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Bricklayers & Trowel Trades International Pension Fund v. Valley Concrete, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 6, 2017

BRICKLAYERS & TROWEL TRADES INTERNATIONAL PENSION FUND, Plaintiff,
v.
VALLEY CONCRETE, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMIT P. MEHTA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Bricklayers & Trowel Trades Pension Fund brings this action against Defendants Valley Concrete, Inc. (“Valley Concrete”), and John E. Heinlein, Jr., seeking to hold them liable for withdrawal liability under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1391, 1451(b). Valley Concrete moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint on the grounds that the court lacks both subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims and personal jurisdiction over Valley Concrete. Because the court concludes that Plaintiff's suit suffers from no such jurisdictional defects, the court denies Valley Concrete's Motion to Dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Valley Concrete is a masonry and concrete company based in Minnesota. Compl., ECF No. 1 [hereinafter Compl.], ¶ 2. Defendant John E. Heinlein, Jr., and his spouse are the sole owners and operators of the company. Id. ¶ 6. John Heinlein Construction, Inc. (“Heinlein Construction”), is a separate company, also owned by Heinlein and his spouse, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Id.; Answer, ECF No. 5, ¶ 12.

         Plaintiff Bricklayers & Trowel Trades Pension Fund (the “Fund”) is a multiemployer pension plan within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., amended by Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendment Act of 1980, Pub. L. No. 96-364, 94 Stat. 1208, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. In 2007, Heinlein Construction entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Bricklayers & Trowel Trades International Union and affiliated local unions, under which it agreed to make payments to the Fund to finance employee benefits. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8. In the spring of 2010, Heinlein Construction stopped making payments to the Fund after terminating its collective bargaining agreement, but continued performing the same type of work in the same geographic area. Id. ¶ 10. The Fund determined that Heinlein Construction had “completely withdrawn” from the plan under 29 U.S.C. § 1383, thereby triggering Heinlein Construction's statutory obligation to make payments to the plan for unfunded vested benefits, known as “withdrawal liability.” See Id. §§ 1381, 1391; Compl. ¶¶ 10- 11.

         In 2013, Plaintiff, through its trustees, filed suit against Heinlein Construction in this District Court. Complaint, Boland v. John Heinlein Construction, No. 13-1099 (D.D.C. July 17, 2013), ECF No. 1. After Heinlein Construction failed to respond to Plaintiff's Complaint or otherwise defend against the case, Judge Sullivan entered a default judgment in favor of Plaintiff for $237, 833.09, an amount reflecting the sum of withdrawal liability, interest, liquidated damages, and attorney's fees and costs. Judgment, Boland v. John Heinlein Construction, No. 13-1099 (D.D.C. Nov. 21, 2013), ECF No. 10; Declaration of David F. Stupar, Boland v. John Heinlein Construction, No. 13-1099 (D.D.C. Nov. 18, 2013), ECF No. 9-1, at 4-5. To date, Plaintiff has not received any payment in satisfaction of that judgment.

         Plaintiff is now back in this District Court, this time seeking to hold Valley Concrete and John Heinlein accountable for withdrawal liability and associated interest and damages. Plaintiff asserts four claims, two against Valley Concrete and two against John Heinlein. In Count I, Plaintiff seeks the payment of withdrawal liability from Valley Concrete under the theory that Valley Concrete and Heinlein Construction are a single employer under ERISA and therefore Valley Concrete is jointly and severally liable for Heinlein Construction's withdrawal liability. Compl. ¶¶ 27-28. In Count II, Plaintiff claims that Valley Concrete is the alter ego of Heinlein Construction and, as such, is liable for the full amount of the judgment entered by Judge Sullivan. Id. ¶¶ 32-34. In Counts III and IV, Plaintiff alleges, respectively, that John Heinlein is personally liable for the debts of Valley Concrete and that he breached his fiduciary duty to the Fund. Id. ¶¶ 38-39.

         Before the court is Defendant Valley Concrete's Motion to Dismiss. It advances two grounds for dismissal: (1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and (2) lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2). Def. Valley Concrete's Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 15, Mem. in Supp., ECF No. 15-1 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.].[1]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Dismissal for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Under Rule 12(b)(1)

         A motion filed under Rule 12(b)(1) challenges a court's subject matter jurisdiction. On a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over its claims. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). When deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(1), a court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true. Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. Food & Drug Admin., 402 F.3d 1249, 1253-54 (D.C. Cir. 2005). A court is not limited to the allegations made in the complaint, but “may consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to resolve the question [of] whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case.” Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections & Ethics, 104 F.Supp.2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000), citing Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992); see also Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc., 402 F.3d at 1253-54.

         B. Dismissal for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Under Rule 12(b)(2)

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2) challenges whether a federal court can exercise its jurisdiction over a particular defendant. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has personal jurisdiction over each defendant named in the complaint by coming forward with specific and pertinent facts that connect the defendant to the forum. Crane v. N.Y. Zoological Soc'y, 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990); Second Amendment Found. v. U.S. Conference of Mayors, 274 F.3d 521, 524 (D.C. Cir. 2001). Unlike when evaluating a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, when making a personal jurisdiction determination the court need not treat all the plaintiff's allegations as true. Robinson v. Ashcroft, 357 F.Supp.2d 146, 148 (D.D.C. 2004). The court may, instead, “receive and weigh affidavits and any other relevant matter to assist it in determining the jurisdictional facts.” Jin v. Ministry of State Sec., 335 F.Supp.2d 72, 77 (D.D.C. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). Any factual discrepancies must be construed in favor of the plaintiff. See Crane, 894 F.2d at 456.

         III. ...


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