NEW JERSEY REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS et al v. CHANREE CONSTRUCTION CO., INC.
OPINION. Signed by Judge Joel A. Pisano on 3/12/2014. (gxh)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
NEW JERSEY REGIONAL COUNCIL
OF CARPENTERS, NEW JERSEY
CARPENTERS FUNDS and the
Civil Action No. 13-5613 (JAP)
CHANREE CONSTRUCTION CO., INC. :
This is an action brought by Petitioners, New Jersey Regional Council of Carpenters,
New Jersey Carpenters Funds, and the Trustees thereof (collectively, the “Petitioners” or “the
Funds”) against Chanree Construction Co., Inc. (“Chanree” or “Respondent”). The Petitioners
have filed a Motion to Confirm Arbitration Award and Entry of Judgment [ECF No. 2]. Chanree
opposes this motion [ECF No. 4]. The Court decides these matters without oral argument
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant both motions
for summary judgment.
Chanree is a signatory to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between Chanree
and the New Jersey State Council of Carpenters, of which the Funds are a third party beneficiary.
The CBA sets the rate at which fringe benefits must be paid by signatory employers, like
Chanree, and mandates that fringe benefits are to “be paid weekly by check to the Ship Steward
on the job and delivered to him with the necessary fringe benefits submission forms fully
completed.” Pet. Confirm Arbitration Award Ex. A at Art. XXIV, ¶ 5. The signature page
executed by Chanree expressly notes that the fringe benefits are to be paid weekly. Id. at Ex. B.
Chanree, however, became delinquent in “remitting fringe benefit contributions to the
Funs in a total amount of $145,926.000…for the period of June 1, 2012 through October 31,
2012.” Id. at Ex. D. On December 27, 2012, the Funds entered into a Consent Arbitration
Award (“CAA”) with Chanree, which was signed by duly appointed representatives and
executed by Arbitrator J.J. Pierson, Esq. Under the CAA, Chanree was to make monthly
payments as indicated on a payment schedule attached to the CAA and stay current on its fringe
benefit contributions. Specifically, the installment plan called for the delinquency amount to be
paid in monthly installments of $12,160.50, due on the 15th of each month. These payments
commenced on January 15, 2013, and were to conclude with the payment on January 15, 2014.
See id. at Ex. D.
The CAA provides that in the event that Chanree fails to make any payment, either for
current fringe benefit contributions or the installment plan payments under the CAA, “such
failure shall be deemed a violation of this Award and Order and the [Respondent] shall be in
default.” Id. at Ex. D ¶ 5. If default occurs
the Funds shall provide written notice to the [Respondent] and a ten (10) day
opportunity to cure. If the [Respondent] does not timely cure a Default within
[ten] (10) days of written notice, the Funds shall be entitled to submits this [CAA]
to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey for confirmation
of entry of same and entry of Judgment in favor of Funds and against the
[Respondent] in the amount due under this [CAA]. . . .
On February 27, 2013, the Funds noticed Chanree, by letter to its counsel Mr. Jonathan
Landesman, Esq., that Chanree had defaulted on the CAA by accruing fringe benefit
delinquencies in November 2012, December 2012, and January 2013. The Funds filed a Petition
to confirm the Consent Award on March 22, 2013. See New Jersey Regional Council of
Carpenters, et al. v. Chanree Construction Co., Inc., Civil Action No. 13-1827, ECF No. 1. The
parties eventually resolved the dispute, and the Funds voluntarily dismissed their Petition on
April 26, 2013. See Civil Action No. 13-1827, ECF Nos. 7, 8.
Thereafter, on June 1, 2013, the Funds contacted their counsel, Mr. Bradley M. Parsons,
Esq., and advised that Chanree had again accrued current fringe benefit delinquencies. On July
17, 2013, Mr. Parsons noticed Mr. Landesman of its default by letter to its counsel. See
Certification of Bradley M. Parsons (“Parsons Cert.”), dated October 15, 2013, Ex. C. Both
Chanree’s counsel and the Funds’ counsel have represented their respective client with respect to
fringe benefit delinquency matters since the CAA was signed. In that capacity, Mr. Parsons and
Mr. Landesman have corresponded on an ongoing basis regarding benefit collections.
