Judge to rule on builders’ insurance trust fund case by end of month

Court: Members sued in 2008 over payments

September 23, 2010 

OLYMPIA – Lawyers finished closing arguments Wednesday in a suit against the Building Industry Association of Washington over its handling of an insurance trust fund that passes on safety rebates to builders.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy told attorneys in the case she will rule from the bench at 9 a.m. Sept. 30. The trial began Sept. 13 and covered parts of six days.

At issue is BIAW’s handling of the “Retro” program, in which participating contractors can voluntarily enroll. The state Department of Labor and Industries issues refunds of workers’ compensation payments to companies that have better safety records than the norm.

Five BIAW members sued in 2008 alleging that the association and its Washington Builders Benefit Trust did not meet the strict fiduciary standards required of a trust.

BIAW’s Member Services Corp. keeps 10 percent of rebates as a marketing fee, and another 10 percent is given to local homebuilder associations; some of that money has been used to pay for BIAW’s political activities. Murphy earlier ruled that BIAW was on solid ground to collect its fee on “Retro” refunds, but she found BIAW’s Member Services Corp. had breached its trust duties by failing to notify individual builder-members with an annual statement of the trust’s accounts.

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