On 07/27/2012 LOS ANGELES POLICE PROTECTIVE LEAGUE filed an Other lawsuit against BOARD OF FIRE AND PO. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are LUIS A. LAVIN and MALCOLM MACKEY. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
LUIS A. LAVIN
LOS ANGELES POLICE PROTECTIVE LEAGUE
UNITED FIREFIGHTERS OF LOS ANGELES CITY
BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE PENSION COMMI
LOS ANGELES CITY OF
DOES 1 THROUGH 20
BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE PENSION COMMI-
BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE PENSION COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES
CITY OF LOS ANGELES
BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE PENSION COMMIS-
SILVER HADDEN SILVER WEXLER & LEVINE
SILVER STEPHEN HARLEY
ROSS BRIAN P
RENNE SLOAN HOLTZMAN SAKAI LLP
LEIDERMAN HARVEY L. ESQ
MEYERS NAVE RIBACK SILVER & WILSON
ROSS LINDA M.
10/2/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER) OF 10/02/2020
6/17/2019: Notice of Related Case
2/15/2019: Minute Order - Minute Order (COURT ORDER - REGARDING: PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE TO JUDICIAL OFF...)
7/27/2012: COMPLAINT FOR: 1) DECLARATORY RELIEF; ETC
9/13/2012: NOTICE OF DEMURRER AND DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT BY DEFENDANT BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE PENSION COMMISSIONERS OF THE LOS ANGELES FIRE AND POLICE PENSIONS; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND
1/8/2013: PLAINTIFFS? REQUEST FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE IN SUPPORT OF OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER BY THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; DECLARATION OF JACOB A. KALINSKI
1/22/2013: DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT BOARD?S DEMURRER: SUSTAINED WITHIOUTI LEAVE TO AMEND; ETC
2/11/2013: JUDGMENT OF DISMISSAL
9/3/2014: MEMORANDUM OF COSTS ON APPEAL
4/23/2015: NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
6/15/2015: CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT -
4/15/2016: REQUEST FOR DISMISSAL -
9/9/2016: PLAINTIFFS' MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 1 NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION IN LIMINE; DECLARATION OF JACOB A. KALINSKI, ESQ.
9/14/2016: OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT CITY OF LOS ANGELES' MOTION IN LIMINE A
9/26/2016: Minute Order -
9/27/2016: Minute Order -
11/30/2016: AMENDED MEMORANDUM OF COSTS (SUMMARY)
3/17/2017: NOTICE TO REPORTER TO PREPARE TRANSCRIPT ON APPEAL
Hearing09/20/2021 at 09:30 AM in Department 56 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Non-Jury TrialRead MoreRead Less
Hearing09/08/2021 at 08:30 AM in Department 56 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Final Status ConferenceRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 09:30 AM in Department 56; Jury Trial - Not Held - Vacated by CourtRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 56; Final Status Conference - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by CourtRead MoreRead Less
DocketStipulation and Order (STIPULATION AND ORDER TO CONTINUE TRIAL DATE); Filed by City of Los Angeles (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Docketat 10:55 AM in Department 56; Court OrderRead MoreRead Less
DocketMinute Order ( (Court Order)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketCertificate of Mailing for ((Court Order) of 10/02/2020); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketStipulation and Order (STIPULATION RE: FILING OF SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT; ORDER); Filed by Los Angeles Police Protective League (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 56; Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment - HeldRead MoreRead Less
DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCERead MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketProof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Los Angeles Police Protective League (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketPROOF OF SERVICE OF COMPLAINT ON CITY OF LOS ANGELESRead MoreRead Less
DocketPROOF OF SERVICE OF COMPLAINT ON BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE PENSION COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF LOS ANGELESRead MoreRead Less
DocketProof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Los Angeles Police Protective League (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketSUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
DocketComplaint; Filed by Los Angeles Police Protective League (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketCOMPLAINT FOR: 1) DECLARATORY RELIEF; ETCRead MoreRead Less
DocketOpposition Document; Filed by Plaintiff/PetitionerRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC489113 Hearing Date: March 06, 2020 Dept: 56
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES - CENTRAL DISTRICT
LOS ANGELES POLICE PROTECTIVE LEAGUE, et al.,
BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE PENSION COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES, et al.,
CASE NO.: BC489113
[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, SUMMARY ADJUDICATION
Date: March 6, 2020
Time: 8:30 a.m.
