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Boards of Directors of Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan v. Yellow Productions, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 9, 2014

BOARDS OF DIRECTORS OF THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY PENSION PLAN, THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNT PLAN, AND MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY HEALTH PLAN, Plaintiff,
v.
YELLOW PRODUCTIONS, LLC, a California limited liability company; SEVEN ARTS PICTURES INC., aka 7 ARTS PICTURES INC, a Nevada corporation; GS ENTERTAINMENT LLC, a California limited liability company, Defendants

For Boards of Directors of the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan, Motion Picture Industry Individual Account Plan, the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan, Plaintiffs: Elizabeth Rosenfeld, Kathryn Jane Halford, Wohlner Kaplon Phillips Young and Cutler PC, Encino, CA.

For Yellow Productions LLC, a California limited liability company, Defendant: Edward A Ruttenberg, Leopold Petrich and Smith PC, Los Angeles, CA; Emanuel Soleiman Shirazi, Shirazi Law Firm, Los Angeles, CA.

For Seven Arts Pictures Inc, a Nevada corporation also known as 7 Arts Pictures Inc, Defendant: Peter M Hoffman, Seven Arts Pictures Inc, Legal Division, Los Angeles, CA.

For GS Entertainment LLC, a California limited liability company, Defendant: Stephen J Goldberg, LEAD ATTORNEY, Stephen J Goldberg Law Offices, Los Angeles, CA.

For E. Scott Douglas, Mediator (ADR Panel): E Scott Douglas, E Scott Douglas Law Offices, Law & Mediation, Manhattan Beach, CA.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NO. 57]

DEAN D. PREGERSON, United States District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment (the " Motion"). (Docket No. 57.) For the reasons stated in this order, the Motion is GRANTED.

I. Background

Plaintiffs Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan (" Directors"), Motion Picture Industry Individual Account Plan, and Motion Picture Industry Health Plan (" Plans") (collectively, " Plaintiffs") bring this action against Defendants Yellow Productions, LLC, Seven Arts Pictures, Inc., and GS Entertainment, LLC (collectively, " Defendants") to recover pension and health benefit contributions due to Plaintiffs arising from work performed in the production of the motion picture " Yellow" and the webisode " Proud Mary." (See Complaint, Docket No. 1.) The Plans are funded through employer contributions made by employers who are either affiliated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (" AMPTP") or who agree to be bound by the terms of the collective bargaining agreements (" CBAs") negotiated by AMPTP. (Statement of Undisputed Facts (" SUF") ¶ 3.) Under the CBAs, employers must make contributions to the Plans on behalf of covered employees. (Id.) The Plans operate pursuant to separate Trust Agreements. (Id. ¶ 6.)

It is undisputed[1] here that each Defendant signed a CBA and agreed to be bound by a Trust Agreement by signing a Trust Acceptance Agreement. (Id. ¶ ¶ 16-33.) Under the terms of the CBAs, employers must make contributions to the Plans for hours worked by or guaranteed to covered employees. Under the terms of the Trust Agreements, Plan contributions must be paid on a weekly basis. (Id. ¶ 7.) The Directors may audit the records of any employer and, if the employer fails to provide records for audit, the Directors may take legal action to enforce their right to audit. (Id. ¶ ¶ 8-9.) Further, the Directors may take legal action to recover any improperly withheld benefits, plus additional damages of 1% interest per month on the unpaid contributions, liquidated damages, attorney's fees, costs of suit, and fees or costs associated with conducting the audit. (Id. ¶ ¶ 10-12.)

Further, it is undisputed that when the Plans initially requested records to perform an audit, Defendants failed to provide any records. (Id. ¶ ¶ 34-40.) After filing this action and gaining access to the records, the Plans performed an audit and determined that Yellow Productions and GS Entertainment underreported hours worked or guaranteed to employees. (Id. ¶ ¶ 42, 50.) The audit showed that Yellow Productions owed unpaid contributions of $24, 149.29 and GS Entertainment owed unpaid contributions of $15, 509.62. (Id. ¶ ¶ 43, 51.) Further, Seven Arts represented that it was the parent production company and " controlling entity" of Yellow Productions, making it liable for the underpayment as well. (Id. ¶ 22.) These underpayments would also entitle the Plans to recover interest, liquidated damages, fees, and costs. Defendants " dispute" the findings of the audit, but provide no evidence or independent review of the records to support or substantiate their claim that the audits are incorrect. Plaintiffs now move for summary judgment.[2]

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show " that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). All reasonable inferences from the evidence must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party opposing the motion, who must " set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Summary judgment is warranted if a party " fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. A genuine issue exists if " the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, " and material facts are those " that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. There is no genuine issue of fact " [w]here the record taken ...


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