United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
MICHAEL D. POE ET AL.
UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMAN AND APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING AND PIPEFITTING INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AFL-CIO LOCAL 198 HEALTH and WELFARE FUND ET AL.
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
the Court is the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 18)
filed by Louis L. Robein, III, Maria C. Cangemi, and the law
firm Robein, Urann, Spencer, Picard & Cangemi, APLC.
Plaintiffs filed an opposition. (Doc. 27). For the reasons
stated herein, the motion is GRANTED.
were members of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local No. 106
("Local 106"), a union located in Lake Charles,
Louisiana. (Doc. 1 at p. 11). Local 106 maintained the Local
106 Health and Welfare Fund ("Local 106 Fund"), a
trust fund established in Louisiana for the specific purpose
of providing ancillary benefits to its numerous Local 106
members. (Id.) Under the terms of the 106 Fund,
Local 106 members were provided Health Reimbursement Accounts
("HRAS"). (Id.) As part of Local 106
employees' compensation, contractors made monetary
contributions to the Local 106 Fund on behalf of each
employee during the time period Local 106 was their
collective bargaining representative. (Id.) All
contributions into the Local 106 Fund were deposited into
individual employee HRAs so that the employees could pay
medical expenses in retirement. (Id.)
January of 2014, Local 106 merged with the United Association
of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting
Industry of the United States of America, Local No. 198
("Local 198"), which also had a Health and Welfare
Fund ("Local 198 Fund"). (Doc. 1 at p. 12).
Initially, the health and welfare funds of both entities
remained separate. (Id.) However, in November of
2014, both entities began to consider merging the Local 106
Fund and the Local 198 Fund. A study prepared by a consulting
firm revealed that the Local 198 Fund had a deficit of $330,
762, while the Local 106 Fund had net assets totaling $4,
536, 316. At a board meeting in December of 2014, the
business manager for Local 198 assured the Trustees of Local
106 that the Local 106 members would be able to maintain
their HRAs at then current levels when the plans merged.
(Id.) In 2015, a majority of the trustees
negotiating the merger voted that half of the Local 106 Fund
would be paid out to Local 106 members through their HRAs,
while the remaining funds would be transferred to the Local
contend that at the time of the merger, Local 198 had not
established HRAs for its preexisting members. (Doc. 1 at p.
15). The new plan document ("the Plan") for Local
198, which governed preexisting Local 198 members and former
Local 106 members, provided that Local 106 members' HRA
account balances were to be carried over to the Local 198
Plan. However, Plaintiffs assert that the drafters of the
Plan also included language indicating that the Trustees of
Local 198 reserved the "right to amend or terminate all
or any part of the HRAs at any time for any reason." In
July of 2017, the Local 198 Trustees voted to terminate the
HRAs for all Local 198 members. This decision only affected
former Local 106 members because preexisting Local 198
members did not have HRA accounts.
filed this lawsuit against Defendants Maria Cangemi, Louis L.
Robein, and the law firm of Robein, Urann, Spencer, Picard
& Cangemi, APLC. Plaintiffs allege that throughout the
mergers, although Cangemi purported to represent the
interests of Local 106 and its members, she never disclosed
her association with Robein, the representative of Local 198,
and its interests. Both individuals are partners at the same
law firm. Defendants seek to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims
for (1) legal malpractice by fraud and (2) recession of
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a
complaint against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8,
which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face."' Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "Determining whether a
complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] ... a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense."
Id. at 679. "[F]acial plausibility" exists
"when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at
678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Hence, a
complaint need not set out "detailed factual
allegations," but something "more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action" is required. Twombly, 550 U.S.
Legal Malpractice by Fraud
bring claims for "legal malpractice by fraud" and
specifically cite La. R.S. 9:5605(E). (Doc. 1 at p. 24). La.
R.S. 9:5605 generally codifies actions for legal malpractice.
La. R.S. 9:5605(E) only provides that the statute's
general peremptive period shall not apply to legal
malpractice actions based on fraud. Defendants assert that
Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for legal malpractice
based on fraud because a failure to disclose cannot form the
basis of such a claim.
Court agrees. Louisiana courts have made clear that
allegations regarding an attorney's failure to disclose,
even if such failure is intentional, are properly
characterized as a negligence claim rather than a fraud
claim. Andre v. Golden, 99-689 (La.App. 5 Cir.
12/21/99); 750 So.2d 1101, 1103. Here, Plaintiffs' legal
malpractice claims based on fraud stem from Cangemi and
Robein's failure to disclose that they were partners at
the same law firm. Plaintiffs also allege that Cangemi failed
to disclose to Local 106 Trustees that the termination
language would be included in the Plan. Accordingly,
Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants are based solely on
the failure to disclose information. As the court in