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Sun Capital Partners III, LP v. New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 26, 2018

SUN CAPITAL PARTNERS III, LP, SUN CAPITAL PARTNERS III QP, LP and SUN CAPITAL PARTNERS IV, LP Plaintiffs/Counter-Defendants,
v.
NEW ENGLAND TEAMSTERS AND TRUCKING INDUSTRY PENSION FUND, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Having prevailed in this action after remand from the Court of Appeals, the defendant, New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund (“the Pension Fund”), brought the motion pending before me under Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 59(e) to amend the resulting judgment. Specifically, the Pension Fund contends that the remand judgment was entered in error because it failed to include interest, liquidated damages, and attorney fees and costs, as required by 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2). A Rule 59(e) motion should be granted “when the original judgment evidence[s] a manifest error of law . . .” Biltcliffe v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 772 F.3d 925, 930 (1st Cir. 2014) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). There was plainly such error here.

         The plaintiff limited partnerships, collectively referred to as “Sun Funds”, initially opposed the motion to amend not on the merits, but on procedural grounds. After a further explanatory submission by counsel for the Pension Fund, Sun Funds withdrew certain of its grounds for opposition. Because the Sun Funds' opposition implicates important procedures independently enforceable by the court itself and because the underlying merits of my disposition on remand seemed to me to require some further reflection, I have used consideration of the motion to amend the judgment to engage sua sponte in full reconsideration of the remand decision. This Memorandum explains my determination to amend the judgment only to the extent requested by the Pension Fund and to leave unmodified the Pension Fund's status as prevailing party.

         I. MANIFEST ERROR

         At issue in the case is the obligation of Sun Funds to make contributions to the Pension Fund under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act (“MPPAA”) which amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). When judgment is awarded in favor of a pension plan in such a suit, ERISA requires a court to award:

(A) the unpaid contributions,
(B) interest on the unpaid contributions,
(C) an amount equal to the greater of--
(i) interest on the unpaid contributions, or (ii) liquidated damages provided for under the plan in an amount not in excess of 20 percent (or such higher percentage as may be permitted under Federal or State law) of the amount determined by the court under subparagraph (A),
(D) reasonable attorney's fees and costs of the action, to be paid by the defendant, and
(E) such other legal or equitable relief as the court deems appropriate.

29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2).

         The initial judgment I entered on remand awarded only the amount of the unpaid contributions under § 1132(g)(2)(A) and failed to include the additional, mandatory remedies under § 1132(g)(2)(B)-(D). Through its motion, the Pension Fund seeks in excess of $2, 253, 787.76 in interest, $903, 307.80 in liquidated damages, and $340, 977.58 in attorneys' fees and costs.[1] It is uncontested that the judgment I entered on remand was manifestly in error as a result of the failure to include these mandatory items. Barring some disqualifying misstep by the Pension Fund, if the underlying declaratory judgment for the Pension Fund stands, it must be modified to incorporate award of the additional items sought by the Pension Fund. I will take up the missteps identified by the Sun Funds in Parts II and III before reporting the results of my further consideration of the underlying judgment in Part IV.

         II. LOCAL RULE 7.1

         The Sun Funds initially asserted that the Pension Fund's Rule 59 motion should be denied in its entirety for failure to comply with Local Rule 7.1. Local Rule 7.1(a)(2) provides that “[n]o motion shall be filed unless counsel certify that they have conferred and have attempted in good faith to resolve or narrow the issue.” Here, the Pension Fund's motion included no certification of compliance with Rule 7.1. The Sun Funds assert - and the Pension Fund ...


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