Thursday, March 21, 2013

Summary 2013 WY 36

Summary of Decision March 20, 2013

Justice Burke delivered the opinion for the Court. Reversed and remanded.


Docket Number: S 12 0108


Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County, Honorable John G. Fenn, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant): Thomas B. Buescher, Buescher, Goldhammer, Kelman and Dodge, PC, Denver, Colorado; H.W. Rasmussen, Sheridan, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Buescher.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Jodi D. Shea and Michael G. Weisz, Pence and MacMillan, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming; Gregory A. Von Krosigk, Pence and MacMillan, LLC, Sheridan, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Weisz.

Date of Decision: March 20, 2013

Facts: Appellant, Sheridan Fire Fighters Local No. 276, IAFF, AFL-CIO, CLC, filed suit in district court against the City of Sheridan alleging breach of their collective bargaining agreement. Local 276 claimed that the City breached the Agreement when it failed to provide pay raises to five firefighters who had qualified for a “step increase” in salary. The City contended that the raises were not required and that, under the terms of the Agreement, it retained discretion in the award of pay raises. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment, and the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City. Local 276 challenges that decision in this appeal.

Issues: Local 276 presents these issues: Whether the Trial Court erred as a matter of law in determining that the provision regarding step increases in the 2010-2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the parties is not ambiguous, therefore not warranting the consideration of extrinsic evidence. Whether the Trial Court erred as a matter of law in concluding that the provision regarding step increases in the 2010-2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the parties unambiguously allowed the City to unilaterally decide not to pay out step increases.

The City’s statement of the issues is as follows: Whether a collective bargaining agreement is ambiguous as to qualification for a “step” increase when the collective bargaining agreement contains the parties’ express agreement that the City retained the power to determine all employee qualifications. Whether an implied term can be added to a collective bargaining agreement when doing so would violate statutory budgeting provisions. Whether an integral and material item such as a guaranteed pay raise can be added to a collective bargaining agreement by implication and without additional consideration therefore, and assuming arguendo such a material term can be added by implication would such an amendment be in contravention of Wyoming law concerning the contracting ability of a governing body.

Holdings: The collective bargaining agreement between the City and Local 276 for the fiscal year 2010-2011 was ambiguous about whether step increases in salary were mandatory or left to the City’s discretion. We therefore considered extrinsic evidence in an effort to interpret the Agreement and discern the parties’ intent. In support of its summary judgment motion, Local 276 presented evidence of the parties’ past conduct, which was consistent with the Union’s interpretation that the Agreement required the City to give step increases to all eligible firefighters. The City offered no evidence to the contrary, and so raised no genuine issues of material fact. “[E]ven where extrinsic evidence is admissible to establish the intent of the parties, a summary judgment may be appropriate when the evidence fails to raise an issue of fact requiring resolution at trial.” Madison, 619 P.2d at 716. When there are no genuine issues of material fact and one party has shown it is entitled to judgment in its favor, this Court has the authority to order that summary judgment be entered in favor of that party. See, e.g., Baker v. Ayres and Baker Pole and Post, Inc., 2005 WY 97, ¶ 33, 117 P.3d 1234, 1244 (Wyo. 2005). We reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, and remand for entry of summary judgment in favor of Local 276.

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

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