ERISA-Eighth Circuit Overturns District Court’s Judgment Granting An Award of Unpaid Contributions And More To Plaintiffs

In Marshall v. Anderson Excavating & Wrecking Co., No. 17-1887 (8th Cir. 2018), the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 571 (the “Union”) and trustees of the Contractors, Laborers, Teamsters, and Engineers (“CLT&E”) Health and Welfare Plan (the “Welfare Plan”) and Pension Plan (the “Pension Plan”) (collectively, “plaintiffs”) sued Anderson Excavating and Wrecking Co. (“Anderson Excavating”) under ERISA.  They requested that the district court order Anderson Excavating to pay the contributions it allegedly owes to the Welfare Plan and Pension Plan, along with interest, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.  The district court found Anderson Excavating liable to the plaintiffs for delinquent contributions under ERISA and entered judgment against it and in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $11,956.96 in unpaid contributions; $8,817.96 in prejudgment interest; $8,817.96 in liquidated damages; $38,331 in attorneys’ fees; and $516.50 in nontaxable costs.

On appeal, Anderson Excavating argues that the district court erred in determining (1) damages for unpaid contributions, (2) prejudgment interest, (3) liquidated damages, and (4) attorneys’ fees.

Upon reviewing the case, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) concluded that the district court legally erred in applying the alter ego doctrine (deeming Andersen Excavating to be the employer that actually owed the contributions) to justify an award of unpaid contributions for an alleged employee’s work.  This error obtains because the plaintiffs never raised an alter ego theory in their complaint. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

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