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Erickson v. Americold Logistics, LLC

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 2, 2018

R. Thomas Erickson, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
AmeriCold Logistics, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          Thomas C. Atmore, Esq. and Leonard, O'Brien, Spencer, Gale & Sayre, LTD, counsel for plaintiffs.

          Deborah A. Ellingboe, Esq., Isaac B. Hall, Esq. and Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP, counsel for defendants Jerry's Enterprises, Inc. and SuperValu, Inc.

          John J. McGowan, Jr., Esq. and Baker & Hostetler, LLP, Mary L. Knoblauch, Esq. and Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie, PA, counsel for cross-claimant Sysco Minnesota, Inc.

          ORDER

          David S. Doty, Judge

         This matter is before the court upon the motion to dismiss by defendants SuperValu Inc. and Jerry's Enterprises, Inc. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         This ERISA dispute arises out of the Minneapolis Food Distributed Industry Pension Fund Trust Agreement (Trust Agreement). Under the terms of the Trust Agreement, four trustees are appointed to represent the employers of plan participants (Employer Trustees) and four trustees are appointed to represent the unions participating in the pension plan (Union Trustees). Am. Compl. ¶ 9. Teamsters Local 120, pursuant to its internal appointment procedures, select the Union Trustees. Id. ¶ 10; Pet. Ex. 1, Trust Agreement § 4.8. Employer Trustees are selected by “Employers of a majority of Participants.” Trust Agreement § 4.8. “Participants” are defined as “[a]ny Employee or former Employee who is eligible for benefits” under the Trust Agreement, id. § 1.4, but the Union's employees “shall not be considered in connection with any determination required to be made by Employers of a stated percentage or majority of Employees.” Id. § 1.3.

         Plaintiffs[1] allege that on December 9, 2015, defendant SuperValu unilaterally removed the sitting Employer Trustees and appointed new Employer Trustees, contrary to the terms of the Trust Agreement. Am. Compl. ¶ 21. SuperValu, however, claimed that it had the right to take such action because it employs a majority of the Participants in the pension plan. Id. ¶ 20.

         On March 15, 2017, plaintiffs filed a petition in Hennepin County District Court seeking judicial interpretation and construction of the Trust Agreement. Defendants timely removed, and the court denied plaintiffs' motion to remand holding that ERISA preempted plaintiffs' state law claims. See ECF No. 20. On November 30, 2017, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint alleging that (1) SuperValu breached its fiduciary obligation under ERISA by failing to follow the terms of the Trust Agreement, and (2) the remaining defendants breached their fiduciary obligations under ERISA by acquiescing to SuperValu's violation of the Trust Agreement. Plaintiffs seek relief pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3).

         Defendants SuperValu and Jerry's Enterprises now jointly move to dismiss, arguing that: (1) plaintiffs lack standing; (2) the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; and (3) the Labor Management Relations Act precludes the plaintiffs' claims.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Standing

         Article III of the United States Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to justiciable cases and controversies. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2; Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 559-60 (1992). Standing is an “essential and unchanging part of the case-or-controversy requirement of Article III.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560. To satisfy Article III standing requirements, a plaintiff must demonstrate:

(1) it has suffered an injury in fact that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual and imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely ...

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