MOVING PARTY: Defendant City of Los Angeles (“Moving Defendant”)
RESPONDNIG PARTIES: Plaintiffs Los Angeles Police Protective League (“LAPPL”) and United Firefighters of Los Angeles City (“UFLAC”)
The Court has considered the moving, opposition, and reply papers.
Plaintiffs filed the operative First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) alleging causes of action for: (1) declaratory relief; (2) reformation; and (3) rescission. The FAC alleges that in response to a Los Angeles City Council ordinance that froze the maximum monthly subsidy towards health insurance premiums for employees who retired on or after July 15, 2011 at the then current level, LAPPL and UFLAC entered into separate Letters of Agreement (“LOA”) which allowed employees who opted to make a future two percent contribution of their base salary would be exempt from the freeze. The FAC alleges that the Board of Fire and Police Pension Commissioners for the City of Los Angeles (the “Board”) retained discretion over the amount of annual increases for those members who were exempt from the freeze.
Pursuant to the first cause of action, the FAC alleges that: (1) an actual controversy exists between Plaintiffs and Defendants concerning the interpretation of the LOA (FAC at ¶ 13); (2) Plaintiffs contend that they have the right to receive an annual increase in their subsidy of the lesser of—the percentage increase mandated by the inflation formula or seven percent—even though the Board might have the discretion to provide a lesser annual increase to pre July 15, 2011 retirees (Id.); and (3) Defendants contend that the Board has the discretion to provide annual increases to the affected employees that are less than the maximum amount authorized. (Id.)
The Appeal in this Case
The Court of Appeal opinion in this case described the underlying facts as follows: “[Moving Defendant] appeals from the declaratory judgment entered in favor of [P]laintiffs . . . after the trial court found that [Moving Defendant] had agreed to guaranteed annual increases in the health insurance subsidies of the two groups’ retired members.” (Id., Exhibit 10 at page 1.) “This action concerns whether [Moving Defendant] agreed to provide guaranteed annual increases in the monthly subsidy for health insurance benefits provided to retired . . . police officers and firefighters pursuant to their City pension plans.” (Id.) “The agreement arose out of Moving Defendant’s decision in 2011 to freeze those subsidy increases, prompting the police and firefighter unions . . . to claim they had a vested right to those increases. The parties resolved their differences by way of a letter of agreement (LOA) that was later enacted as an ordinance by the City Council.” (Id.) This action arose when the Board “subsequently decided to increase the monthly subsidies in a smaller amount than it had in the past.” (Id.) “[Plaintiffs] then sued [Moving Defendant] for declaratory relief that their interpretation of the LOA was correct, and alternatively for rescission or reformation of the LOA.” (Id.) A bench trial occurred and “[t]he trial court found that the plain meaning of the LOA was in accord with the [Plaintiffs’] interpretation, and that the extrinsic evidence offered by both parties was consistent with only that interpretation.” In its statement of decision, the trial court stated that “[t]he Court finds that Plaintiffs’ interpretation is correct. The Court also finds that the use of the phrase 'the maximum amount of each annual increase presently authorized by the [City Code]’ is inconsistent with an intent to allow the Board discretion regarding future increases to the Subsidy.” (Id., Exhibit 10 at page 4.)
The Court of Appeal held that the LOA is ambiguous and “is reasonably susceptible to each party’s interpretation.” (Id., Exhibit 10 at page 7.) The Court of Appeal stated that “the LOA is reasonably susceptible to each party’s interpretation, and each party produced extrinsic evidence [at trial] to support its interpretation. As a result, the LOA provision in dispute here is ambiguous, and the trial court erred by determining otherwise.” (Id., Exhibit 10 at page 8.)
