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Painters Joint Committee v. J.L. Wallco, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

August 15, 2014

J.L. WALLCO, INC. Dba Wallternatives, et al., Defendants.


JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court is a summary judgment motion filed by defendants Shrader & Martinez Construction, Inc. ("SMC") and Merchants Bonding Co. ("MBC"). (Doc. # 385). Plaintiffs Painters Joint Committee, et al. have filed a response (doc. # 391), to which defendants replied (doc. # 393). The Las Vegas Chapter of the Associated General Contractors has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of defendants' motion (doc. # 390), to which plaintiffs responded (doc. # 392).

The court notes at the outset that plaintiffs' disjointed filing procedure and litigation strategy (for example, initially naming over 100 defendants in this action, only to later dismiss many of them one by one as plaintiffs' investigations revealed that these defendants had not committed any wrongs)[1] has resulted in a cluttered docket and unnecessary delay in this court's adjudication of the instant motions. Plaintiffs have explained that "there are literally thousand [ sic ] and thousands of documents in this case... with all of [this] information, there is bound to be small oversights in filing." (Doc. #144 at 2). While the court sympathizes with the difficulty in prosecuting complex actions, it reminds the parties that it expects the same degree of professional conduct from all litigants in cases both large and small.

I. Background

Plaintiffs have filed suit against over 100 different entities alleging, inter alia, violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. ยง 1002 et seq. and liability pursuant to NRS 608.150 and NRS 624.273. Plaintiffs are multi-employer trust funds that receive contributions pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between employers and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council # 15, Local Union # 159 ("painters union"). (Doc. # 361).

J.L. Wallco, Inc. d/b/a Wallternatives ("JLW") was a signatory of a CBA ("master agreement") with the painters union. ( See doc. # 385 at 123-25). As such, JLW was obligated to pay contributions to the trusts for every hour worked by any employee who performed labor covered by the master agreement. ( See doc. # 385 at 102-03). Plaintiffs allege that Genuine Quality Coatings, Inc. ("GQC") is an alter-ego of JLW and that, as such, GQC is bound by the same obligations pursuant to the master agreement. (Doc. # 361).

SMC is a general contractor with MBC as its bonding company. Between December 2009 and June 2011, SMC contracted with GQC and/or Richard Rejan Nieto ("Nieto Jr.") d/b/a GQC for painting work on various construction projects. (Doc. # 385).

In their fourth cause of action, plaintiffs allege a claim against SMC for contractor liability pursuant to NRS 608.150. Plaintiffs seek contribution payments allegedly owed to them for any work performed for SMC by employees of GQC, Nieto Jr., or any alter egos of JLW pursuant to the master agreement. (Doc. # 361).

Plaintiffs' fifth cause of action alleges a claim against MBC pursuant to NRS 624.273. Plaintiffs allege that MBC's proceeds are payable to them in satisfaction or partial satisfaction of the delinquency related to SMC. (Doc. # 361).

In the instant motion, defendants SMC and MBC seek summary judgment, arguing that applying NRS 608.150 to alter-ego cases is contrary to this provision's legislative purpose and unconstitutional. (Doc. # 385). Defendants therefore assert that even if the alter-ego doctrine applies in this matter, they still cannot be held liable under NRS 608.150. Therefore, for the purposes of this order, the court will assume, without ruling, that GQC was an alter-ego of JLW. The court will address each of defendants' contentions in turn.

II. Legal Standard

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A principal purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. "When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case." C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987).

In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.

At summary judgment, a court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The evidence of the nonmovant is "to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is ...

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