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Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for N. Cal. v. Walker

United States District Court, N.D. California

January 16, 2015

CARPENTERS PENSION TRUST FUND FOR NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, Plaintiff,
v.
KEITH WALKER, et al., Defendants

Decided January 15, 2015.

Page 1036

For Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California, The Board of Trustees, Plaintiff: Christian Lee Raisner, LEAD ATTORNEY, Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, Alameda, CA; Emily P. Rich, LEAD ATTORNEY, Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, Alameda, CA; Ezekiel D. Carder, Weinberg Roger and Rosenfeld, Alameda, CA; Roberta D. Perkins, Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, Alameda, CA.

For Keith Walker, Individually and in his capacity as Trustee of the Keith W. Walker Trust dated March 17, 1999, and in his capacity as Trustee of the Keith W. Walker Trust dated May 17, 1999, Defendant: Roger Mark Mason, LEAD ATTORNEY, Sweeney Mason Wilson & Bosomworth, Los Gatos, CA; Christian Lee Raisner, Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, Alameda, CA.

For Keith W. Walker Trust, dated March 17, 1999, the Keith W. Walker Trust, dated May 17, 1999, Real Estate Leasing Business, operated by the Keith W. Walker Trust, D& B Engineered Applications, Inc., a California Corporation, K & M Industries, a California Corporation, Defendants: Roger Mark Mason, LEAD ATTORNEY, Sweeney Mason Wilson & Bosomworth, Los Gatos, CA.

Page 1037

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Re: Dkt. No. 85

WILLIAM H. ORRICK, United States District Judge.

After I granted plaintiff Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California's (the " Pension Fund" ) motion for summary judgment against defendants Keith Walker, the Keith Walker Trust dated March 17, 1999, the Keith Walker Trust dated May 17, 1999, and the Real Estate Leasing Business operated by the Keith Walker Trust, the Pension Fund amended its complaint to add defendants K& M Industries, Inc. (" K& M" ) and D& B Engineered Applications, Inc. (" D& B" ). The sole issue in this case is whether these two companies are " trades or businesses" so as to render them control group members pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1301(b)(1). The undisputed facts prove that both K& M and D& B have an economic nexus to the operations of RFI and the control group, and that both have operated as income-generating businesses during the relevant time period. Because this establishes that they were " trades or businesses" under section 1301(b), I GRANT the Pension Fund's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

As I discussed in the April 17, 2014 order, there are no material undisputed facts in this case. See Order at 1 (Dkt. No. 75). The Pension Fund is an employee benefit plan and a multiemployer plan as defined by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (" ERISA" ). Id. Walker, the Keith Walker Trusts, and the Real Estate Leasing Business are all part of a control group that incurred withdrawal liability under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1361 et seq., when Walker's business Rollie French, Inc. (" RFI" ) terminated a collective bargaining agreement with the Pension Fund. Id. at 2, 7-8. RFI worked in the building and construction industry, and performed metal stud framing, lathing, plastering, and drywall installation. Walker Depo. 1 at 11 (Dkt. No. 49-1); Dkt. No. 51 at 3.

I granted the Pension Fund's first motion for summary judgment on the basis that RFI, the Keith Walker Trusts, and the Real Estate Leasing Business were under common control and were therefore jointly and severally liable for RFI's withdrawal liability under ERISA. Order at 8. Because the Pension Fund intended to pursue similar claims against K& M and D& B, I granted it leave to amend. Id. at 9. The Pension Fund subsequently filed an amended complaint and a second motion for summary judgment. See FAC (Dkt. No. 76); Mot. (Dkt. No. 85). I heard argument on January 14, 2015. Dkt. No. 89.

Walker was in sole control of both K& M and D& B at the time of his withdrawal from the Pension Fund in 2008. Order at 2. Neither party disputes this fact. See Mot. at 3 (Dkt. No. 85); Oppo. at 1-2 (Dkt. No. 87). Therefore, the only issue in this case is whether K& M and D& B are " trades or businesses" so as to render them jointly and severally liable for RFI's withdrawal liability with the other members of the control group. K& M is currently owned by Walker, and D& B is owned by Cristina Mejia. See Walker Depo. 1 at 43, 47. Mejia did the bookkeeping for K& M, D& B, All American Scaffold (" AAS" ), and RFI, and currently owns both AAS and D& B. Eckley Depo. at 5 (Dkt. No. 54); Mejia Depo. at 9-13. (Dkt. No. 53-2). She also appears to be Walker's personal bookkeeper. Eckley Depo. at 10-11.

Page 1038

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment on a claim or defense is appropriate " if the movant shows 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). In order to prevail, a party moving for summary judgment must show that there are no genuine issues of material fact with respect to an essential element of the non-moving party's claim, or to a defense on which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once the movant has made this showing, the burden shifts to the party opposing summary judgment to identify " specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324 (internal quotations and citations omitted). The party opposing summary ...


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