JULES AWDZIEWICZ et al. v. CITY OF MERIDEN et al., SC 19422
Judicial District of New Haven at Meriden
Labor; Pensions; Municipalities; Whether Trial Court Properly Interpreted Stipulated Judgment and City Charter Provisions Governing Health Insurance Emoluments for Retired Firefighters and Police Officers. Certain Meriden city charter provisions and a 1982 stipulated judgment between the city and the Meriden Retired Police and Firefighter’s Association provide that a retired Meriden firefighter or police officer is entitled to a health insurance emolument as part of his pension. Those authorities also provide that the emolument is to be in an amount equal to one half of the total premium attributable to the firefighter or police officer’s participation in the defendant’s group health insurance plan. In 2002, the defendant began imposing a cost share for health insurance on all active firefighters and police officers. This practice led to a reduction in the amount of the health insurance emolument paid to retired firefighters and police officers. The plaintiffs in this action are Meriden firefighters or police officers who retired before 2002, and they allege that they are not subject to the cost share reduction of their health insurance emolument because the stipulated judgment and relevant city charter provisions make no reference to it in defining the extent of their health insurance emoluments. They sought a writ of mandamus and monetary and injunctive relief in connection with their contractual and constitutional claims. After a bench trial, the trial court found in favor of the defendant on all of the plaintiffs’ claims. It interpreted the stipulated judgment and relevant city charter provisions to provide that a retired employee’s health insurance emolument tracks the amount that the defendant pays to provide health insurance to an active employee who holds a position equivalent to the retired employee’s former position. The trial court accordingly determined that the introduction of the cost share requirement reduced the defendant’s cost for an active employee’s participation in the group health insurance plan and that, therefore, the corresponding reduction in the plaintiffs’ health insurance emoluments was consistent with the stipulated judgment and city charter provisions. The trial court also concluded that the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the stipulated judgment and city charter provisions would lead to absurd and unworkable results because it would cause the plaintiffs to receive a greater amount in health insurance coverage than their active employee counterparts. The plaintiffs appeal, claiming that the trial court erred in interpreting the stipulated judgment and city charter provisions, failing to consider certain arguments and evidence, failing to take judicial notice of General Statutes § 7-450c, and treating certain claims as abandoned.