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Board of Trustees, National Shopmen Pension Fund v. Northern Steel Corp.

September 28, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jack D. Shanstrom Senior United States District Judge



Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Board of Trustees, National Shopmen Pension Fund's (the "Fund") Motion for Summary Judgment. The Fund is a multiemployer pension plan. The Fund seeks to recover withdrawal liability sums under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), as amended by the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (MPPAA). The Fund seeks recovery from Defendants Northern Steel Corp. (Northern), Oswego Amusements, Inc. (Oswego), GDR Enterprises of Oswego, Inc. (GDR), George Caruso, Jr., and Romao Caruso (collectively Defendants). The Fund requests the sum of $679,680.00 in withdrawal liability plus interest, liquidated damages, attorneys fees and costs as required by Section 502(g) of ERISA. Based on the Fund's assessment, Northern was to pay $2,832.00 per month for 240 months which would have resulted in a total payment of the full withdrawal liability. Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Pltf.'s Facts), ¶ 8.

Specifically, the Fund argues that Northern's withdrawal from the Fund in October, 2001 subjected it to withdrawal liability under ERISA. The Fund asserts that it properly provided notice to Northern which failed to timely request arbitration thereby causing withdrawal liability, as assessed by the Fund, to become due and owing. The Fund also argues that Oswego, GDR and the individual defendants are liable under alter ego and corporate veil piercing theories.

In turn, Defendants argue that Northern was not provided adequate notice of withdrawal liability and the corporate entities should be preserved.

On April 23, 2009, the Court held a hearing and is prepared to rule on the Fund's motion.


Summary judgment, "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits [or declarations] show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C.Cir.2006). "A fact is 'material' if a dispute over it might affect the outcome of a suit under the governing law; factual disputes that are 'irrelevant or unnecessary' do not affect the summary judgment determination." Id. at 895 quoting Anderson ,. at 248. An issue is "genuine" if the evidence could provide for a reasonable jury returning a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Id. When considering a motion for summary judgment, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. The Court shall, "eschew making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence" on a motion for summary judgment. Czekalski v. Peters, 475 F.3d 360, 363 (D.C.Cir.2007).

However, a party opposing summary judgment must set forth more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and the opposition must be supported by affidavits, declarations or other competent evidence, setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

If the opposing party's evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment may be granted. Anderson at 249-50; see also Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007) ("[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is 'no genuine issue for trial.' ") (quoting Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)). To defeat a motion for summary judgment, a party must have more than "a scintilla of evidence to support his claims." Freedman v. MCI Telecommunications Corp., 255 F.3d 840, 845 (D.C.Cir.2001).


I. Statutory Scheme

ERISA Sections 4201-4225, as amended by the MPPAA, Pub.L. No. 96-364, 94 Stat. 1208, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1461, provides that if an employer withdraws from a multiemployer plan they must make withdrawal liability payments sufficient to cover that employer's share of the plan's unfunded vested benefits. 29 U.S.C. §§ 1381, 1391. "[T]he withdrawal liability payment requirement generally protects the financial integrity of multiemployer plans, prevents withdrawing employers from shifting their burdens to remaining employers, and eliminates an incentive for employers to flee underfunded pension plans." Nat'l Shopmen Pension Fund v. Disa, 583 F.Supp.2d 95, 99 (D.D.C.2008) (citing Milwaukee Brewery Workers' Pension Plan v. Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co., 513 U.S. 414, 416, 115 S.Ct. 981, 130 L.Ed.2d 932 (1995); Connolly v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., 475 U.S. 211, 216, 106 S.Ct. 1018, 89 L.Ed.2d 166 (1986); Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. R.A. Gray & Co., 467 U.S. 717, 722-23, 104 S.Ct. 2709, 81 L.Ed.2d 601 (1984)).

The steps for determining withdrawal liability are set forth by statute. Under the MPPAA, responsibility for assessing and collecting ...

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