Monday, September 15, 2014

A municipality may discontinue a retiree’s health insurance benefit in the absence of a contract or provision of law granting the retirees a vested right to such a benefit

A municipality may discontinue a retiree’s health insurance benefit in the absence of a contract or provision of law granting the retirees a vested right to such a benefit
Iasillo v Pilla, 2014 NY Slip Op 06056, Appellate Division, Second Department

Former mayors and former members of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Port Chester [Plaintiff] continued to receive health care benefits payable by the Village pursuant to Board of Trustee resolutions dated June 1, 1988, and November 2, 1994 upon retirement.

On April 21, 2010, the then Board rescinded both the June 1, 1988, and November 2, 1994, resolutions, thereby terminating the post-retirement health care benefits being provided to Plaintiff by the Village.

Plaintiff sued, seeking a court decision declaring that the resolution dated April 21, 2010, “null and void and without legal effect” as to them. In addition, Plaintiff sought a “permanent injunction enjoining the [Village] from terminating or otherwise modifying [Plaintiff’s] post-retirement health care benefits.”

Plaintiff argued that [1] the Village was contractually obligated to provide them with post-retirement health care benefits, and that [2] the Village was estopped from terminating those benefits.

Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint, holding that the Village’s resolution dated April 21, 2010, was neither “null and void” nor “without legal effect.”

The Appellate Division affirmed Supreme Court’s ruling, holding that the Village had established, prima facie, its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that the then sitting Board was entitled to terminate the post-retirement health care benefits afforded by the June 1, 1988, and November 2, 1994, resolutions. Those resolutions, said the Appellate Division, did not establish a vested interest in those post-retirement health care benefits, explaining that "A municipal resolution is, in general, a unilateral action that is temporary in nature and, thus, it does not create any vested contractual rights."

The court also noted that the Village was not barred by the doctrine of equitable estoppel from terminating Plaintiff’s post-retirement health care benefits.

In McDonald PBA v City of Geneva, 92 N.Y.2d 326, the Court of Appeals concluded that "there is no legal impediment to the municipality's unilateral alteration of the past practice" regarding its providing health insurance benefits to its retirees and their dependents where there was neither a Taylor Law agreement nor some other contract or provision of law granting retirees a vested right to such a benefit.

The Court of Appeals has also ruled that health insurance for retirees is not a retirement benefit protected against being diminished or impaired by the State's Constitution [see Lippman v Sewanhaka Central High School District, 66 NY2d 313].

The Iasillo decision is posted on the Internet at:

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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