel was permitted to withdraw as counsel of record, as they had not received any indication from the third-party entity that had purchased the Defendant hospital that they were to continue their representation of Aliquippa during this litigation. Defendant has since been unresponsive to the instant action.

In an effort to resolve this matter, Plaintiffs filed for summary judgment, seeking an order requiring Defendant to submit all reports and contributions in accordance with the applicable collective bargaining agreements; and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. Defendant did not file an Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, thereby rendering the motion uncontested. After a searching review of Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, the attached exhibits, the relevant case law, statutory authority, and the entire record of the case as a whole, the Court shall GRANT-IN-PART, DENY-IN-PART, AND HOLD-IN-ABEYANCE-IN-PART Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, for the reasons that follow.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

The facts underlying this case are undisputed. The Fund is an employee pension benefit plan and multiemployer plan within the meaning of ERISA, established and maintained for the purpose of providing pension benefits to eligible employees, their families and dependents. Plaintiffs' Statement of Material Facts ("Pls.' Stmt."), Docket No. [30-4], ¶ 1; see also Complaint, Docket No. [1], ¶ 4; Answer, Docket No. [6], ¶ 3 (admitting same). The Fund is also a jointly administered trust fund established pursuant to Section 302(c)(5) of the LMRA. Compl. ¶ 4. Defendant is a corporation incorporated in the State of Pennsylvania and an "employer in an industry affecting commerce," as defined under ERISA and LMRA. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 6; Ans. ¶ 4 (admitting same).

As explained above, at some unspecified time after the filing of the instant action, it appears that Defendant sold its assets to a third-party entity and ceased operations. See Motion for Leave to Withdraw and to Enlarge Discovery Response Time, Docket No. [19], ("Def.'s Mot. to Withdraw"). Plaintiffs, however, have failed to provide the Court with any specific evidence demonstrating whether Defendant is, in fact, now defunct nor have Plaintiffs otherwise provided information as to the timing and nature of Defendant's apparent dissolution. As a result, it is unclear from the record now before the Court whether Defendant remains a viable entity today. Nonetheless, it is clear that Defendant was a viable legal corporation at least as of the date Defendant filed its Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint through counsel on May 2, 2007. See Ans. ¶ 4 (admitting that Defendant is a corporation incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania).

On June 6, 2005, Defendant entered into a collective bargaining agreement ("Agreement") with District 1199P, Service Employees International Union ("District 1199P"), the exclusive bargaining agent for certain of Defendant's employees. Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 3; see also Compl. ¶¶ 8, 9; Ans. ¶ 5 (admitting same). The Agreement was effective for the period February 7, 2005 through June 30, 2008. Compl. ¶ 9 & Ex. 1 (true and correct copy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement) (hereinafter "Agreement"); Ans. ¶ 5 (admitting same). Pursuant to Article 19.1(a) of the Agreement, Defendant agreed to participate in, and contribute to, for all eligible bargaining unit employees, the Service Employees International Union, National Industry Pension Fund, subject to the terms set forth in Appendix J. Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 4; see also Agreement ¶ 19.1(a). Appendix J in turn provides that

[e]ffective, and retroactive to June 30, 2004 and in addition to any payment of interest or penalties due to the Fund, and for the duration of this Collective Bargaining Agreement, including any extensions or renewals thereof, the Employer agrees that for each hour of pay paid to each employee to whom this Agreement is applicable, . . . it will contribute to the Fund, effective and retroactive to the date of Plan Termination, the total sum of sixty cents ($.60) per hour.

Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 5; see also Agreement, Appx. J, intro. & § 3. Defendant was required to submit such contributions to the Fund in a timely manner, together with a remittance report. Pls.' Stmt. ¶¶ 6 & 7; see also Agreement, Appx J, § 3(a) ("Contributions required . . . shall be paid to the Fund on or before the fifteenth day of the month following the period on which contributions are due or before such date as the Trustees may hereafter determine."); id., Appx. J, ¶ 3(b) ("[c]ontributions shall be transmitted together with a remittance report").

The Trustees of the Pension Fund have also adopted the SEIU National Industry and Pension Fund Statement of Policy for Collection of Delinquent Contributions, (hereinafter, the "Collection Policy"), regarding the collection of employer contributions to the Fund. Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 10; see also Compl., Ex. 3 (true and correct copy of the Collection Policy) (hereinafter, "Collection Policy"). Pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, Defendant was bound to the Collection Policy as well. Pls.' Stmt.' ¶9; see also Agreement, Appx. J, § 4 (Defendant "agrees to be to be bound by . . . all resolutions and rules adopted by the Trustees pursuant to the powers delegated to them by that Agreement, including collection policies"). In turn, under the terms of the Collection Policy, Defendant agreed to pay liquidated damages and interest on any delinquent contributions, as follows:

1. Interest owed by a delinquent Employer shall be calculated from the due date for the delinquent contributions through and including the date payment is actually received by the Fund Office at the rate of ten percent (10%) per annum.

2. In the event a lawsuit or other legal action is filed . . . , liquidated damages shall be calculated from the due date, and shall become due and owing if a lawsuit is filed . . . . The ...


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