Specifically, they have exchanged 51 emails relating to the arbitration and litigation concerning
Chanree’s fringe benefit delinquencies since January 3, 2013. See Parsons Cert. ¶ 4. For
example, on July 11, 203, just six days before Mr. Parsons noticed Mr. Landesman about its
default, Mr. Parsons noticed Mr. Landesman that an arbitration to consider the Funds’ audit
findings with respect to Chanree’s fringe benefits payments had been adjourned to July 25, 2013.
See id. at Ex. E.
After Chanree failed to cure its default, the Funds filed this current action on September
20, 2013. Chanree has opposed the Funds’ petition, on two bases. First, Chanree asserts that the
CAA contains a “specific procedure governing Default, Notice and Cure which requires that
Notice be provided to ‘the Employer’—i.e., Respondent, Chanree.” They argue that the Petition
“does not allege that notice of default was given consistent with and as required by the [CAA],”
and, accordingly, the petition is facially deficient. See Opp. Br. at 1-2. Next, Chanree argues
that the Funds have wrongly claimed that Chanree only made four payments under the CAA,
when it actually made six payments. See Supp’l Opp. Br. at 1-2. After reviewing their records,
the Funds eventually confirmed that Chanree has made six installment payments, not the four
payments that they had initially indicated on their petition. See Certification of Steve Schaefer
(“Schaefer Cert.”) ¶ 4. Therefore, the only remaining issue for this Court to determine is if the
Funds’ notice of default to Chanree was effective.
Review of an arbitration award is extremely limited and conducted under a highly
deferential standard. See United Paperworkers Int'l Union v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 36
(1987). “Our role in reviewing the outcome of the arbitration proceedings is not to correct
factual or legal errors made by an arbitrator.” Major League Umpires Ass'n v. Am. League of
Prof'l Baseball Clubs, 357 F.3d 272, 279 (3d Cir. 2002). There is a strong presumption in favor
of enforcing arbitration awards, which can be overcome in only extremely narrow circumstances.
Brentwood Med. Assocs. v. UMW, 396 F.3d 237 (3d Cir. 2005); see also Handley v. Chase Bank,
387 F. App’x 166, 168 (3d Cir. 2010) (“The party seeking to overturn an award bears a heavy
burden, as these are ‘exceedingly narrow circumstances,’ and courts accord arbitration decisions
exceptional deference.”) (citing Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 370 (3d Cir. 2003)).
Specifically, under the Federal Arbitration Act, there are four exclusive grounds upon which
arbitration awards can be vacated. See 9 U.S.C. § 10(a).1
9 U.S.C. § 10(a) reads in full:
In any of the following cases the United States court in and for the district wherein the award was made
may make an order vacating the award upon the application of any party to the arbitration:
(1) where the award was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means;
(2) where there was evident partiality or corruption in the arbitrators, or either of them;
Here, Chanree does not argue that the arbitration award should be vacated for any of the
ground permitted under the FAA. Rather, it contends that judgment should not be entered
because the Funds’ notice of default was defective. As an initial matter, it is unclear whether a
failure to provide notice of default under consent arbitration award is sufficient to prevent an
arbitration award from being entered. Chanree has cited no cases that allow this Court to draw a
conclusion that the arbitration award should not be confirmed based on the alleged failure to
notice default.2 If anything, Chanree may have a breach of contract claim based upon the alleged
failure of the Funds to provide sufficient notice under the CAA. The CAA itself does not give
the Court the power to confirm an arbitration award; rather, it is an agreement between Chanree
and the Funds that works to prevent the Funds from seeking a judgment unless certain conditions
have been met first. If the Funds were to seek judgment without meeting these conditions, it
does not automatically follow that the Court is unable to enter judgment. In other words, the
Court is under no constraints to not enforce judgment because of an agreement between the
Funds and Chanree.
