A federal district court in Indiana ruled that a pension fund failed to show the owner of a bankrupt roofing contractor was personally liable for unpaid contributions to a union pension plan.

The National Roofing Industry Pension Fund sued William R. Kelso, the majority owner of a bankrupt roofing contractor, under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act to recover back pension contributions. The fund claimed that Kelso operated the firm in such a way as to become personally liable for the firm’s debts and, as the one responsible for the pension contributions, he became a fiduciary.

The court noted that "ERISA does not upset the general rule that individuals are not liable for corporate debt." Here, the fund failed to introduce Kelso’s pretrial statements or other evidence that Kelso failed to fulfill the duties of a corporate officer. Absent evidence that an owner acted in a manner inconsistent with the standards of corporate conduct, an owner can’t be held personally liable for the pension delinquencies. National Roofing Industry Pension Fund v. W.R. Kelso Inc., No. 2:02-CV-127 PS (USDC, Northern Dist., Ind.).