August 19, 2021

A collective bargaining agreement's silence with respect to a claim for certain benefits defeats a claim for such benefits pursuant to such collective bargaining agreement

The plaintiffs in three appeals from Supreme Court rulings decided on the same day by the Appellate Division, Caldara v County of Westchester, 2021 NY Slip Op 04693, [Caldara], Westchester County Corr. Officers Benevolent Assn., Inc. v County of Westchester, 2021 NY Slip Op 04733, [04733] and Westchester County Corr. Officers Benevolent Assn., Inc. v County of Westchester, 2021 NY Slip Op 04734 [04734], commenced their respective actions seeking to recover damages for the Westchester County's alleged breach of a collective bargaining agreement [CBA] based on Westchester's failure to pay certain benefits to the plaintiffs.

In Caldara the plaintiffs allege that any police officer who has been receiving disability benefits pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-c and who then receives a disability retirement pension upon the County of Westchester's application is entitled, upon retirement, to benefits equivalent to those provided by the Workers' Compensation Law for loss of earning capacity due to permanent partial or total disability.

Similarly, in 04733, theplaintiffs alleged that any correction officer who has been receiving disability benefits pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-c and who then receives a disability retirement pension upon the County of Westchester's application is entitled, upon retirement, to benefits equivalent to those provided by the Workers' Compensation Law for loss of earning capacity due to permanent partial disability while in 04074 plaintiffs argued that any correction officer who has been receiving disability benefits pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-c and who then receives a disability retirement pension upon the County of Westchester's application is entitled, upon retirement, to benefits equivalent to those provided by the Workers' Compensation Law for loss of earning capacity due to permanent total or partial disability.

In each action Westchester Countyrelied on its argument that the relevant collective bargaining agreement was silent as to such awards, and, as such, the relevant plaintiffs were not entitled, upon retirement, to benefits equivalent to those provided by the Workers' Compensation Law for loss of earning capacity due to permanent partial or total disability. In each action Westchester Countymoved to dismiss the complaints, and those plaintiffs' cross-moved pursuant to CPLR 3025(b) for leave to amend their complaint. The Supreme Court granted the County's motions and denied the plaintiffs' cross motions, and the respective plaintiffs appealed.

The Appellate Division, affirming the lower court ruling in each action, said that "When a party moves to dismiss a complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7), the standard is whether the pleading states a cause of action, not whether the proponent of the pleading has a cause of action," citing Sokol v Leader, 74 AD3d 1180. Further, said the court, "In considering such a motion, the court must accept the facts as alleged in the complaint as true, accord plaintiffs the benefit of every possible favorable inference, and determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory", noting the Court of Appeals ruling in Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83.

Here, opined the Appellate Division, the relevant plaintiffs failed to identify a specific provision in the relevant CBA that requires the Westchesterto pay benefits equivalent to those provided by the Workers' Compensation Law for loss of earning capacity due to permanent partial or total disability. Accordingly, the court held that Supreme Court properly granted Westchester's motion to dismiss the complaint.

Click the text in blue to access the text of that Appellate Division decision in  Caldara.

Click in blueto access the text of that Appellate Division decision in 07433.

Click on blueto access the text of the Appellate Divisions decision in 07434.

 

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