The Court of Appeal disagreed with Moving Defendant’s argument that because the LOA was ambiguous, the rule announced in Retired Employees Assn. of Orange County, Inc. v. County of Orange (2011), 52 Cal.4th 1171 applied. (Id, Exhibit 10 at page 10, fn.10.) The Court of Appeal expressly indicated that the Retired Employees case was not applicable to the instant action because that case addressing the abstract question of “whether a county and its employees could form an implied contract that conferred vested rights to health benefits on retired county employees” while here “the LOA and the City’s implementing ordinance expressly state that [Moving Defendant] was granting the covered employees a vested right, and the dispute centers solely around the scope of that right.” (Id.)
The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and this action was remanded to the trial court to conduct a new trial. (Id., Exhibit 10 at page 9.)
Moving Defendant’s Present Motion
Moving Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication on the ground that the undisputed facts establish that Plaintiffs cannot meet the requisite standard of proof to demonstrate that Moving Defendant intended in the LOA with respect to LAPPL and UFLAC, which were implemented through an ordinance, to grant members a vested right to a guaranteed annual increase in a subsidy paid by Moving Defendant to defray the costs of healthcare in retirement. If summary judgment cannot be granted, Moving Defendant moves for summary adjudication as to the first and second causes of action in the FAC because Plaintiffs cannot meet the requisite standard of proof. Moving Defendant also moves for summary adjudication as to the third cause of action in the FAC on the ground that Plaintiffs abandoned such cause of action during the prior trial in this case.
Moving Defendant asserts that: (1) the California Supreme Court’s decision in Cal Fire Local 2881 v. California Public Employees’ Retirement System (2019) 6 Cal.5th 965 (Cal Fire) supersedes the Court of Appeal decision in this case on the issue of the standard of proof required to demonstrate the existence of the vested right at issue here; (2) the LOA and implementing ordinances are ambiguous and as such Plaintiffs cannot meet their burden of proof; (3) Plaintiffs cannot meet their burden on proof on the second cause of action in the FAC and the Court has no authority to amend the LOAS; and (4) Plaintiffs previously dismissed their third cause of action for rescission.
Plaintiffs oppose Moving Defendant’s motion on the grounds that: (1) the law of the case doctrine requires that the motion be denied; (2) the vested rights were created by the LOA and the Court should apply standard rules regarding contractual interpretation to the LOA; (3) the decision in Cal Fire does not support Moving Defendant’s motion; (4) the second cause of action is not subject to adjudication; and (5) the Court lacks jurisdiction to grant judgment on a dismissed claim.
The Court GRANTS Moving Defendant’s request for judicial notice.
The Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ request for judicial notice.
The Court OVERRULES Moving Defendant’s evidentiary objections numbers 1, 2, and 3. The Court SUSTAINS Moving Defendant’s evidentiary objections 4, 7, and 8. The Court will not rule on Moving Defendant’s objections numbers 5, 6, 9, and 10 because Moving Defendant states it has no objections to Plaintiffs’ evidence in connection with those objection requests.
“Code of Civil Procedure section 437c, subdivision (c), requires the trial judge to grant summary judgment if all the evidence submitted, and all inferences reasonably deducible from the evidence and uncontradicted by other inferences or evidence, show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” (Adler v. Manor Healthcare Corp. (1992) 7 Cal. App. 4th 1110, 1119.) A plaintiff cannot “rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings to show that a triable issue of material fact exists.” (Code Civ. Proc. § 437c(p)(2).) “[T]he party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of persuasion that there is no triable issue of material fact and that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 828.) Once the moving party has met its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a triable issue as to any material fact. (Id. at 849.) With respect to a motion for summary judgment “the moving party’s affidavits are strictly construed while those of the opposing party are liberally construed.” (Walker v. Blue Cross of California (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 985, 990.) With respect to a motion for summary judgment “if it is not set forth in the separate statement, it does not exist.” (San Diego Watercrafts, Inc. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 308, 313.) “A defendant . . . has met his or her burden of showing that a cause of action has no merit if the party has shown that one or more elements of the causes of action . . . cannot be established, or that there is a complete defense to the cause of action.” (Code Civ. Proc. § 437c(p)(2).)
