Iron Workers St. Louis District Council Annuity Trust et al v. United Ironworkers, Inc.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER...IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. (Doc. No. 13 .) The motion is GRANTED to the extent it seeks a more de finite statement of the contracts at issue and the time periods they cover, and the motion is DENIED in all other respects. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that on or before August 27, 2015, Plaintiffs shall file an amended complaint that specifically identif ies the contracts at issue and the time periods they cover. Failure to do so may result in the dismissal of Plaintiffs' complaint. ( Amended/Supplemental Pleadings due by 8/27/2015.) Signed by District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig on 8/13/2015. (NEB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
IRON WORKERS ST. LOUIS
DISTRICT COUNCIL ANNUITY
TRUST, et al.,
UNITED IRONWORKERS, INC., et al.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the motion (Doc. No. 13) to dismiss or, in the
alternative, for a more definite statement, filed by Defendant United Ironworkers, Inc.
For the reasons set forth below, the motion shall be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiffs, three employee benefit funds (“funds”) and their fiduciaries, filed this
suit against Defendant under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”),
29 U.S.C. § 1132, claiming that Defendant failed to timely make contributions to the
funds as required under the collective bargaining agreements (“CBAs”) between
Defendant and its employees’ six unions. Plaintiffs do not specifically identify the CBAs
at issue, or the time periods that they cover. However, Plaintiffs allege generally that the
CBAs require Defendant to make contributions to the funds at specified rates for hours
worked by employees in covered employment within the jurisdiction of the unions.
Plaintiffs allege that they conducted an audit of Defendant for the period of January 1,
2010 to June 30, 2014, and the audit resulted in a finding of a delinquency owed to
Plaintiffs totaling $536,159.79. In addition to this amount, Plaintiffs allege that
Defendant is liable for interest on the delinquent payments, liquidated damages,
attorney’s fees, accounting fees, and costs, all of which Plaintiffs assert is required under
the CBAs and certain trust documents adopted by the trustees of the funds.
Defendant moves for dismissal for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement under Rule
12(e). Defendant argues that Plaintiffs’ complaint does not satisfy federal notice
pleading requirements because it does not state the number of hours purportedly worked
by the employees, does not explain or attach the CBAs or trust documents on which it
relies, and groups together in a single count claims based on six different CBAs and three
different funds, without identifying the amount allegedly due to each Plaintiff pursuant to
each CBA. If the Court does not dismiss the complaint, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs
must replead their complaint to make it more definite, by separating into different counts
the amounts claimed to be due to each Plaintiff pursuant to each CBA, and by including
hours worked by the relevant employees.
Plaintiffs reply that their complaint provides Defendant adequate notice of their
claims and need not be repleaded into separate counts because all claims depend upon the
same contractual obligation (a provision requiring contributions) and the same basis for
damages (the audit).
To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff’s allegations
must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The reviewing court must accept the
plaintiff’s factual allegations as true and construe them in plaintiff’s favor, but it is not
required to accept the legal conclusions the plaintiff draws from the facts alleged. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678; Retro Television Network, Inc. v. Luken Commc’ns, LLC, 696 F.3d 766,
768-69 (8th Cir. 2012). A court must “draw on its judicial experience and common
sense,” and consider the plausibility of the plaintiff’s claim as a whole, not the
plausibility of each individual allegation. Zoltek Corp. v. Structural Polymer Grp., 592
F.3d 893, 896 n.4 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
“A party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a
responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot
reasonably prepare a response.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). The federal pleading rules also
provide that “[i]f doing so would promote clarity, each claim founded on a separate
transaction or occurrence—and each defense other than a denial—must be stated in a
separate count or defense.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(b). However, “[u]nder Rule 10(b), a
separation of claims into separate counts is mandatory only when necessary to facilitate
clear presentation.” CitiMortgage, Inc. v. Chicago Bancorp, Inc., No. 4:12CV246 CDP,
2012 WL 1660825, at *1 (E.D. Mo. May 11, 2012) (citation omitted). “The remedy of
repleader based on violation of Rules 8 and 10 has generally been reserved for egregious
cases where a defendant does not know the basic facts that constitute the claim for relief
against it.” Superior Edge, Inc. v. Monsanto Co., 44 F. Supp. 3d 890, 898 (D. Minn.
2014) (citation omitted).
Upon review, the Court finds that at this early stage, Plaintiffs are not required to
plead detailed facts regarding the specific terms of the CBAs, the specific number of
hours worked by each employee, or the specific findings of Plaintiffs’ audit of Defendant.
These facts may be explored in discovery.1 See NEXTEP, LLC v. Kaba Benzing Am.,
Inc., No. 4:07CV1107 RWS, 2007 WL 4218977, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 29, 2007) (“[T]he
particular details on how NEXTEP accepted Kaba’s contract offer, and all of the other
specific facts requested by Kaba are more properly issues to be explored in discovery.”);
Plumbers & Fitters Local 101 v. Hirth Plumbing & Heating Co., No. 09-0853-DRH,
2010 WL 487074, at *2 (S.D. Ill. Feb. 8, 2010) (holding that a complaint was “sufficient
to state a cause of action for failure to timely submit contributions pursuant to ERISA”
where it alleged that the defendant was party to, and bound by, collective bargaining
agreements requiring contributions; that the defendant failed to submit the contributions
for a specified period of time; and that the defendant was therefore liable for the unpaid
contributions plus interest).
Likewise, the Court finds that, although Plaintiffs could have separated their
claims by Plaintiff and/or by CBA, such pleading strategy is not necessary for a clear
understanding of Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendant. Plaintiffs assert that all of their
The Court also notes that it appears that Plaintiffs have already produced the audit
report to Defendant. Defendant attached the audit to its reply in support of this motion,
and in its reply brief, Defendant referred to portions of the audit in order to defend
against Plaintiffs’ claims on the merits. (Doc. Nos. 16 & 16-1.)
claims depend on the same contractual obligation and the same basis for damages (the
audit). It is not necessary for Plaintiffs to plead their claims in separate counts. See
CitiMortgage, 2012 WL 1660825, at *2 (holding that where the plaintiff’s complaint
adequately set forth the basis for its demand, which was based on a single contractual
provision as applied to multiple loans, the plaintiff was not required to plead its claims in
However, the Court finds problematic that Plaintiffs have not even identified the
CBAs at issue, or what time periods they cover. Without even these minimal facts, the
Court finds that the complaint is too vague or ambiguous for Defendant to reasonably
prepare a response. Therefore, the Court will grant Defendant’s motion for a more
definite statement to the extent that Plaintiffs must replead the complaint to specifically
identify the contracts at issue and the time periods they cover.
For the reasons set forth above,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant’s motion to dismiss or, in the
alternative, for a more definite statement is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
(Doc. No. 13.) The motion is GRANTED to the extent it seeks a more definite
statement of the contracts at issue and the time periods they cover, and the motion is
DENIED in all other respects.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that on or before August 27, 2015, Plaintiffs shall
file an amended complaint that specifically identifies the contracts at issue and the time
periods they cover. Failure to do so may result in the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ complaint.
AUDREY G. FLEISSIG
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 13th day of August, 2015.
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