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Demoss v. Village of Silver Lake

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

August 7, 2019

GARY W. DEMOSS, et al. Appellants
v.
VILLAGE OF SILVER LAKE Appellee

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CV 2012-09-5141

          LARRY SHENISE, Attorney at Law, for Appellants.

          JOHN T. MCLANDRICH, FRANK H. SCIALDONE, and TAMMI Z. HANNON, Attorneys at Law, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          JENNIFER HENSAL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         {¶1} Gary Demoss, Carl Harrison, and Mark Kennemuth appeal a judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas that entered judgment for the Village of Silver Lake on their declaratory judgment action. For the following reasons, this Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} The facts of this case are not in dispute. In 1972, the Village enacted an ordinance to provide health care and life insurance benefits to its employees. The ordinance also provided that the Village would continue to provide those benefits to retired employees, as long as they had worked for the Village for at least 15 years at the time of their retirement. In the years that followed, Mr. Demoss, Mr. Harrison, and Mr. Kennemuth (collectively "the Employees") each began working for the Village. By the end of 1994, they had each completed 15 years of service.

         {¶3} In 1995, the Village repealed the employee benefits ordinance and replaced it with a new one. The new ordinance provided that employees of the Village would be provided with health care and life insurance but did not contain a provision regarding retired employees.

         {¶4} As the Employees began to retire, they filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in common pleas court, asking it to declare that the Village had to provide them with health care and life insurance following their retirement because they had satisfied the requirements for vesting under the 1972 ordinance. The case was assigned to a magistrate, who determined that the Employees did not have any vested rights under the 1972 ordinance and that the 1995 ordinance had eliminated any benefits to employees who retired after its passage. The Employees objected to the magistrate's decision. Although the trial court sustained some of their objections, it concluded that the magistrate had correctly denied the Employees' requested declaratory judgment because the 1995 ordinance cancelled any life or health insurance benefits to be paid to retirees under the 1972 ordinance.

         {¶5} The Employees appealed the trial court's judgment. Upon review, this Court determined that the trial court had failed to analyze the Employees' argument that the 1995 ordinance violated the Ohio Constitution's retroactivity clause. It also determined that the trial court's judgment contained inconsistencies. On remand, the trial court determined that the 1995 ordinance did not apply retroactively and did not infringe on any of the Employees' vested rights. In particular, it concluded that the Employees could not have any vested rights under the 1972 ordinance until they both worked for the Village for 15 years and retired. It, therefore, declared that the Village does not have to pay the Employees' health care and life insurance premiums following their retirement. The Employees have appealed, assigning two errors.

         II.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR I

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW IN HOLDING THAT PLAINTIFFS DID NOT HOLD A VESTED RIGHT TO THE REQUESTED HEALTH CARE BENEFITS BECAUSE THEY HAD NOT RETIRED WHILE THE 1972 ORDINANCE WAS IN EFFECT.

         {¶6} The Employees argue that the trial court incorrectly concluded that the 1972 ordinance had two requirements for their rights to trigger. They argue that, under the language of the 1972 ordinance, their rights vested as soon as they completed 15 years of service. They argue that, like other pension systems, the fact that they were not entitled to receive their retirement benefits until they actually retired does not mean that they did not acquire vested rights earlier. "This Court applies a de novo standard of review to an appeal from a trial court's interpretation and application of an ordinance." Meeker v. Akron Health Dept, 9th Dist. Summit No. 24539, 2009-Ohio-3560, ΒΆ ...


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