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North Carolina Piping & Promotional Fund v. Johnson Controls, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

February 20, 2014

NORTH CAROLINA PIPING & PROMOTIONAL FUND, JACK WEAVER, JEFF MORGAN, and FRANK STARK, as Trustees of the aforesaid Fund, Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHNSON CONTROLS, INC., Defendant.

ORDER, MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

JOE L. WEBSTER, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on Defendant Johnson Controls, Inc.'s ("Defendant") motion to dismiss for failure to join necessary and indispensable parties. (Docket Entry 28.) Plaintiffs North Carolina Piping and Promotional Fund, Jack Weaver, Jeff Morgan, and Frank Stark, as Trustees of the aforesaid Fund ("Plaintiffs"), have filed a response (Docket Entry 31) and Defendant has replied (Docket Entry 33). On December 18, 2013, a motion hearing was held and parties were permitted to file supplemental briefings. (Docket Entries 38 and 39.) Also before the Court is Defendant's motion to supplement the record (Docket Entry 36) and Plaintiffs' motion to strike. (Docket Entry 40.) For the following reasons, the Court will deny Defendant's motion to supplement the record, deny Plaintiffs' motion to strike, and recommend that the Court deny Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to join necessary and indispensable parties.

I. BACKGROUND

On March 30, 2011, Plaintiffs filed this action against Defendant alleging breach of contract for unpaid contributions owed pursuant to collective bargaining agreements, related agreements and applicable schedules. ( See Compl., ¶¶ 22-27, Docket Entry 1.) Plaintiff North Carolina Piping & Promotional Fund ("Fund") is a non-ERISA employee benefit fund that is a beneficiary of the 2004 National Collective Bargaining Agreement ("2004 NCBA"), the Local 421 and Mid-Atlantic MCA ("MCA") local agreements ("Working Agreements"), and the applicable schedules to the Working Agreements. ( Id. ¶¶ 1, 24.) In March 2004, Defendant and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO ("UN') entered into a national collective bargaining agreement, the 2004 NCBA, which requires Defendant to pay wages and certain fringe benefit contributions to certain employees represented by the agreement. ( Id. ¶ 11.) Specifically, Article X of the 2004 NCBA requires Defendant to make fringe benefit contributions for all covered employees who are "Journeymen" or "Apprentices" pursuant to the Working Agreements between the local union of the UA, Local 421, and the historically recognized local contractor's bargaining group, the MCA. ( Id. ¶ 12-13; see also Ex. A to the Compl. at 10-11, Docket Entry 1-1; Ex. B to the Compl., Docket Entry 1-2.)

Plaintiffs allege that the Working Agreements and applicable schedules require Defendant to make a monthly contribution for journeymen and apprentices to employee benefit funds, including Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.) Defendant alleges that since 2004, it has made wage and fringe benefit payments in accordance with Schedule A of the 2004 NCBA as required and that the 2004 NCBA does not require payment to Plaintiff. (Decl. of George F. Mullane ¶¶ 6-7, Docket Entry 30; Def.'s Mem. at 2-3, Docket Entry 29.) Defendant asserts that the 2004 NCBA governs its relationships with employees and benefit funds rather than the MCA schedule. (Def.'s Mem. at 2-3.)[1]

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(7), the Court must first determine whether there should be joinder of an absent party pursuant to Rule 19(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. RPR & Assoc. v. O'Brien/Atkins Assoc., P.A., 921 F.Supp. 1457, 1463 (M.D. N.C. 1995), aff'd sub nom., RPR & Assoc., Inc. v. O'Brien/Atkins Assoc., PA, 103 F.3d 120 (4th Cir. 1996). Rule 19(a) determines which parties are "necessary" and states:

(a) Persons Required to Be Joined if Feasible.
(1) Required Party. A person who is subject to service of process and whose joinder will not deprive the court of subject-matter jurisdiction must be joined as a party if:
(A) in that person's absence, the court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties; or
(B) that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in the person's absence may:
(i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect the interest; or
(ii) leave an existing party subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent ...

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