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Lindell v. Landis Construction Co.

May 28, 2010

NATHAN LINDELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LANDIS CONSTRUCTION CO., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff Nathan Lindell, a former employee of Landis Construction Company ("Landis"), brought this action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq., ("ERISA"). This matter currently is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, to dismiss. After careful consideration of the parties' papers (including their exhibits), defendants' declarations, and the relevant case law and statutes, the Court will grant the motion.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff worked for Landis at all times relevant to this action. See Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 7. Landis offers an employee benefit pension plan, known as a 401(k) plan, to its employees (the "401(k) Plan" or the "Plan"). See id. ¶ 5. Plaintiff enrolled in the Plan in 2007.

See Mot., Statement of Material Facts as to Which There is No Genuine Issue ("Def. Facts") ¶ 4. His total contributions for 2007, the only year in which he was enrolled in the 401(k) Plan, were $1,360. See id.

Plaintiff asserts two claims against defendants based upon his participation in the 401(k) Plan. In Count One for "Unpaid and Untimely Contributions," plaintiff alleges that defendants failed to make promised matching contributions to the 401(k) Plan and that they failed to submit contributions deducted from plaintiff's paycheck to the 401(k) Plan in a timely manner. See Compl. ¶¶ 11-17. In Count Two, "Breach of Fiduciary Duty," plaintiff alleges that defendants Hugh Jeffrey Fox and the John Doe fiduciaries breached their fiduciary duty to him in their capacity as administrators of the Plan by failing to disclose certain expenses and failing to ensure that employee contributions were timely made. See id. ¶¶ 18-23.

Plaintiff previously filed a lawsuit against certain of the current defendants for unpaid overtime wages. See Lindell v. Landis Constr. Corp., Civil Action No. 08-0229, Complaint, Dkt. No. 1 (D.D.C. February 11, 2008). On September 8, 2008, the parties in that case agreed to dismiss the case based on a settlement agreement. See Lindell v. Landis Constr. Corp., Stipulation of Dismissal, Dkt. No. 15 (D.D.C. Sept. 8, 2008). After signing the settlement agreement in the earlier case, Mr. Lindell filed the lawsuit currently before the Court. Based on that settlement agreement, this Court dismissed from the current lawsuit the defendants who were parties to the earlier case - Landis Construction Company and Ethan Landis. See Lindell v. Landis Corp. 401(K) Plan, 640 F. Supp. 2d 11, 15 (D.D.C. 2009). The remaining defendants are Landis Corporation 401(k) Plan, Hugh Jeffrey Fox, and John Does 1-5, Fiduciaries.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW*fn2

Summary judgment may be granted 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[s] [are] 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 (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." Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d at 895 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248). An issue is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d at 895. When a motion for summary judgment is under consideration, "the evidence of the non-movant[s] is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [their] favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255; see also Mastro v. Potomac Electric Power Co., 447 F.3d 843, 849-50 (D.C. Cir. 2006); Aka v. Washington Hospital Center, 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc); Washington Post Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Services, 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must "eschew making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence." Czekalski v. Peters, 475 F.3d 360, 363 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

The nonmoving party's opposition, however, must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits, declarations or other competent evidence, setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). He is required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find in his favor. Laningham v. United States Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987). If the non-movant's evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment may be granted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50; see Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. at 380 ("[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is 'no genuine issue for trial.'") (quoting Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Requests for Additional Discovery

Defendants' motion for summary judgment is sparse and focuses on their argument that plaintiff cannot meet his burden of proof for his claims. Plaintiff responds by asserting that summary judgment is premature because discovery documents have not been produced by defendants. See Opp. at 9. As explained below, the Court agrees with defendants that plaintiff has had ample opportunity to take discovery, and it will not reserve ruling on the summary judgment motion in order to allow plaintiff to take additional discovery.

Discovery was originally scheduled to be completed by November 13, 2009. See Scheduling Order, Dkt. No. 9 ¶ 1 (Aug. 20, 2009). The Court granted plaintiff's motion for an extension of time to complete discovery, over defendants' opposition, extending the time to complete discovery until December 31, 2009. See Minute Order (Nov. 12, 2009). According to defendants, the only additional discovery request that they received from plaintiff was an email dated 11:16 p.m. on December 31, 2009, which requested additional responses to a document request originally made in October 2009. See Rep. at 4, see also Rep., Ex. 4 (email from plaintiff's counsel to defense counsel dated 12/31/09). The Scheduling Order entered in this case requires the parties to resolve all discovery disputes in a timely manner so as "to allow sufficient time for the completion of discovery" by the date on which discovery is scheduled to close. See Scheduling Order ¶ 1. Defendants took the position that plaintiff's midnight hour request was untimely. See Rep., Ex. 5 (email from defense counsel to plaintiff's counsel dated 1/1/10). Plaintiff did not, however, move for an additional ...


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