Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rosenthal v. Town of Bloomfield

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

November 28, 2017

DANIEL ROSENTHAL ET AL.
v.
TOWN OF BLOOMFIELD ET AL.

          Argued September 11, 2017

         Action to recover damages for, inter alia, breach of contract, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the court, Hon. Jerry Wagner, judge trial referee, granted the defendants' motion to strike; thereafter, the court, Elgo, J., granted the named defendant's motion to bifurcate the issues of liability and damages; subsequently, the case was tried to the court, Elgo, J.; thereafter, the court granted the named defendant's motion for a judgment of dismissal and rendered judgment thereon, from which the plaintiffs appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Rachel M. Baird, with whom, onthe brief, was Mitchell Lake, for the appellants (plaintiffs).

          William A. Ryan, with whom was Ian E. Bjorkman, for the appellee (named defendant).

          Lavine, Kahn and Bishop, Js. [*]

          OPINION

          KAHN, J.

         The plaintiffs, a group of twenty-four retirees from the Bloomfield Police Department, [1] appeal from the judgment of the trial court granting the motion for a judgment of dismissal filed by the defendant town of Bloomfield (town)[2] pursuant to Practice Book § 15-8 for failure to make out a prima facie case. The plaintiffs claim that the court erred in so ruling because the evidence submitted set forth a prima facie case that the town breached the parties' collective bargaining agreement by failing to offer insurance benefits that are comparable to benefits under a prior health insurance plan. We disagree and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         There is no dispute as to the language of the applicable provision, § 17 (1) (B) of the plaintiffs' pension retirement plan (1994 pension plan), which was formed pursuant to a 1994 collective bargaining agreement (1994 agreement) between the town and the plaintiffs' union, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 335. Section § 17 (1) (B) of the 1994 pension plan stated in relevant part: ‘‘The Town shall make available to each full-time employee who retires after July 1, 1989 and his/her enrolled dependents Major Medical, Blue Cross Hospitalization and Blue Shield coverage as if the said retired employee were still working . . . .''[3]The 1994 pension plan, however, subsequently was amended several times, including on February 2, 1995, when the word ‘‘still'' was removed from § 17 (1) (B) and the phrase ‘‘or comparable insurance'' was added. The revised section stated in relevant part: ‘‘The Town shall make available to each full time employee who retires after July 1, 1989 and his/her enrolled dependents Major Medical, Blue Cross Hospitalization and Blue Shield coverage, or comparable insurance, as if the said retired employee were working.'' (Emphasis added.)[4] The parties agreed and the trial court concluded that ‘‘comparable'' did not mean ‘‘the same, '' and, as such, the unambiguous contract language manifested the intent of the parties that the town have some flexibility to offer health insurance plans that were not exactly the same as the existing plan.

         On October 19, 2012, the town entered into an employment agreement with the United Public Service Employees Union/COPS, Unit #14 (2012 agreement), which changed the health insurance plan under the 1994 pension plan to the ‘‘Anthem Blue Cross Century Preferred $20 Co-pay plan with a 3-Tier Prescription Drug benefit'' (Century Preferred $20 plan). Effective September 1, 2012, this agreement also applied to retired employees who had not yet reached sixty-five years of age and their dependents. On July 20, 2012, the town provided the plaintiffs with notice of this change.

         The plaintiffs commenced this action alleging, inter alia, that the town breached the terms of the 1994 pension plan by changing their health insurance plan to a plan that is not comparable.[5] Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that the 2012 agreement resulted in a 50 percent increase in co-pays for emergency room visits (from $50 to $75), a 100 percent increase in co-pays for office visits (from $10 to $20), an increase for emergency room visits from $0 to $100, and a 100 percent increase in urgent care co-pays (from $25 to $50). The plaintiffs sought to compel the town to provide the medical and health care benefits in place prior to September 1, 2012. The plaintiffs sought an injunction, monetary damages and attorney's fees and costs.

         At the commencement of trial on September 29, 2015, the court bifurcated the proceeding so that liability would be determined prior to the issue of damages. The liability issue presented was whether the Century Preferred $20 plan was comparable to the ‘‘Major Medical, Blue Cross Hospitalization and Blue Shield Coverage, '' referenced in § 17 (1) (B) of the 1994 pension plan. After a discussion, the plaintiffs agreed that they would proceed with the trial on this issue by submitting an offer of proof on their claim that the Century Preferred $20 plan was not comparable to the 1994 pension plan. The parties also agreed to the admission into evidence of the 1994 agreement and the 1995 and 2000 amendments thereto. On October 5, 2015, the plaintiffs filed their offer of proof with the court. The town filed a motion for a judgment of dismissal pursuant to Practice Book § 15-8 on the basis that the plaintiffs had set forth insufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case in support of their complaint. The court granted the motion, finding that the contract language was unambiguous; that Poole v. Waterbury, 266 Conn. 68, 831 A.2d 211 (2003), was controlling; and that the plaintiffs had not set forth a prima facie case of breach of con-tract.[6] This appeal followed.

         ‘‘The standard for determining whether the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case, under Practice Book § 15-8, is whether the plaintiff put forth sufficient evidence that, if believed, would establish a prima facie case, not whether the trier of fact believes it. . . . For the court to grant the motion [for judgment of dismissal pursuant to Practice Book § 15-8], it must be of the opinion that the plaintiff has failed to make out a prima facie case. In testing the sufficiency of the evidence, the court compares the evidence with the allegations of the complaint. . . . In order to establish a prima facie case, the proponent must submit evidence which, if credited, is sufficient to establish the fact or facts which it is adduced to prove. . . . [T]he evidence offered by the plaintiff is to be taken as true and interpreted in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff], and every reasonable inference is to be drawn in [the plaintiff's] favor.'' (Citations omitted; emphasis omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Gambardella v. Apple Health Care, Inc., 86 Conn.App. 842, 846, 863 A.2d 735 (2005). ‘‘Whether the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case is a question of law, over which our review is plenary.'' Moss v. Foster, 96 Conn.App. 369, 378, 900 A.2d 548 (2006).

         ‘‘The elements of a breach of contract action are the formation of an agreement, performance by one party, breach of the agreement by the other party and damages.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Chiulli v. Zola, 97 Conn.App. 699, 706-707, 905 A.2d 1236 (2006). ‘‘Although ordinarily the question of contract interpretation, being a question of the parties' intent, is a question of fact . . . [w]here there is definitive contract language, the determination of what the parties intended by their contractual commitments is a question of law.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Poole v. Waterbury, supra, 266 Conn. 88.

         Here, there is no dispute as to the interpretation of the language of the 1994 pension plan, as amended, or the benefits and terms of the various health care plans. At issue is whether the Century Preferred $20 plan violated the term of the 1994 pension plan requiring comparable insurance as governed by Poole. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.