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Wilson v. A&K Rock Drilling, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 24, 2018

CAROL A. Wilson, et al., Plaintiffs,

          Jolson Magistrate Judge.



         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 23) of Plaintiffs Carol A. Wilson and the Trustees of the Ohio Operating Engineers Health and Welfare Plan, the Ohio Operating Engineers Pension Fund, the Ohio Operating Engineers Education and Training Fund, and the Ohio Operating Engineers Apprenticeship Fund (the “Funds”), and the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 26) of Defendant A&K Rock Drilling, Inc. (“A&K”). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Funds' Motion and DENIES A&K's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         The parties do not dispute the underlying facts, which can be summarized as follows. The Funds are jointly administered, multiemployer fringe benefit programs established for the benefit of employees of contractors who perform work pursuant to collective bargaining agreements with the Union. (ECF No. 23). A&K was a corporation engaged in the contracting industry. (ECF Nos. 13 at ¶¶ 2, 26 at 2). A&K was privately held by Mr. Edward Atherton and Mr. Gregory Klodt. (ECF No. 26-2.).

         In March 2002, A&K executed the first of three “Acceptance of Agreement” with the Ohio Contractors Association and an Acceptance of Agreement with the Associated General Contractors of Ohio Labor Relations Division (“Collective Bargaining Agreements” or “CBAs”). (ECF Nos. 13 at ¶ 5, 23-1). Gregory Klodt acted on behalf of A&K in executing these Collective Bargaining Agreements. (ECF No. 26-3). The CBAs, which incorporated by reference four Trust Agreements[1], obligated A&K to contribute to the Funds' fringe benefit funds for all hours worked by A&K employees. Specifically, the CBAs provide:

Fringe benefit contributions shall be paid at the following rates for all hours paid to each employee by the Employer under this Agreement which shall in no way be considered or used in the determination of overtime pay. Hours paid shall include holidays and reporting hours which are paid.

         Ohio Highway Agreement at ¶ 35 (ECF No. 23-1 at PageID 333); Ohio Building Agreement at ¶ 45 (ECF No. 23-1 at PageID 381).

         The Funds conducted an audit of A&K's payroll records in November 2015 for the period of January 1, 2004 to November 1, 2015 and concluded that were a number of hours worked during the audit period for which contributions had not been made. (ECF No. 15 at 6). These included hours on behalf of Klodt and D.T. Colopy for time worked between January 2004 and March 2008. (ECF No. 26 at 4). The Funds sent a letter to A&K requesting the unpaid fringe benefits and interest, for a total demand of $56, 147.80. (ECF No. 26-3).

         B. Procedural Background

         The Funds initiated this suit in July 2016, seeking delinquent fringe benefit contributions, interest, liquidated damages, and costs under the CBAs, the Employee Retirement Security Income Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), and the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (“LMRA”). (ECF No. 1). In November of 2016, A&K filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the claims are barred by the relevant statute of limitations and fail to state a claim for which relief can be granted with respect to the contributions on behalf of Gregory Klodt. (Doc. 15). First, A&K argued that Ohio's current eight-year statute of limitations for contracts actions applied, barring all claims since the delinquent payments began in January 2004. (Id.). Second, A&K argued that it was not obligated to make contributions on Klodt's behalf because-as an owner and authorized representative of A&K-Klodt was an employer, not an employee. As part of its argument, A&K alleged that federal labor laws prohibit the company from contributing to the Funds on Klodt's behalf because he qualifies as an employer under the LMRA.

         In June of 2017, this Court denied the Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 31). The Court rejected A&K's statute of limitations argument and held that Ohio's previous fifteen-year statute of limitations for contract actions governs, since the claims accrued prior to the amendment that changed the applicable statute of limitations to eight years. Thus, on the first issue, this Court held that the claims were not time-barred. (ECF No. 31). On the second issue relating to contributions on behalf of Klodt, the Court held that it could not determine at the motion to dismiss stage whether Klodt was an “employer” or an “employee” under the CBAs. The Court did, however, reject A&K's argument that it would be illegal for A&K to contribute money on Klodt's behalf. (ECF No. 31).

         In April of 2017 and May of 2017, the Funds and A&K, respectively, moved for Summary Judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). Both motions were filed before this Court ruled on the Motion to Dismiss in June of 2017. The Funds seek summary judgment against A&K in the amount of $39, 061.18 for delinquent contributions, $81, 024.48 for accumulated interest calculated through April 15, 2017, plus late charges of $19.27 per day thereafter and statutory interest in the amount of $81, 024.48 calculated through April 15, 2017, plus late charges of $19.27 per day thereafter. (ECF No. 23). A&K seeks summary judgment in its favor arguing first that the claims fall outside the statute of limitations, and second, that no contributions are owed on Klodt's behalf. (ECF No. 26). The motions are fully briefed and ripe for review.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides, in relevant part, that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” A fact is deemed material only if it “might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the governing substantive law.” Wiley v. United States, 20 F.3d 222, 224 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The nonmoving party must then present “significant probative evidence” to show that “there is [more than] some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc., 8 F.3d 335, 340 (6th Cir. 1993). The mere possibility of a factual dispute is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Mitchell v. Toledo Hospital, 964 F.2d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 1992). Summary judgment is inappropriate, however, “if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, ' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         The necessary inquiry for this Court is “whether ‘the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'” Patton v. Bearden, 8 F.3d 343, 346 (6th Cir. 1993) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52). In evaluating such a motion, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. United States S.E.C. v. Sierra Brokerage Servs., Inc., 712 F.3d 321, 327 (6th Cir. 2013). The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the opposing party's position will be insufficient to survive the motion; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the opposing party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251; Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476, 479 (6th Cir. 1995).

         III. ...

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