“Summary adjudication motions are procedurally identical to summary judgment motions.” (Serri v. Santa Clara University (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 830, 859.) “A party may not avoid summary judgment based on mere speculation and conjecture . . . but instead must produce admissible evidence raising a triable issue of fact.” (Compton v. City of Santee (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 591, 595-596.) “In ruling on the motion, the court must consider all the evidence and all of the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom, and must view such evidence and such inferences in the light most favorable to the opposing party.” (Caloroso v. Hathaway (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 922, 926.) “There is a triable issue of material fact if, and only if, the evidence would allow a reasonable trier of fact to find the underlying fact in favor of the party opposing the motion in accordance with the applicable standard of proof.” (Pacific Gas and Electric Company v. Superior Court (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 1150, 1158.)
Issue No. 1: Law of the Case Doctrine
Moving Defendant contends that the Cal Fire case has clarified the burden required to prove a vested right and as such the standard of proof articulated in Retired Employees Employees Assn. of Orange County, Inc. v. County of Orange (2011) 52 Cal.4th 1171 applies to adjudication of all claims of vested rights, and that based on the standard of proof articulated in Cal Fire, Plaintiffs cannot prove their case because they cannot prove by “clear and unequivocal” proof that Moving Defendant intended to grant them the vested right they seek.
“The doctrine of law of the case deals with the effect of the first appellate decision on the subsequent retrial or appeal: [t]he decision of an appellate court, stating a rule of law necessary to the decision of the case, conclusively establishes that rule and makes it determinative of the rights of the same parties in any subsequent retrial or appeal in the same case.” (Morohoshi v. Pacific Home (2004) 34 Cal.4th 482, 491.) “The doctrine is, we have recognized, harsh.” (Id.) The law of the doctrine is not followed “where its application would result in an unjust decision, e.g., where there has been a manifest misapplication of existing principles resulting in substantial injustice, or where the controlling rules of law have been altered or clarified by a decision intervening between the first and second appellate determinations. The unjust decision exception does not apply when there is a mere disagreement with the prior appellate determination.” (Id. at 491-492.) Where after an appellate opinion is rendered, the Supreme Court clarifies the law, the law of the case doctrine does not apply. (Franco v. Arakelian Enterprises, Inc. (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 947, 957.)
The Court disagrees with Moving Defendant’s argument that Cal Fire supersedes the Court of Appeal’s decision and supports summary judgment or adjudication in this case. Cal Fire addressed the issue of “whether the opportunity to purchase ARS credit was a vested right—that is, a right protected by the constitutional contract clause.” (Cal Fire, 6 Cal.5th at 969.) Cal Fire did not address whether the heightened standard of proof should apply to determining the scope of a right once such right has been deemed vested. The Cal Fire court articulated a rule that constitutional protections come into play in connection with vested rights “(1) when the statute or ordinance establishing a benefit of employment and the circumstances of its enactment clearly evince intent by the relevant legislative body to create contractual rights or, (2) when, even in the absence of a manifest legislative intent to create such rights, contractual rights are implied as a result of the nature of the employment benefit, as is the case with pension rights.” (Id. at 970.) Cal Fire addressed the issue of a right provided by statute.
To the contrary, in the instant case, whether or not there is a vested right is not in issue; the LOA and the implementing ordinance have specifically deemed it to be so. The Court of Appeal decision was based upon the finding that the LOA and implementing ordinance granted Plaintiffs a vested right, based upon their language. As such, the Court of Appeal did not determine whether a vested right exists, nor did it rule on the proper test by which a vested right may be found to exist, but rather it ruled on the scope of that vested right. Cal Fire makes no mention of a standard of proof in determining the scope of a vested right.
Retired Employees also does not support Moving Defendant’s argument that a heightened standard of proof is required here. As indicated above, the issue in the appellate decision in this case was the scope of a vested right. The issue in Retired Employees was “[w]hether, as a matter of California law, a California county and its employees can form an implied contract that confers vested rights to health benefits on retired county employees.” (Id., at 52 Cal.4th 1176.) The Retired Employees court held that “a county may be bound by an implied contract under California law if there is no legislative prohibition against such arrangements, such as a statute or ordinance.” (Id.) The crux of the lawsuit in Retired Employees was that the county pooled retirees separately via a 2007 resolution and did not negotiate with retirees before making such changes to the pooling system. (Id. at 1177.) Retired Employees did not address the issue of the scope of a vested right, only whether a vested right existed. “Language used in any opinion is of course to be understood in the light of the facts and the issue then before the court, and an opinion is not authority for a proposition not therein considered.” (Ginns v. Savage (1964) 61 Cal.2d 520, 525, fn.2.)