It is clear, however, that even if the alleged defective notice of default was grounds not to
confirm the arbitration award, the Funds had provided sufficient notice to Chanree. Chanree
asserts that notice was defective because the Funds served notice of Chanree’s default to its
counsel, Mr. Landesman. This argument fails. Chanree is correct that the July 11, 2013 notice is
(3) where the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in refusing to postpone the hearing, upon sufficient
cause shown, or in refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material to the controversy; or of any other
misbehavior by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced; or
(4) where the arbitrators exceeded their powers, or so imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final, and
definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made.
While some court have found that an arbitration award cannot be enforced where the evidence does not establish
that the parties received proper notice, these cases are in the context of receiving notice for the arbitration hearing
itself, because “it is axiomatic that all parties to an arbitration hearing must be given an opportunity to be heard,
which implies the right to receive notice of the hearing.” See Amalgamated Cotton Garment & Allied Industries
Fund v. J.B.C. Co. of Madera, Inc., 608 F. Supp. 158, 164-65 (W.D. Pa. 1984) (citing Ryan-Walsh Stevedoring Co.
v. General Longshore Workers Union, Local No. 3000, 509 F. Supp. 463, 467 (E.D. La. 1981); Wright-Bernet, Inc.
v. Amalgamated Local Union No. 41, 501 F. Supp. 72, 74 (S.D.Ohio 1980)).
not addressed to Chanree, but that hardly means that notice to Mr. Landesman was insufficient to
provide notice to Chanree. The record shows that the parties have intended that notice on Mr.
Landesman would serve as notice on Chanree. For example, the Funds had previously noticed
Mr. Landesman as to Chanree’s prior default of this same CAA before they filed their petition in
New Jersey Regional Council of Carpenters, et al. v. Chanree Construction Co., Inc., Civil
Action No. 13-1827. Counsel for the Funds has also noticed Mr. Landesman regarding
arbitration to consider certain audit findings with regards to Chanree’s benefit payments, and has
otherwise engaged in almost constant communication with Mr. Landesman relating to Chanree’s
fringe benefit delinquencies. See, e.g., Aidan v. Becker, Civil Action No. 11-3462, 2012 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 12802, at *7-8 (D.N.J. Feb. 2, 2012).
Even aside from the intentions of the parties, the Court could also impute notice on Mr.
Landesman to Chanree as a matter of law because notice to counsel is imputed to a client with
regards to matters in which the lawyer represents the client. It is “beyond cavil that the attorneyclient relationship is an agent principal relationship.” McCarthy v. Recordex Serv., 80 F.3d 842,
853 (3d Cir. 1996). “Where an agent receives notice, that notice is imputed to the principal.”
Buchanan v. Reliance Ins. Co. (In re Color Tile, Inc.), 475 F.3d 508, 513 (3d Cir. 2007). The
knowledge that is imputed to the principal is actual knowledge, not constructive. See id. (citing
Martin Marietta Corp. v. Gould, Inc., 70 F.3d 768, 773 n.4 (4th Cir. 1995)). The knowledge of
an agent is imputed to a principal only with regards to “any transaction conducted by the agent in
behalf of its principal.” Higgins v. Shenango Pottery Co., 256 F.2d 504, 509 (3d Cir. Pa. 1958).
Therefore, “the rule of imputation applies only to ‘matters in which the lawyer represents the
client.’” Sweeten v. Middle Twp., Civil Action No. 04-3512, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92186, at
*29-30 (D.N.J. Dec. 14, 2007) (quoting Restatement (Third) Governing Lawyers § 28(1)). Here,
Mr. Landesman represented Chanree with regard to its fringe benefit delinquency to the Funds.
When the Funds served notice of Chanree’s default to Mr. Landesman, actual knowledge was
imputed to Chanree. Consequently, the Funds’ notice of default was effective.
For reasons stated above, this Court finds Chanree’s objection to the Funds’ Motion to
Confirm Arbitration Award and Entry of Judgment to be meritless. Therefore, the Court will
enter the proposed order and judgment submitted by the Funds.
/s/ Joel A. Pisano
JOEL A. PISANO, U.S.D.J.
Dated: March 12, 2014
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?