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International Painters and Allied Trades Industry Pension Fund v. Marrero Glass & Metal Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 1, 2019

INTERNATIONAL PAINTERS AND ALLIED TRADE INDUSTRY PENSION FUND and TIM D. MAITLAND Plaintiffs
v.
MARRERO GLASS & METAL INC. and METRO GLASS & METAL PUBLIC WORKS Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs International Painters and Allied Trade Industry Pension Fund (“Pension Fund”) and Tim D. Maitland, in his official capacity as a fiduciary of the Pension Fund, filed suit against defendants Marrero Glass & Metal Inc. (“Marrero”) and Metro Glass & Metal Public Works (“Metro”). ECF 1 (“Complaint”). Plaintiffs allege, inter alia, that the defendants failed to make payments owed to the Pension Fund pursuant to collective bargaining agreements. The Complaint is supported by several exhibits (ECF 1-2 to ECF 1-8) and contains five counts: “Contributions Under ERISA - Sum Certain” (Count I); “Contributions Under Contract - Sum Certain” (Count II); “Audit” (Count III); “Contributions Under ERISA [-] After Audit” (Count IV); and “Contributions Under Contract - After Audit” (Count V). Id. ¶¶ 18-38.

         Defendants have filed a “Motion to Dismiss Complaint, or in the Alternative, Motion to Transfer Case, ” pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(7). ECF 12. It is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 12-1) (collectively, the “Motion”) and an exhibit. ECF 12-2. Plaintiffs oppose the Motion (ECF 15) and have submitted an exhibit. ECF 15-1. Defendants have replied (ECF 17) and filed additional exhibits. ECF 17-1 to ECF 17-9.

         The Motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary to resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall transfer the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404, without consideration of the merits of the motion to dismiss.

         I. Factual Background

         Marrero and Metro are union glass and metal companies incorporated in Pennsylvania. ECF 1, ¶¶ 9-10; ECF 12-1 at 1. Plaintiffs maintain that Marrero and Metro “constitute a single integrated business enterprise.” ECF 1, ¶ 14. Marrero and Metro entered into “collective bargaining agreement(s) (singly or jointly, “Labor Contracts”) with one or more local labor unions or district councils affiliated with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades” (“IUPAT”), among other union entities. Id. ¶ 11; ECF 12-1 at 1.

         Pursuant to the Labor Contracts, the defendants agreed to monthly payments to the Pension Fund, a trust fund established under 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(5). ECF 1, ¶¶ 4, 13. They also agreed to file monthly remittance reports and to produce books and records upon request. Id. ¶ 13. In the event of a breach of their contractual or statutory duties, the defendants also allegedly agreed to pay the Pension Fund liquidated damages, interest, and other costs expended to collect amounts owed as a consequence of the from the breach. Id.

         Marrero allegedly failed to pay amounts due under these agreements from July 2016 to December 2017. ECF 1, ¶ 19. Plaintiffs assert that Marrero and Metro now owe the pension fund $59, 314.16 as a consequence. Id.; see also ECF 1-7 (calculating amount owed); ECF 1-8 (same).

         Similar matters were disputed in two cases filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on June 20, 2017: Metro Glass & Metal Company v. International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council No. 21 Health & Welfare Fund, 2:17-cv-02755-AB (E.D. Pa. June 20, 2017) (hereinafter “Metro”), and International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council No. 21 Health & Welfare Fund v. Metro Glass & Metal Company, 2:17-cv-02757-AB (E.D. Pa. June 20, 2017) (hereinafter “IUPAT”) (collectively, the “Pennsylvania Litigation”).[1]

         In Metro, Marrero and Metro lodged contract and commercial tort claims against several union entities, including the Pension Fund. Metro, ECF 1. But, Marrero and Metro, among other litigants, stipulated to releasing the Pension Fund from the suit on July 26, 2017. Id., ECF 17.

         In IUPAT, several union entities sued Marrero and Metro for allegedly failing to make payments required by the collective bargaining agreements. IUPAT, ECF 1. The Pension Fund was not a party to this suit. See Id. Nevertheless, the claims in IUPAT arose from many of the same facts at issue in the instant matter. Compare IUPAT, ECF 1, with ECF 1.

         Metro and IUPAT were consolidated on November 8, 2017. Id., ECF 15. The cases were later settled, with the parties filing a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice on January 30, 2018. ECF 12-2; see also Metro, ECF 41; IUPAT, ECF 18. By so doing, the union entities still in the case released their claims against Marrero and Metro by operation of a Settlement Agreement. ECF 12-1 at 2. On February 14, 2018, the Pension Fund filed suit in this District. ECF 1. Those claims arose from many of the same allegations at issue in this case. Compare IUPAT, ECF 1 with ECF 1.

         II. Discussion

         Defendants move to transfer this case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). ECF 12-1 at 5-6. They contend that the transfer is proper from “the standpoint of judicial economy” so that the case may be consolidated with the Pennsylvania Litigation. ECF 12-1 at 5. Moreover, they assert that “the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will be a more convenient forum for the majority of parties and witnesses involved.” ECF 17 at 4. Defendants note that “[m]ovants have no ties to Maryland - they have no offices or employees in Maryland and conduct no business in the state of Maryland.” ECF 17 at 3.

         The Pension Fund disagrees, contending that ERISA heavily favors the Pension Fund's choice of venue. ECF 15 at 8. Further, it argues that the interest of justice supports this Court retaining the case because Judge Anita B. Brody, who handled the Pennsylvania Litigation, has denied Marrero's motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to declare the instant case improper or enforce the Settlement Agreement. ECF 15 at 10-11; see also Metro, ECF 45.

         A.

         Section 1404(a) states, in relevant part: “For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought.” Notably, § 1404(a) “reflects an increased desire to have federal civil suits tried in the federal system at the place called for in the particular case by considerations of convenience and justice.” Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). To that end, it helps “to prevent the waste ‘of time, energy, and money' and ‘to protect litigants, witnesses, and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.'” I ...


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