Thus, Cal Fire and Retired Employees do not support Moving Defendant’s argument that Cal Fire supersedes the Court of Appeal decision in this case. Moving Defendant’s citation to Vallejo Police Officers is also not persuasive for the same reason since it was not addressing the issue of the scope of a vested right where one has already been found to exist. (Vallejo Police Officers Assn. v. City of Vallejo (2017) 15 Cal.App.5th 601.)
The LOA and implementing ordinance clearly grant a vested right. (Moving Defendant’s RJN at Exhibits 5, 6, and 7.) Collective-bargaining agreements are interpreted “according to ordinary principles of contract law, at least when those principles are not inconsistent with federal labor policy.” (M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett (2015) 574 U.S. 427, 434.) The Court also finds Moving Defendant’s argument misplaced with respect to the first cause of action in the FAC as the first cause of action seeks a judicial declaration with respect to the meaning of the LOA and not the implementing ordinance. (FAC at ¶ 13.)
The entire premise of Moving Defendant’s motion that Cal Fire requires a heightened standard of proof is inapplicable to the facts of the instant action. The law of the case doctrine applies to the Court of Appeal decision here, which has already explicitly rejected Moving Defendant’s contention that the heightened standard of proof applies by clear and convincing evidence in connection with the scope of a vested right. The entire basis of Moving Defendant’s motion is that a heightened standard of proof applies; however, as indicated above this is incorrect.
Issue No. 2: First Cause of Action
“A contract is either express or implied.” (Retired Employees Assn. of Orange County, Inc. v. County of Orange (2011) 52 Cal.4th 1171, 1178.) “The terms of an express contract are stated in words.” (Id.) “All contracts, whether public or private, are to be interpreted by the same rules unless otherwise provided by the Civil Code.” (Id. at 1179.) “Even when a written contract exists, [e]vidence derived from experience and practice can trigger the incorporation of additional, implied terms.” (Id. at 1178-1179.) To state a claim for declaratory relief, a plaintiff must show: (1) a proper subject of declaratory relief; and (2) an actual controversy involving justiciable questions relating to the rights or obligations of a party. (Lee v. Silveira (2016) 6 Cal.App.5th 527, 546.) “[A]ll modern California decisions treat labor-management agreements whether in public employment or private as enforceable contracts . . . which should be interpreted to execute the mutual intent and purpose of the parties.” (Glendale City Employees’ Assn., Inc. v. City of Glendale (1975) 15 Cal.3d 328, 339.)
Moving Defendant’s Evidence
Moving Defendant presents the undisputed facts that: (1) under the Los Angeles City Charter, the City Council has the authority to “provide by ordinance a program or programs whereby pensions of this Tier 1 may become eligible to have subsidy payments on their behalf for health insurance . . . . or coverage for any combination of such programs as determined by the Council and subject to any conditions of entitlement as may be set forth in any ordinance adopted in accordance with the provisions of this Tier 1” and this text is included for other Police and Fire pension tiers (UMF 1); (2) under the Los Angeles City Charter, the City Council may establish by ordinance the maximum subsidy payments for beneficiaries under any programs established by the Council including appropriate limitations for employees receiving subsidies from other City Plans (UMF 2); (3) the Los Angeles City Charter empowers the City Council to authorize the Board to increase or decrease subsidy payments pursuant to factors, standards, and limitations prescribed in the ordinance (UMF 3); (4) the City Council, in 2006, enacted Ordinance number 177630 which amended the Los Angeles Administrative Code to authorize the Board to approve changes to the maximum subsidy towards health insurance for retired members of the Fire and Police Pension Plan subject to certain limitations (UMF 4); (5) the amendment in part read that the Board was authorized to make discretionary changes on an annual basis beginning in 2006 to the maximum monthly subsidy, so long as no increase exceeded the lesser of a seven percent increase or the actuarial assumed rate for medical inflation for pre-65 health benefits established by the Board for the applicable fiscal year (UMF 5); (6) Letters of Agreement were entered into between the LAPPL and the Firefighters Union and Moving Defendant on the other hand, in 2011, which said that the entitlement to retiree health benefit increases shall be a vested right to those employees who opted to make a two percent contribution from their base salary to defray a portion of Moving Defendant’s cost of providing retiree health benefits (UMF 7-10); (7) in October 2011, the City Council enacted Ordinance number 181893 to “provide for the vesting of retiree health benefit increases to members of the Fire and Police Pension Plan in exchange for the voluntary payment of additional contributions and to make other technical changes” (UMF 11); and (8) Ordinance 181893 added Section 4.1167 which stated in part that “In consideration for such Additional Contributions being made for the period specified above, each such member and his or her survivors shall have a vested right to receive the retiree health benefits that were provided in this Chapter on July 1, 2011, and to receive the maximum amount of annual increases in subsidies or reimbursements for retiree health benefits in all subsequent years thereafter, as authorized by this Chapter on June 30, 2011, provided that all conditions of eligibility prescribed in this chapter are satisfied.” (UMF 12.)
