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Shallcross Express Inc. v. Local 478 Trucking

Decided: April 14, 1972.

SHALLCROSS EXPRESS, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOCAL 478 TRUCKING AND ALLIED INDUSTRIES PENSION FUND, DEFENDANT



Feller, J.s.c.

Feller

These are motions and cross-motions for summary judgment.

Plaintiff Shallcross Express, Inc. (Shallcross) has instituted this action to recover from defendant Local 478 Trucking and Allied Industries Pension Fund (Fund) the sum of $12,904.19, alleging that it is entitled to this sum under the principle of unjust enrichment. Shallcross has obtained an order to show cause why judgment should not be entered in this amount and the Fund has filed a motion for summary judgment, also claiming the above amount. Oral arguments have been heard by this court on two occasions, and supplemental briefs have been filed as a result. Consequently, this matter will be decided on a motion and cross-motion for summary judgment.

The facts are not in dispute. Shallcross, a trucking company, has for years been a party to a collective bargaining agreement with Union Local 478, Truck Drivers and Chauffeurs Union, which agreements do not cover all of Shallcross'

employees, but only those in the recognized bargaining unit. Supervisory personnel, dispatchers and mechanics are expressly excluded from the bargaining unit and are not covered by the bargaining agreement.

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement Shallcross is obligated to contribute to a pension fund on behalf of those of its employees in the bargaining unit. Article IV, section 1 of the agreement and declaration of trust requires Shallcross to contribute to the Fund the amount required by the collective bargaining agreement in effect between the union and Shallcross. Article II, section 4 provides for the use of the funds so collected, including payment of retirement benefits, to eligible employees and their beneficiaries. The term "employees" is defined in article I, section 2 to mean "all persons covered by collective bargaining agreements between the employers and the Truck Drivers and Chauffeurs Union, Local 478, I.B. of T., which require contribution to the pension fund." The trust agreement is thus expressly limited to employees in the bargaining unit and does not extend to all employees.

In September 1956 Shallcross began to make contributions to the Fund on behalf of Albert Bamberger, who at the time was a truck driver and a member of the bargaining unit. In October 1965 Bamberger ceased being a driver and became a dispatcher. As a dispatcher Bamberger left the bargaining unit, but Shallcross nonetheless continued to make contributions to the Fund with respect to him until April 1970.

In December 1956 Shallcross began making payments to the Fund with respect to George E. Henshaw, Jr., who at the time was employed as a helper and as such was a member of the bargaining unit. In January 1959 Henshaw left the bargaining unit when he became a mechanic, but Shallcross nonetheless continued to make contributions to the Fund for him until April 1970.

In September 1960 Shallcross began making payments to the Fund with respect to Thomas H. Gaffney, who at the

time was a driver and a member of the bargaining unit. In January 1963 Gaffney left the bargaining unit when he became a foreman, but Shallcross nonetheless continued to make payments to the Fund on his behalf until April 1970.

In May 1970 the fact that Bamberger, Henshaw and Gaffney were not members of the bargaining unit was brought to the attention of the Fund. Shallcross was thereupon directed not to make any further contributions with respect to these individuals. Shallcross requested a refund of all payments it had ever made with respect to these three individuals, and the Fund declined. Shallcross has now instituted this suit in an attempt to recover all payments made with respect to these employees.

Plaintiff claims that the contributions made in behalf of Bamberger, commencing in December 1956 and concluding in December 1970, amounted to $4,517.08. Plaintiff also contends that contributions made on behalf of Henshaw, commencing in December 1956 and concluding in April 1970, amounted to $4,537.37, and contributions made in behalf of employee Thomas H. Gaffney, commencing in September 1960 and concluding in April 1970, amounted to $3,849.74.

During the time the contributions were made by plaintiff to defendant, no immediate benefits were conferred upon plaintiff or the three employees. Any and all benefits, if they were deemed to be due and owing by defendant, were to be conferred upon application by the employee and a finding of eligibility by the pension plan upon reaching the proper age, or as otherwise provided in the agreement attached thereto. As stated above, plaintiff's total contributions on behalf of the employees named were in the amount of $12,904.19.

In 1970 Bamberger filed an application for pension benefits with the Fund. Its board of trustees notified him on or about August 24, 1970 that his application had been denied and that he was not eligible for benefits on the theory that, although a card-carrying member of Local 478, he had had

a change in job classification in October 1965; that he was not eligible for pension benefits because on the date of that change he had not as yet reached the required minimum age.

On or about May 1, 1970 Local 478 Union's executive board determined that Henshaw was working outside of union job classification and that he must take a withdrawal card from the union. On or about May 5, 1970 plaintiff received notification from Milton A. Liss, administrator of the Joint Welfare Fund of Local 478, notifying it not to include Henshaw in its May remittance forms to the Fund; to omit him from all future remittance forms since he was not eligible to participate in the Fund, and that the Fund cannot accept contributions from it.

On or about May 5, 1970 a similar correspondence was received from the Fund regarding the ineligibility of Bamberger and also excluding from eligibility Gaffney, who likewise was a member of Local 478 until on or about May 1, 1971. He was required to take a withdrawal card from the union and declared ineligible to participate or have contributions made on his behalf to the pension plan.

Plaintiff does not contend that it is entitled to a rebate of any contributions made to the welfare plan, but only for those contributions made to the pension plan, inasmuch as the benefits to be derived from the pension plan were benefits in futuro , and consequently the individuals named heretofore had not received any benefits from defendant during the course of their employment with Shallcross or as members of Local 478.

Plaintiff, upon being advised of the ineligibility of Bamberger, Henshaw and Gaffney, ceased making contributions to the pension and welfare plans on their behalf. Sometime thereafter plaintiff made a demand for a refund of the contributions previously made on behalf of the above-named individuals. Plaintiff was advised that no refund would be forthcoming. A similar request was made for a refund of the contributions on or about August 12, 1971 and August 16, 1971. On or about August 31, 1971 defendant again

declined to refund the contributions previously made. Plaintiff thereupon instituted this action upon verified complaint and order to show cause why these monies, which plaintiff contends are unjustifiably withheld by defendant, should not be remitted to it.

Section 23(c), (d), (e) and (f) of the agreement provides for certain payments per hour into the Fund for each ...


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