Greater St. Louis Construction Laborers Welfare Fund et al v. General Site Services, LLC
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the plaintiffs' motion for a creditor's bill in equity and to pierce the corporate veil [# 14 ] is granted. Signed by District Judge Catherine D. Perry on March 14, 2014. (BRP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
GREATER ST. LOUIS
WELFARE FUND, et al.
GENERAL SITE SERVICES, LLC,
) Case No. 4:12CV791 CDP
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This closed matter under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of
1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq., is before the court on plaintiffs‟ motion
for a creditor‟s bill in equity and to pierce the corporate veil, which they support
with affidavits and documents. Plaintiffs obtained a default judgment against
General Site Services, LLC, and now seek a creditor‟s bill in equity against John
Dickinson and GSS, LLC., which plaintiffs allege are alter-ego entities of the
named defendant. Dickinson and GSS have been served with the motion, and I
granted them additional time in which to respond. That time has now passed
without response. For the following reasons, plaintiffs‟ motion for a creditor‟s bill
in equity and to pierce the corporate veil will be granted.
Plaintiffs are individual laborers, unions, benefit plans, and trustees of funds.
Defendant General Site Services is a Missouri company that performed excavation
services. John Dickinson was its owner and manager. On February 13, 2013, this
court entered Default Judgment against General Site Services in the amount of
$82,935.26 for delinquent contributions, liquidated damages, interest, attorneys‟
fees, payroll examination fees, and costs owed to the plaintiffs under collective
bargaining agreements and pursuant to ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2). Doc. 13.
In a deposition conducted on April 5, 2013, Dickinson stated that General
Site Services conducted business from 2005 until its closing in November or
December of 2011. General Site Services has neither assets nor accounts
receivable. Dickinson said that General Site Services went out of business because
it was “over-leveraged.” Doc. 15-7, Dickinson Tr. at 6.
On May 6, 2012, Dickinson‟s daughter, Amy Dickinson, formed a company
called GSS, LLC, which conducts excavation services. Amy Dickinson is the sole
owner of GSS, was twenty-one years old at the time of its formation, and had no
prior construction experience. She performs no work for GSS and has no job
duties. Instead, John Dickinson exerts total managerial control over bidding,
finances, subcontracting, labor, and day-to-day operations. When asked if Amy
Dickinson performs any work for GSS, Dickinson responded, “Nope. She‟s the
owner. I mean I can‟t own anything.” Dickinson also stated that GSS was started
“[b]ecause I can‟t get a job.” Dickinson clarified that he was “unemployable”
because of his existing debts, including those owed to the Laborers Union. Doc.
15-7, Dickinson Tr. at 26–27.
General Site Services was operated out of out of Dickinson‟s private
residence, which he owns with his wife, and GSS operates out of the same address.
Both General Site Services and GSS used Fred Weber, Inc. as a supplier, and both
companies employed Chad Lawson as an operator. Amy Dickinson formerly
worked for General Site Services as a bookkeeper.
Piercing the Corporate Veil
In Mobius Management Systems, Inc. v. West Physician Search, LLC, the
court set forth Missouri law applicable to piercing the corporate veil to enable a
plaintiff to collect a judgment:
In order to “pierce the corporate veil,” the plaintiff must first
show control – not mere majority or stock control, but complete
domination, not only of finances, but of policy and business practice
with respect to the transaction, such that the corporate entity had no
separate mind, will or existence of its own. In other words, the
plaintiff must show that the corporation is the alter ego of the
defendant. When a corporation is so dominated by a person as to be a
mere instrument of that person, and indistinct from the person
controlling it, the court will disregard the corporate form if its
retention would result in injustice
Second, the plaintiff must show a breach of duty – that this
control was used by the corporation to commit fraud or wrong, to
perpetrate the violation of a statutory or other positive legal duty, or to
commit a dishonest and unjust act in contravention of the plaintiff‟s
legal rights. It is not necessary, however, to show actual fraud. In
some situations, the corporate veil may be pierced when a corporation
is undercapitalized, or when its assets are stripped to avoid
creditors. . . .
Finally, the plaintiff must show that the control and breach of
duty proximately caused the injury or unjust loss.
175 S.W.3d 186, 188–89 (Mo. Ct. App. 2005) (emphasis added) (citations
When evaluating whether an alter-ego relationship exists, courts look to a
number of factors, including similarities in ownership, management, business
purpose, customers, physical location of corporate offices, and transfer of assets,
contracts and employees between corporations. See Operating Engineers Local
No. 101 Pension Fund v. K.C. Excavating & Grading, Inc., 2002 WL 1492103, at
*6 (W.D. Mo. Mar. 11, 2002); see also Woodline Motor Freight, Inc. v. NLRB, 843
F.2d 285, 288–89 (8th Cir. 1988).
The first element of the test, control, is met in this case. Separate companies
will be treated as having common ownership where their owners share close family
relationships. See NLRB v. Stowe Spinning Co., 336 U.S. 226, 227 (1949)
(considering companies with interlocking boards of directors and family ties to be
equal); see also N.L.R.B. v. Dane Cnty. Dairy, 795 F.2d 1313, 1322 (7th Cir. 1986)
(“Familial control constitutes common ownership and control.”). John Dickinson
was the owner of General Site Services, and his daughter is the sole owner of GSS.
