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Awdziewicz v. City of Meriden

Supreme Court of Connecticut

June 9, 2015

JULES AWDZIEWICZ ET AL.
v.
CITY OF MERIDEN ET AL

Argued February 17, 2015.

Page 1085

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1086

Action for, inter alia, a writ of mandamus precluding the named defendant from requiring the plaintiffs to pay a portion of the premiums for certain health insurance emoluments allegedly due under the named defendant's retirement plans, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven at Meriden, where the action was withdrawn as against the defendant Meriden Municipal Pension Board; thereafter, the case was tried to the court, J. Fischer, J.; judgment for the named defendant, from which the plaintiffs appealed.

SYLLABUS

The plaintiffs, former Meriden police officers or firefighters who retired in or before 1998, sought, inter alia, a writ of mandamus to preclude the named defendant, the city of Meriden, from requiring them to pay a share of the cost of their health insurance coverage during retirement. As a result of renegotiated collective bargaining agreements with the city, actively employed police officers and firefighters were required to pay a share of the cost of their health insurance coverage starting in 2002. In 2005, the city imposed this cost share requirement on retired police officers and firefighters, including the plaintiffs, thereby effectively reducing their health insurance emoluments. The plaintiffs' pension benefits, including health insurance coverage, were governed by a provision in a prior city charter and a stipulated judgment between the city and an association representing retired police officers and firefighters. The plaintiffs argued, inter alia, that, because neither the city charter nor the stipulated judgment included a cost share provision for retirees' health insurance emoluments, the city could not impose the cost share requirement on them. The trial court rejected the plaintiffs' claim and rendered judgment for the city, concluding that the city could impose the cost share requirement on the plaintiffs because the city charter and the stipulated judgment indexed the plaintiffs' health insurance emoluments to the cost of health insurance for actively employed police officers and firefighters. On the plaintiffs' appeal from the trial court's judgment, held :

1. The trial court correctly interpreted the city charter and the stipulated judgment as allowing the city to impose the cost share requirement on the plaintiffs and to thereby reduce the plaintiffs' health insurance emoluments in proportion to the cost share deducted from the health insurance emoluments of actively employed police officers and firefighters: the city charter and the stipulated judgment indexed a retiree's health insurance emolument to that of active city employees; contrary to the plaintiffs' claim that the city could not impose the cost share requirement on the plaintiffs because they did not participate in the collective bargaining process that gave rise to that requirement, the city charter and the stipulated judgment did not guarantee that retirement benefits would remain unchanged but, rather, expressly made them dependent on future collective bargaining agreements; there was no merit to the plaintiffs' claim that the cost share requirement could not be imposed on them because the city had not afforded them the additional benefits that active Meriden police officers and firefighters received under the renegotiated collective bargaining agreements; and this court declined to address certain other claims by the plaintiffs that were premised on the city's violation of the city charter and stipulated judgment, as the plaintiffs could not prevail on those claims in light of this court's determination that the city could impose the cost share requirement on them.

2. There was no merit to the plaintiffs' claim that the trial court had abused its discretion in excluding certain evidence regarding the additional benefits that actively employed police officers and firefighters were afforded under the renegotiated collective bargaining agreements, the trial court having correctly determined that the evidence was not relevant; the challenged evidence was immaterial to whether the city violated the city charter or the stipulated judgment in imposing the cost share requirement, and the plaintiffs did not claim in their complaint that they also were entitled to such additional benefits.

3. The plaintiffs could not prevail on their claim that the trial court improperly declined to take judicial notice of the statute (§ 7-450c) that precludes municipalities from eliminating pension benefits for retired municipal employees that they receive at the time of their retirement and improperly declined to address their claim, which the plaintiffs raised for the first time in their posttrial brief, that the city's imposition of the cost share requirement violated that statute; the plaintiffs failed to allege a violation of § 7-450c in their complaint, in violation of the applicable rule of practice (§ 10-3 [a]) that requires any claim made in a complaint that is grounded on a statute to specifically identify that statute by number, they failed to otherwise put the city on notice of their statutory claim, and the doctrine of judicial notice could not be used to subvert this state's pleading requirements.

Thomas A. Weaver, for the appellants (plaintiffs).

John H. Gorman, associate city attorney, for the appellee (named defendant).

Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald, Espinosa and Robinson, Js. ZARELLA, J. In this opinion the other justices concurred.

OPINION

Page 1087

[317 Conn. 124] ZARELLA, J.

The present appeal involves a dispute over pension benefits between the named defendant, the city of Meriden (city), and the plaintiffs, all of whom are retired Meriden police officers and firefighters.[1] The plaintiffs appeal from the judgment of the trial court, which determined that the city properly reduced the plaintiffs' health insurance emoluments in 2005 accord-ing to the terms of a provision in a prior version of the Meriden City Charter[2] (city charter) and a related stipulated judgment. On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that the trial court improperly (1) interpreted the city charter provision and stipulated judgment as allowing the city to reduce their benefits, (2) rejected their procedural due process and equal protection claims under the federal constitution, (3) concluded that they inadequately briefed and, thus, abandoned their claim that the city had breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (4) excluded certain evidence regarding collective bargaining agreements that precipitated the reduction in their benefits, and (5) failed to take judicial notice of General Statutes § 7-450c in interpreting the terms of the city's pension plan because the plaintiffs had not pleaded a violation of that statute in their [317 Conn. 125] amended complaint.[3] We reject all of the plaintiffs' claims and, therefore, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The record reveals the following facts, as stipulated to by the parties, and procedural history, much of which is also set forth in Kiewlen v. Meriden, 317 Conn. 139, 115 A.3d 1095, (2015), a companion case arising out of the same factual circumstances but involving distinct legal issues. Each of the plaintiffs retired from the Meriden Police Department or Meriden Fire Department by 1998. Upon retiring, the plaintiffs were entitled to begin collecting their respective pensions from the city, which were largely controlled by the terms of two documents: (1) § 85D of a prior version of the city charter; [4] and (2) [317 Conn. 126] a 1982 stipulated

Page 1088

judgment between the city and the Retired Police and Firemen's Association of Meriden, Inc., among others. Section 85D sets forth the pension rate for retired police officers and firefighters, and the stipulated judgment pertains specifically to health insurance emoluments to which retirees are entitled. According to the stipulated judgment, retired police officers and firefighters have the option to participate in group health, dental and life insurance policies that ...


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