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Richey v. Borough

United States District Court, D. Alaska

April 13, 2015

Andrea Richey, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Defendant.

ORDER AND OPINION [Re: Motion at Docket 31]

JOHN W. SEDWICK, Senior District Judge.

I. MOTION PRESENTED

At docket 31 defendant Matanuska-Susitna Borough ("the Borough") moves pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for partial summary judgment regarding the statute of limitations applicable to the claims of plaintiffs Andrea Richey, et al . (collectively, "plaintiffs"). Plaintiffs oppose at docket 37. The Borough replies at docket 43. Oral argument was not requested and would not assist the court.

II. BACKGROUND

The State of Alaska's ("the State's") Public Employees Retirement System ("PERS") provides retirement, disability, and death benefits to certain public employees.[1] The Borough entered into a contractual agreement with the State to participate in PERS in 1968 ("the Participation Agreement").[2] Plaintiffs allege that this contract requires the Borough to enroll its employees in PERS once "the employee [is] employed by [the Borough] in a qualified position, receive[s] PERS-eligible compensation, and [is] eligible to make PERS contributions."[3]

Plaintiffs and the putative class members are former and current Borough employees. They refer to themselves as "disfavored personnel, " meaning that they are "permanent part-time and/or permanent full-time [Borough] employees denied PERS benefits."[4] Plaintiffs assert that they are actually PERS-eligible because they (1) "either initially and/or routinely" worked sufficient hours per week (15 hours per week for part-time employees and 30 hours per week for full-time employees); and (2) worked an unspecified "sufficient" amount of hours per annum "during many, most and/or all years" of employment.[5]

Plaintiffs filed their complaint in state court in January 2014[6] and moved for class certification before discovery had been conducted. The Alaska Superior Court denied their motion, ruling that plaintiffs failed to "provide information to establish each of the requirements for class certification."[7] The denial was issued without prejudice to plaintiffs' ability to renew their motion after completion of discovery. Before renewing their motion, plaintiffs amended their complaint to add a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim. This led the Borough to remove the case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).[8]

Plaintiffs, in their First Amended Complaint ("Complaint"), claim that the Borough's decision to exclude "disfavored personnel" from PERS is a breach of the Borough's fiduciary duty (Claim 2); a violation of Article XII, section 7 of the Alaska Constitution (Claim 4); a violation of plaintiffs' rights under "express and implied contractual commitments" (Claim 5); a violation of plaintiffs' rights under "the laws and Constitutions of the United States and the State of Alaska, " including the right to equal protection of the law (Claim 6); and a violation of AS 23.10.045 (Claim 7). The Complaint also seeks declaratory relief and an injunction requiring the Borough to enroll plaintiffs in PERS retroactively (Claim 3).[9]

Defendants now seek a ruling that any of plaintiffs' claims that accrued before January 2011, including all of the claims asserted by plaintiff Christian Hartley ("Hartley"), are time-barred.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[10] The materiality requirement ensures that "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment."[11] Ultimately, "summary judgment will not lie if the... evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."[12] However, summary judgment is mandated under Rule 56(c) "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial."[13]

The moving party has the burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.[14] Where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, the moving party need not present evidence to show that summary judgment is warranted; it need only point out the lack of any genuine dispute as to material fact.[15] Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth evidence of specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.[16] All evidence presented by the non-movant must be believed for purposes of summary judgment, and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-movant.[17] However, the non-moving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but must show that there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute to require a fact-finder to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.[18]

IV. DISCUSSION

The parties agree that Alaska law supplies the statute of limitations applicable to each of plaintiffs' claims. Under Alaska law, a statute of limitations does not begin to run until the cause of action accrues, [19] which is usually "the date on which the plaintiff incurs injury."[20] "When a cause of action accrues ordinarily presents a question of fact that must be resolved at an evidentiary hearing. Resolution of the issue on summary judgment is ...


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