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Nitro Construction Services, Inc. v. D'Aquila

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

April 8, 2019

NITRO CONSTRUCTION SERVICES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
EDWARD D'AQUILA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH R. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the court is the defendants' Motion to Dismiss Complaint [ECF No. 4]. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is GRANTED.

         II. Background

         The Complaint in this matter filed by Nitro Construction Services, Inc. (“Nitro”) states that “[t]his action stems from the initiation of a Complaint for Monies Due filed in this Court on June 28, 2018, by three local unions-Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 625, 565, and 83 and the West Virginia Pipe Trade Health and Welfare Fund (the ‘Fund') against Nitro.” Compl. [ECF No. 1] 1. The Complaint filed on June 28, 2018 in this court (the “First Action”) involves a multiemployer health and welfare fund established and maintained under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq.[1] The Fund was established to provide funding for health and welfare benefits for eligible employees of employers who have entered into collective bargaining agreements or participation agreements with the local unions. By entering into such agreements, participating employers agree to make periodic contributions to the Fund with respect to workers of the local unions who work for the participating employers.

         Nitro-the plaintiff in this action and the defendant in the First Action-is a participating employer in the Fund and submits contributions to the Fund with respect to workers of the local unions who perform work for it. The Fund is administered by a board of trustees, currently comprised of the defendants in this action: Edward D'Aquila, Gary Yarnell, Michael Rhodes, Don Wagenheim, Steve Ellis, and Michael Romine (“Trustees”).

         The plaintiffs in the First Action allege that Nitro was late in making certain contributions by the contractually mandated due date. Although the principal amounts have been paid, the plaintiffs in the First Action seek to recover liquidated damages and interest in the amount of $81, 326.05, in addition to attorneys' fees and costs.

         Notably, Nitro filed a Third-Party Complaint against the Trustees in the First Action on August 30, 2018. This court struck the Third-Party Complaint in its entirety on November 16, 2018 for its failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 14. On December 12, 2018, Nitro filed this action against the Trustees, asserting identical claims against the Trustees as were set forth in its Third-Party Complaint. Nitro's Complaint in this action contains five counts: Count One alleges a breach of fiduciary duties under ERISA § 502(a)(3); Count Two seeks a declaratory judgment against the Trustees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201; Count Three alleges, in the alternative, a breach of contract under federal common law; Count Four alleges, in the alternative, a breach of fiduciary duty under federal common law; and Count Five alleges equitable estoppel.

         On January 17, 2019, the Trustees filed a Motion to Dismiss this action [ECF No. 4] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), contending that Nitro's Complaint fails to state any claim upon which relief may be granted.

         III. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, courts must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff's factual allegations, taken as true, must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Robertson v. Sea Pines Real Estate Co., 679 F.3d 278, 288 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The plausibility standard is not a probability requirement, but “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Although it is true that “the complaint must contain sufficient facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face, it nevertheless need only give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds on which it rests.” Hall v. DIRECTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 777 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing Wright v. North Carolina, 787 F.3d 256, 263 (4th Cir. 2015)).

         IV. Discussion

         a. ...


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