United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
ANTHONY C. HAMPTON, et al., Plaintiffs,
MARITIME ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMAN ASSOCIATION PENSION RETIREMENT WELFARE AND VACATION FUNDS, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. HANKS JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
are three individual members of the International
Longshoremen's Association Local 24 who filed suit
against the Maritime Association ILA Pension Retirement
Welfare and Vacation Funds (“the Funds”), through
their Trustees; contending the Trustees of the Funds
misapplied certain funds when they placed money into a
pension account rather than into a “Vacation and
Holiday Pay” fund. Accordingly, Plaintiffs assert
causes of action for breach of contract and breach of
fiduciary duty against the Trustees of the Funds. Dkt. 1.
have now moved for summary judgment on all of these claims.
After reviewing the motion, the response, the reply, and the
summary judgment record as a whole, the Court finds that
there is no genuine dispute of material fact and Defendants
are entitled to summary judgment in their favor.
judgment is appropriate where “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. “A
genuine dispute of material fact exists ‘if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Johnson v.
World All. Fin. Corp., 830 F.3d 192, 195 (5th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)). “When assessing whether a dispute as
to any material fact exists, [the Court] consider[s] all the
evidence in the record but refrain[s] from making credibility
determinations or weighing the evidence; instead, [the Court]
draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving
party.” Haire v. Bd. of Supervisors of La. State
Univ. Agric. & Mech. Coll., 719 F.3d 356, 362 (5th
Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). Accordingly, in conducting
this analysis, “evidence and factual inferences are
viewed “in the light most favorable to the
[nonmovant].” Bryan v. McKinsey & Co., 375
F.3d 358, 360 (5th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). However,
“a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory
allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or ‘only a
scintilla of evidence.'” Turner v. Baylor
Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007)
(quoting Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069,
1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc)). Instead, “[t]he party
opposing summary judgment is required to identify specific
evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner
in which that evidence supports his or her claim.”
Ragas v. Tenn. Gas Pipeline Co., 136 F.3d 455, 458
(5th Cir. 1998).
Breach of Contract Claim
allege Defendants' alleged diversion of funds “is
and was contrary” to the I.L.A. Master Contract of
2004. However, Defendants argue there is no evidence that the
Trustees of the Funds are parties to this contract. The Court
agrees with Defendants.
2004 Master Contract is attached as an exhibit to
Defendants' motion for summary judgment, and it states
that it is between “United States Maritime Alliance,
Ltd.” and the “International Longshoremen's
Association, AFL-CIO (For and on Behalf of Itself and Each of
its Affiliated Districts and Locals Representing
Longshoremen, Clerks, Checkers and Maintenance Employees
Working On Ships and Terminals in Ports on the East and Gulf
Coasts of the United States).” The first party, the
United States Maritime Alliance, Ltd. is further defined as
“[t]he multiemployer management group . . .
consist[ing] of the carriers, stevedores, marine terminal
operators, and port associations that are members of USMX
[and those that later become members] as well as those
carriers and other employers bound hereto by operation of
law.” Plaintiffs contend that, because the 2004 Master
Contract creates the Funds, then the Funds are
“creatures of contract, ” and so are the
Defendants themselves, and thus privity exists. Plaintiffs do
not supply a citation to support this argument. Both parties
generally rely on Texas law to support their positions.
“Texas law does not provide a cause of action for
breach of contract against a defendant who is not a party to
the underlying contract.” Stewart Title Guar.
Co. v. Stewart Title Latin Am., Inc.,
4:12-CV-03269, 2017 WL 1078759, at *4 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 21,
2017) (internal citations omitted). Accordingly, the Court
finds that Defendants cannot not be held liable for the
alleged breach of a contract to which they are not a party,
and they are therefore entitled to summary judgment on the
breach of contract claim.
there is no competent summary judgment evidence to
demonstrate that the Defendants have taken any actions that
would be contrary to the Agreement. In an attempt to defeat
the Defendants' motion, Plaintiffs submitted the
affidavits of Plaintiff Anthony C. Hampton and Plaintiff
Ricky Henderson, who both state that they are members of the
ILA Local 24 and that they have “personal knowledge
that the Board of Trustees of Maritime Association-ILA
Retirement Fund are diverting Container Royalty 5 (CRS) funds
from the vacation and holiday plan to the pension plan with
knowledge that such diversion is in violation of the master
contract.” Such conclusory affidavits cannot defeat a
motion for summary judgment of the kind presented here.
Accordingly, on this basis as well, the Court finds that
Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on
Plaintiffs' breach of contract claim.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim
the Court finds that Defendants are entitled to summary
judgment in their favor on Plaintiffs' breach of
fiduciary duty claim. As noted above, Plaintiffs' summary
judgment evidence was primarily composed of self-serving
statements and legal conclusions in their own affidavits.
Even assuming that this is a properly pled claim under ERISA
for a breach of fiduciary duty by Trustees, Plaintiffs'
evidence fails to raise a genuine dispute of material fact as
to whether Defendants' alleged actions were, in fact, a
breach of any duty owed to Plaintiffs.
the Court finds that Defendants are entitled to summary
judgment on the question of whether there is competent
summary judgment evidence to show that they were fiduciaries
within the meaning of ERISA. It is not enough to merely
allege that a person or entity is a “fiduciary”
under ERISA in order to bring a claim-instead, the inquiry is
more nuanced. “A fiduciary within the meaning of ERISA
must be someone acting in the capacity of manager [or]
administrator.” Pegram v. Herdrich, 120 S.Ct.
2143, 2151 (2000). Merely performing administrative duties as
required by the plan is not a fiduciary function.
See 29 C.F.R. § 2509.75-8; Walker v.
Federal Express Corp., 492 Fed. App'x. 559, 565 (6th
Cir. 2012); Barrs v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 287 F.3d
202, 207 (1st Cir. 2002); Plumb v. Fluid Pump Service,
Inc.,124 F.3d 849, 854-55 (7th Cir. 1997). “[T]he
issue of ERISA fiduciary status is a mixed question of fact
and law.” Keith v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., CV
H-15-1030, 2017 WL 2537296, at *4 (S.D. Tex. June 9, 2017)
(citing Reich v. ...