United States District Court, D. Maryland
FREIGHT DRIVERS AND HELPERS LOCAL UNION NO. 557 PENSION FUND, by its Plan Sponsor, The Joint Board of Trustees,
PENSKE LOGISTICS LLC, et al.
Frederick Motz, United States District Judge.
action arises under the Employment Retirement Income Security
Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001
et seq., as amended by the Multiemployer Pension
Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (“MPPAA”), 29 U.S.C.
§ 1381 et seq. Plaintiff Freight Drivers and
Helpers Local Union No. 557 Pension Fund (the
“Fund”) seeks to vacate an arbitration order
dismissing its claim for the imposition of withdrawal
liability against defendants Penske Logistics LLC and Penske
Truck Leasing Co., L.P. (collectively, “Penske”).
Now pending are the Fund’s motion for summary judgment
(ECF No. 44), and Penske’s cross-motion for summary
judgment. (ECF No. 45). The motions are fully briefed, and no
oral argument is necessary. See Local R. 105.6. For
the reasons set forth below, the Fund’s motion is
denied, and Penske’s cross-motion is granted.
Fund, a multiemployer pension plan, is a “trucking
industry fund” under 29 U.S.C. § 1383(d), meaning
that “substantially all of the contributions required
under the plan are made by employers primarily engaged in the
long and short haul trucking industry.” Penske
Logistics LLC and Penske Truck Leasing Co., L.P. are
out-of-state businesses whose operations include trucking
services and owning subsidiary businesses.
some time, Leaseway Motorcar Transport Company
(“Leaseway”)-not a party to this case-was
obligated by a collective bargaining agreement to contribute
to the Fund, and it did so. In 1996, Leaseway became a wholly
owned subsidiary of Penske Truck Leasing, but in 2004, Penske
Truck Leasing transferred ownership of Leaseway to a third
party, Performance Transportation Company
(“PLG”). Two years later, Leaseway, PLG, and
various affiliates filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the
United States Bankruptcy Code. (ECF No. 1, Ex. 1, p. 4).
Leaseway subsequently ceased making contributions to the
Fund. See 29 U.S.C. § 1383(a). The Fund
responded by assessing complete withdrawal liability against
Penske. (Id., p. 24). Penske disputed that it was
responsible for Leaseway’s withdrawal liability, and
the parties submitted the dispute to arbitration pursuant to
July 13, 2012 order, the arbitrator dismissed the
Fund’s demand against Penske. The arbitrator reasoned
that the trucking industry exemption to the assessment of
complete withdrawal liability applied, and so Penske was not
liable for the withdrawal. (Id., p. 36-42). The Fund
then filed a civil action in this court on August 9, 2012,
seeking review of the arbitrator’s ruling. (ECF No. 1).
After the Fund was permitted to file an amended complaint,
Penske filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that filing a
complaint was not the proper method to obtain review of an
MPPAA arbitration order. The court agreed that the
Fund’s amended complaint was procedurally improper and
dismissed the case. (ECF Nos. 19, 20). The court denied the
Fund’s motion for reconsideration, and the Fund
appealed to the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit reversed,
holding that the Fund’s amended complaint was
procedurally proper, and remanded the case for further
proceedings. See ECF No. 30; Freight Drivers
& Helpers Local Union No. 557 Pension Fund v. Penske
Logistics LLC, 784 F.3d 210, 211 (4th Cir. 2015).
before this court are the parties’ respective motions
for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 44, 45). They dispute whether
the arbitrator correctly determined that Penske met the
requirements of the trucking industry exemption, and thus
whether Penske can be held responsible for Leaseway’s
cessation of contributions to the Fund.
reviewing a case brought under the MPPAA, the district court
must accept as correct the arbitrator’s findings of
fact, which may be rebutted only by a clear preponderance of
the evidence. Republic Indus., Inc. v. Teamsters Joint
Council No. 83 of Virginia Pension Fund, 718 F.2d 628,
641 (4th Cir. 1983); see also 29 U.S.C. §
1401(c) (creating a presumption of correctness of the
arbitrator’s findings of fact). The arbitrator’s
conclusions of law, however, are reviewed de novo.
Trustees of the Cent. Pension Fund of the Int’l
Union of Operating Eng’rs and Participating
Emp’rs v. Wolf Crane Serv., Inc., 374 F.3d 1035,
1038 (11th Cir. 2004).
Rule of Civil Procedure 56, which governs summary judgment
motions, provides that summary judgment should be granted
“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).
“A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return
a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Libertarian
Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “A
fact is material if it ‘might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing law.’” Id.
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)). Accordingly, “the mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at
247-48. When considering a motion for summary judgment, the
court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in
that party’s favor, Dennis v. Columbia Colleton
Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 645 (4th Cir. 2002), but
the court must also “prevent factually unsupported
claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.”
Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346
F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and
issue before the court is whether the arbitrator correctly
determined that the trucking industry exception applies in
this case. Although the Fund offers several reasons the
arbitrator erred in so concluding, none are persuasive.
enacted the MPPAA to protect multiemployer pension plans: the
statute discourages employers from withdrawing from such
plans, and thus leaving them with unfunded liabilities.
Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. R.A. Gray & Co.,
467 U.S. 717, 720-22 (1984). Accordingly, when a contributing
employer withdraws from a multiemployer pension plan, the
MPPAA provides that the employer owes withdrawal liability in
the amount of its share of the plan’s vested but
unfunded benefits. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 1381,
1383(a); Concrete Pipe & Prods. of Cal., Inc. v.
Constr. Laborers Pension Trust for S. Cal., 508 U.S.
602, 609 (1993). There are a number of exceptions to this
rule, however, including one for withdrawals from plans that
receive contributions primarily from employers in the
trucking industry. See Id. § 1383(d). For this
so-called “trucking industry” exception to apply,
the employer must have “an obligation to
contribute” to a trucking industry plan, but does not
“continue to perform work within the jurisdiction of
the plan.” Id. § 1383(d)(1).
these preliminary requirements are met, a withdrawal
occurs-and withdrawal ...