As such, they share close family ties, and the two companies will be considered to
have common ownership. Additionally, it is undisputed that John Dickinson bears
all managerial and day-to-day responsibilities for GSS and that he did so for
General Site Services. Both companies perform commercial excavation work, and
both companies employed Chad Lawson as an operator. Finally, both GSS and
General Site Services share the same business address. I find that GSS is the alter
ego of General Site Services and its owner, John Dickinson.
Breach of Duty
Plaintiffs allege that General Site Services was delinquent in its benefit
contributions and that Dickinson created GSS in order to frustrate their collection
efforts. During his deposition, Dickinson admitted that GSS was created because
he was “unemployable” due to his debts, including those owed to the Laborers
International Union. When asked about his daughter‟s involvement, he said it was
because he “can‟t own anything.” Plaintiffs have shown that John Dickinson and
General Site Services have breached their duty to contribute to the benefit funds
and that GSS was created, at least in part, to avoid paying liabilities stemming
from that breach.
Additionally, Dickinson stated that General Site Services was overleveraged.
Missouri courts have found the second element met “where a corporation was
„operating it without sufficient funds to meet obligations to those who must deal
with it.‟” Radaszewski by Radaszewski v. Telecom Corp., 981 F.2d 305, 308 (8th
Cir. 1992) (quoting May Department Stores Co. v. Union Electric Light & Power
Co., 107 S.W.2d 41, 55 (Mo. 1937)). Such actions constitute “circumstantial
evidence tending to show either an improper purpose or reckless disregard of the
rights of others.” Id. (quoting Consolidated Sun Ray, Inc. v. Oppenstein, 335 F.2d
801 (8th Cir. 1964). Plaintiffs have provided evidence that General Site Services
took on significant benefit obligations with no ability to meet those obligations. In
doing so, it and John Dickinson acted at the minimum with reckless disregard to
the plaintiffs‟ rights.1
Plaintiffs must show that the control and breach of duty proximately caused
the injury or unjust loss. Mobius, 175 S.W.3d at 189. John Dickinson, through
This is not the first time that John Dickinson and General Site Services have been before me. In
December of 2007, I entered judgment against General Site Services as the alter ego of two other
companies that had also failed to pay employee benefit contributions. See Greater St. Louis
Const. Laborers Welfare Fund v. Mertens Plumbing and Mechanical, Inc., 552 F. Supp. 2d 952
(E.D. Mo. 2007).
General Site Services, incurred significant obligations to plaintiffs with no ability
to pay the amounts owed, and now conducts business as GSS. This satisfies the
causation requirement, as the only reason plaintiffs have not been paid is because
General Site Services lacks sufficient capital to satisfy the judgment. I find that the
corporate veil should be pierced to enable Plaintiffs to collect the judgment against
General Site Services from GSS and the personal assets of John Dickinson.
Creditor‟s Bill in Equity
A federal court “has the same authority to aid judgment creditors in
supplementary proceedings as that which is provided to state courts under local
law.‟” H.H. Robertson Co. v. V.S. DiCarlo General, 994 F.2d 476, 477 (8th Cir.
1993) (quotation omitted). Missouri law recognizes the availability of the
creditor‟s bill in equity. Id. (citing Shockley v. Harry Sander Realty Co., 771
S.W.2d 922, 925 (Mo. Ct. App. 1989)). “[T]he creditor‟s bill enables a judgment
creditor to „trace the value of the goods and services rendered to an empty-shell
corporation to the parties behind such a corporation who have received and
benefitted from the property or services.‟” Id. (quoting Shockley, 771 S.W.2d at
925). Creditor‟s bill garnishees need not be named as parties in the original action.
Id. at 478 (citing Shockley, 771 S.W.2d at 925). Indeed, the empty-shell
corporation must have received sufficient notice of the enforcement of the
judgment through the creditor‟s bill in equity. Id.
The prerequisites to obtaining a creditor‟s bill are the existence of a
judgment, the issuance of execution against that judgment, and a nulla bona return.
Shockley, 771 S.W.2d at 925. “But the cases hold that, where it is shown that the
judgment debtor was insolvent, and that the issue of an execution would
necessarily be of no practical utility, its issue might be dispensed with.” Buckley v.
Maupin, 125 S.W.2d 820, 823 (Mo. 1939).
In the matter under consideration, Plaintiffs have provided John Dickinson
and GSS with notice of the pending motion and they have not responded. A
judgment has been obtained and the evidence before the court shows that General
Site Services is insolvent. The court finds, therefore, that Plaintiffs are entitled to a
creditor‟s bill in order to satisfy the judgment against General Site Services from
the assets of GSS, LLC and John Dickinson.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the plaintiffs‟ motion for a creditor‟s bill
in equity and to pierce the corporate veil [# 14] is granted.
CATHERINE D. PERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 14th day of March, 2014.
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