Moving Defendant has met its burden in showing that the LOA had no intent of providing a vested right at the highest possible amount of each annual increase. The burden now shifts to Plaintiffs to show a triable issue of material fact.
Plaintiffs present the declaration of Corina Lee who declares that: (1) she has been employed as a sworn peace office of the Los Angeles Police Department from 1992 to the present date (Lee Decl. at ¶ 2); (2) since December 2003, she has served as an elected board member of the LAPPL (Id. at ¶ 3); (3) she attended a board meeting of the LAPPL in March 2012 and during that meeting she objected to the staff of the LAPPL recommending an increase in the retiree medical subsidy of five percent which was less than the maximum amount authorized for increases to the retire medical subsidy as set for the in the Letter of Agreement entered into between Moving Defendant and the LAPPL (Id. at ¶ 4); and (4) she objected to the increase because it was less than either seven percent or the medical trend rate. (Id.)
Plaintiffs present the declaration of Paul Weber who relevantly declares that: (1) he was President of LAPPL from November 2008 to December 2011 (Weber Decl. at ¶ 2); (2) he would not have entered into the LOA if he would have understood that the Board would have had discretion to provide increases less than the maximum amount authorized because the majority of the membership of the Pension Board are appointees of the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, and he did not want to leave his members’ futures in the hands of political appointees (Id. at ¶ 13); (3) an LAPPL Board of Directors meeting was held where the LOA was discussed in detail, and during this meeting a concern was raised about whether members could end up with no return on their contributions, he responded no that Moving Defendant would not be able to manipulate the agreement to reduce the medical subsidy to zero (Id. at ¶ 14.); (4) a tentative agreement regarding what was to become the Letter of Agreement at issue in this lawsuit was reached at a meeting at the LAPPL’s office where barbecue was served (Id. at ¶ 10); and (5) at the time he described the deal to Santana, and he told Santana that pursuant to the deal, Moving Defendant would no longer argue that the retiree medical subsidy was no longer a vested benefit, and the last item you would get is the medical trend rate or seven percent, whichever is lower. (Id. at ¶ 11.)
Plaintiffs present the declaration of Scott Rate who declares that: (1) from December 2005 to December 2011, he was director of the LAPPL and participated in negotiations with respect to collective bargaining occurring in 2011 (Rate Decl. at ¶ 3); (2) he sent Marita Aspen, who worked for Moving Defendant, on August 24, 2011 an e-mail which stated in part that “[r]egarding the 2% Opt-In for Retiree Medical Subsidy, you recalled that we negotiated terms that dependent upon the outcome of the annual report as it relates to health inflation, the pension board will automatically apply increases to the subsidy up to 7% as allowed by City Charter” (Id. at ¶ 3 and Exhibit A); (3) and Marita Aspen replied that “[i]n consideration for the 2% contribution, members have a vested right to receive the maximum amount to annual increases in subsidies provided by the Administrative Code on July 1, 2011. This is codified in both the Letter of Agreement and draft ordinance currently pending second reading at the City Council.” (Id.); and (4) he understood when he received Apsen’s e-mail, her response agreed with his understanding of the meaning of the LOAs. (Id.)
