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Wood v. Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Athens Division

January 13, 2015

DAVID A. WOOD, on behalf of himself and all persons similarly situated, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNIFIED GOVERNMENT OF ATHENS-CLARKE COUNTY, GEORGIA, Defendant

For DAVID A WOOD, on behalf of himself and all persons similarly situated, NANCY COCHRAN, on behalf of herself and all persons similarly situated, BOBBY SNIPES, on behalf of himself and all persons similarly situated, WENDELL FAULKNER, on behalf of himself and all persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs: Jeffery Spence Johnson, LEAD ATTORNEY, DUSTIN R MARLOWE, Athens, GA; JAMES W COBB, ATLANTA, GA; Michael A Caplan, CAPLAN COBB LLP, Atlanta, GA.

For UNIFIED GOVERNMENT OF ATHENS-CLARKE COUNTY GEORGIA, Defendant: ANDREW HULSEY MARSHALL, LEAD ATTORNEY, ATHENS, GA; RICHARD READ GIGNILLIAT, LEAD ATTORNEY, Patrick L. Lail, Atlanta, GA.

Page 1377

ORDER

CLAY D. LAND, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

In this putative class action, retirees of Defendant Unified Government of Athens Clarke-County, Georgia seek to hold Athens to its word: if you were hired before July 1, 2002 and worked for Athens for the

Page 1378

requisite number of years, you will receive " 'cost-free' health-insurance benefits throughout retirement at the same level [you] received on the date of [your] retirement, including dependent coverage." Compl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs contend that Athens broke its word when it enacted an ordinance in 2002 that required Medicare-eligible retirees to enroll in Medicare Part B as a condition of receiving benefits under Athens's health plan. Whether Athens in fact broke its word is not presently before the Court. Athens seeks to avoid the resolution of that issue, contending that Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. For the reasons explained in the remainder of this Order, the Court agrees and finds that Plaintiffs' claims based on the 2002 ordinance are time-barred. Athens's motion for judgment on the pleadings (ECF No. 13) is therefore granted.

JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS STANDARD

" Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate only when the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Moore v. Liberty Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 267 F.3d 1209, 1213 (11th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court " must accept all facts in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). In ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), the Court may consider copies of the relevant ordinances that were attached to the Complaint and Answer. Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1134 (11th Cir. 2002).

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiffs make the following allegations in support of their claims. The Court construes these allegations as true for purposes of the pending motion.

Plaintiffs are retired employees of Athens. By 2002, each Plaintiff had completed at least fifteen years of service for Athens. Faulkner retired in 2004 after twenty-seven years of service, and he became eligible for Medicare in 2014. Cochran retired in 2009 after twenty-seven years of service, and she became eligible for Medicare in 2011 or 2012. Wood retired in 2011 after thirty-four years of service, and he was eligible for Medicare when he retired. Snipes retired in 2012 after thirty-eight years of service, and he became eligible for Medicare in 2014.

Plaintiffs allege that as part of their employment contract, Athens promised them that if they completed the requisite years of service, they would receive " 'cost-free' health-insurance benefits throughout retirement at the same level they received on the date of their retirement, including dependent coverage." Compl. ¶ ¶ 11-12, ECF No. 1.[1] Plaintiffs further allege that this promise was not conditioned on any factor other than years of service. Id. ¶ 21.

In 2002, Athens adopted an ordinance requiring Medicare-eligible retirees to enroll in Medicare Part B as a condition of receiving benefits under Athens's health plan. Answer Attach. 1, Minutes of Athens-Clarke Cnty. Comm'n ยง 2(b)(2), June 4, 2002, ECF No. 5-1 at 13. The ordinance ...


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