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Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California v. Lindquist Family LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 5, 2014

CARPENTERS PENSION TRUST FUND FOR NORTHERN CALIFORNIA; and BOARD OF TRUSTEES, CARPENTERS PENSION TRUST FUND FOR NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, Plaintiffs,
v.
LINDQUIST FAMILY LLC, MARK LINDQUIST, and ELSIE HELEN LINDQUIST, Defendants

For Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California, Board of Trustees, Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California, Plaintiffs: Donna Lynn Kirchner, George M. Kraw, Katherine Ann McDonough, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Kraw & Kraw Law Group, Mountain View, CA.

For Lindquist Family LLC, Defendant: Timothy Farrell Winchester, LEAD ATTORNEY, Howard Gray Curtis, McInerney & Dillon, P.C, Oakland, CA; Neil H. Bui, McInerney & Dillon, Oakland, CA.

For Mark Alan Lindquist, Defendant: Harold Palmer Smith, III, Smith LLP, Oakland, CA; Krista Lee Baughman, Dhillon Law Group Inc., San Francisco, CA.

For Elsie Helen Lindquist, Defendant: Timothy Farrell Winchester, LEAD ATTORNEY, McInerney & Dillon, P.C, Oakland, CA.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES

Samuel Conti, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. INTRODUCTION

Now before the Court is the above-captioned Plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees. The motion is fully briefed[1] and appropriate for determination without oral argument per Civil Local Rule 7-1(b). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

II. BACKGROUND

This is a declaratory judgment action in which Plaintiffs Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California (the " Carpenters Fund") and Board of Trustees, Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California (collectively " Carpenters" or " Plaintiffs") sought a declaration from the Court that Defendants had engaged in a transaction with a primary purpose of evading liability under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (" MPPAA"). 29 U.S.C. § 1381, et seq. On June 10, 2014, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 73 (" SJ Order"). That order also provides a detailed factual background of the case that the Court will not repeat here. Plaintiffs now move for attorneys' fees, and Defendants oppose the motion.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Plaintiffs brought this action in connection with a separate lawsuit seeking withdrawal liability under the MPPAA. Section 4301(a)(1) of the MPPAA provides a right of action for a " plan fiduciary, employer, plan participant, or beneficiary, who is adversely affected by the act or omission of any party under" the MMPAA. 29 U.S.C. § 1451(a)(1). Section 4301(e) provides for the discretionary award of attorneys' fees to the prevailing party. Id. § 1451(e).

The Ninth Circuit has developed a set of factors relevant to the grant of attorneys' fees authorized under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (" ERISA"). Those factors apply to attorneys' fees sought under the MPPAA as well. See Cuyamaca Meats, Inc. v. San Diego & Imperial Counties Butchers' & Food Emp'rs' Pension Tr. Fund, 827 F.2d 491, 500 (9th Cir. 1987). Thus, in deciding whether to award attorneys' fees under the MPPAA, courts consider

(1) the culpability or good faith of the opposing party; (2) the ability of opposing party to pay the award fees; (3) the degree of deterrence which would result from an award of fees; (4) whether a number of participants under an ERISA plan would benefit from an award of fees; and (5) the relative merits of the parties' positions.

Id. (quoting Hummell v. S.E. Rykoff & Co., 634 F.2d 446, 453 (9th Cir.1980)). " No one of the Hummell factors, however, is necessarily decisive, and some may not be pertinent in a given case." Carpenters S. Cal. Admin. Corp. ...


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