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Crawford v. Trustees of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union No. 43

October 2, 2007

LARRY CRAWFORD, CRAIG CRAWFORD, SEAN CRAWFORD, GERALD COFER, MIKE WILSON, JAMES SWINDOLL, AND THEIR DEPENDANTS PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE TRUSTEES OF THE PLUMBERS AND STEAMFITTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 43 HEALTH AND WELFARE FUND, THE TRUSTEES OF THE PLUMBERS AND STEAMFITTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 43 PENSION FUND, THE PLUMBERS AND STEAMFITTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 43 HEALTH AND WELFARE FUND, AND STEAMFITTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 43, PENSION FUND DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the Court is Plaintiffs Larry Crawford, Mike Wilson, and James Swindoll, and their dependants' ("Plaintiffs")*fn1 motion for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") (Court File No. 2) and memorandum in support (Court File No. 3). Plaintiffs and Defendants Trustees of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union No. 43 Health and Welfare Fund, the Trustees of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union No. 43 Pension Fund, the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union No. 43 Health and Welfare Fund, and Steamfitters Local Union No. 43 Pension Fund ("Defendants") presented oral arguments to the Court on September 28, 2007. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court provisionally ordered a temporary restraining order*fn2 to last until October 1, 2007, and ordered the parties to file memorandums by that date (Court File Nos. 4 & 5). After considering the parties' arguments and the available facts, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order (Court File No. 2).

I. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case relates to another case before the Court, Trustees v. Larry Crawford,1:06-cv-245, in which the Trustees (Defendants in the instant action) allege Larry Crawford, doing business individually and as Crawford Plumbing and various other names, violated a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") requiring Crawford to contribute money on his employees' behalf to a health and welfare fund ("Fund") managed by Trustees (1:06-cv-245 Court File No. 1).*fn3 Trustees alleges Crawford is deficient in his contributions (Court File No. 3, p. 2). Crawford contends he was never part of the CBA but the Trustees accepted contributions on behalf of Crawford and his employees to obtain group health insurance (id.). Trustees contend Crawford was bound by the CBA and withdrew from it during the course of litigating the first case (Court File No. 5, p. 4). As a result, Trustees no longer accepted contributions from Crawford for himself or his employees, and therefore medical benefits ended September 30, 2007.

On September 27, 2007, Plaintiffs filed this case against Defendants (Court File No. 1).*fn4 Plaintiffs brought this action under ERISA, seeking to enforce the Trust Agreement (Court File No. 1, Exh. A), which controls the Fund. Plaintiffs simultaneously filed a motion for a TRO (Court File No. 2) to prohibit Defendants from terminating them from the Fund and denying them health insurance. Plaintiffs contend they are entitled to health benefits from the Fund because they made all required contributions to the Fund through their employer, Crawford Plumbing. However, on July 24, 2007, David L. Tolley of the Trustees informed Plaintiffs the Fund would no longer accept contributions on behalf of Plaintiffs because Crawford was no longer part of the CBA (Court File No. 1, Exh. B). Specifically, the letter states that during the deposition of Larry Crawford, "it was confirmed that Crawford Plumbing was no longer part of the bargaining agreement" and therefore the Fund can no longer accept payment on Plaintiffs' behalf (id.).

Crawford insists he was never part of the CBA and Defendants have accepted contributions to the Fund on behalf of him and his employees for decades (Court File No. 2, Exh. A). Plaintiffs therefore assert they are participants in the Fund, but the Fund rejected their July contribution checks, mailed to the Fund through Crawford. Plaintiffs contend that under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), they are entitled to make contributions to the Fund and receive benefits.*fn5

Defendants assert Crawford was always bound by the CBA and has submitted certified statements for decades indicating so. Defendants say Crawford withdrew, so the Fund stopped accepting his contributions (Court File No. 5, p. 4). At oral argument, Defendants represented that health insurance for three of the plaintiffs in this case, Craig Crawford, Mike Wilson, and James Swindoll, does not expire until the end of October; Plaintiffs do not appear to dispute this and so those three plaintiffs will not be considered in evaluating Plaintiffs' motion.

II. DISCUSSION

The authority to issue a temporary restraining order is found in Fed R. Civ. P. 65(b). The Court must consider and balance the four factors necessary for issuing a preliminary injunction:

(1) whether the movant has a "strong" likelihood of success on the merits;

(2) whether the movant would otherwise suffer irreparable injury;

(3) whether a preliminary injunction would cause substantial harm to others; and

(4) whether the public interest would be served by the issuance of a preliminary injunction.

McPherson v. Mich. High Sch. Athletic Ass'n, Inc., 119 F.3d 453, 459 (6th Cir. 1997) (en banc). These factors should be balanced. Ingram v. Toledo City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 339 F. Supp. 2d 998 (N.D. Ohio 2004) (citing Roth v. Bank of the Commonwealth, 583 F.2d 527, 537-38 (6th Cir. 1978)). Plaintiff, by a clear showing, carries the ...


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