Based on the evidence presented by Plaintiffs, the Court finds that there is a triable issue of material fact with respect to the LOA’s providing the highest possible amount of each annual increase as authorized by the Los Angeles Administrative Code without a discretionary power retained by the Board. Moreover, as the Court of Appeal has already held, the LOA is ambiguous. Given the evidence presented by Plaintiffs, there is a material dispute of fact with respect to the scope of the vested right.
Therefore, Moving Defendant’s request for summary judgment to the first cause of action in the FAC is DENIED. Moving Defendant’s request for summary adjudication as to the first cause of action is similarly DENIED.
Issue No. 2: Second Cause of Action
The Court finds that Moving Defendant’s discussion of the city ordinance in connection with the second cause of action is misplaced. The second cause of action in the FAC is based only on the LOA. (FAC at ¶ 18-22.)
“Although the rule is that in order to justify a court in reforming, voiding or cancelling an instrument on the ground of mistake or fraud, the proof of mistake or fraud must be clear, convincing, and satisfactory to the court, yet a mere conflict of testimony as to the mistake or fraud does not necessitate a denial of relief.” (Nelson v. Meadville (1937) 19 Cal.App.2d 68, 71.) “The purpose of reformation is to effectuate the common intention of both parties which was incorrectly reduced to writing.” (Bailard v. Marden (1951) 36 Cal.2d 703, 708.)
The FAC alleges that the LOA does not reflect the intent of Plaintiffs that the Board would not have discretion to provide a lesser annual increase with respect to the subsidy. (FAC at ¶¶ 19-20.) The FAC alleges that it was a mutual mistake of the parties or a mistake of Plaintiffs which Moving Defendant knew at the time or suspected that the LOA in Paragraph 1 may not accurately and concisely express that intent. (Id. at ¶ 20.)
The Court incorporates its analysis and recitation of the evidence from above with respect to the first cause of action and applies it to Moving Defendant’s request for summary adjudication in connection with the second cause of action in the FAC. The Court finds that summary adjudication is improper as to the second cause of action because Plaintiffs have shown a triable issue of fact with respect to whether the LOA reflect the true intentions of the parties.
Thus, the Court DENIES Moving Defendant’s request for summary adjudication as to the second cause of action in the FAC.
Issue No. 3: Third Cause of Action
Moving Defendant asserts that because prior to trial, as reflected by the Court’s statement of decision in this case, Plaintiffs announced that they were no longer pursuing the rescission cause of action and as such Plaintiffs are barred from pursuing this claim before the Court on remand. (Moving Defendant’s RJN at Exhibit 9.) “[I]t is a well-settled proposition of law that where the plaintiff has filed a voluntary dismissal of an action . . ., the court is without jurisdiction to act further . . . an any subsequent orders of the court are simply void.” (Paniagua v. Orange County Fire Authority (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 83, 89.)
Moving Defendant’s cite no legal authority to support the argument advanced in connection to the third cause of action. The Court finds that due to that failure to cite legal authority on this point, Moving Defendant has conceded no such argument. (Heglin v. F.C.B.A. Market (1945) 70 Cal.App.2d 803, 806.
Therefore, the Court DENIES Moving Defendant’s request for summary adjudication as to the third cause of action in the FAC under Paniagua.
Moving Defendant’s motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE in its entirety.
Moving party is ordered to give notice of this ruling.
Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the Court at SMC_DEPT56@lacourt.org as directed by the instructions provided on the court website at www.lacourt.org. If the department does not receive an email and there are no appearances at the hearing, the motion will be placed off calendar.
Dated this 6th day of March 2020
Hon. Holly J. Fujie
Judge of the Superior Court
 In the context of contract interpretation, where a question of fact exists with respect to interpretation of a contract and parol evidence is admissible to aid in interpreting such agreement, summary judgment is precluded if the evidence is contradictory. (Wolf v. Superior Court (2004) 114 Cal.App.4th 1343, 1359, fn. 26.)