The Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) operates a defined-benefit plan for state employees and participating political subdivisions. The City of Chandler operated a deferred-compensation plan in which it contributed money for its employees and permitted employees to defer additional amounts, which were held in trust until distributed to employees, generally at age seventy and one-half. Mary Wade and Marla Paddock, City employees, filed a complaint against ASRS and others on behalf of themselves, arguing that City-contributed payments into the deferred-compensation-plan trust constituted “compensation” for the purpose of calculating ASRS contributions and benefits. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the City. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the term “salary” included the City’s regular contributions to the deferred-compensation-plan. The Supreme Court largely affirmed, holding that the City’s contractually required contributions into the deferred-compensation-plan trust for the benefit of its employees formed part of their salary and was “compensation” under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 38-711(7). View "Wade v. Arizona State Retirement System" on Justia Law
In 2011, the Arizona Legislature enacted Senate Bill 1609, which changed the Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan by changing the formula for calculating future benefit increases for retired Plan members and increased the amount that employed Plan members must contribute toward their pensions. Employed members of the Plan challenged the Bill, arguing that the unilateral changes to the benefit increases formula and to the amount they were required to contribute toward their pensions violated the Pension Clause and that the legislature could not unilaterally change the terms of their pensions to their detriment. The trial court agreed and invalidated the provisions at issue. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the employed Plan members, holding that the Bill’s change to the benefit increases formula and the contribution rate violates the Pension Clause and the Court’s holding in Yeazell v. Copins; and (2) contrary to the trial court’s ruling, the employed members are entitled to attorneys’ fees and prejudgment interest, and the judgment must run against the State as well as the Plan. View "Honorable Philip Hall v. Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan" on Justia Law
In 1985, the Arizona Legislature established the Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan (“Plan”), which provides pension benefits for elected officials, including judges. Ariz. Rev. Stat. 38-818 establishes a formula for calculating pension benefit increased for retired members of the Plan. In 2011, the Legislature enacted S.B. 1609, which modified the formula set forth in section 38-818. Two retired judges, on behalf of themselves and as representatives of a class of retired Plan members and beneficiaries, sued the Plan and its board members, alleging that S.B. 1609 violated Ariz. Const. art. 29, 1(C). The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs, concluding that S.B. 1609 violated Article 29, 1(C)’s prohibition against the diminishment or impairment of public retirement system benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the statute diminished and impaired the Plan’s retired members’ benefits, it violated the Pension Clause of Article 29, 1(C). View "Fields v. Elected Officials' Ret. Plan" on Justia Law
Posted in: Arizona Supreme Court, Constitutional Law, Election Law, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law
Dudley Pounders, a New Mexico resident, was exposed to asbestos while working at a New Mexico power plant (Plant) more than thirty years ago. Dudley later moved to Arizona and, in 2008, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Dudley and his wife, Vicki, filed suit in Arizona against Defendants, including the successor-in-interest to the architect and design manager for three units at the Plant and the designer and manufacturer of industrial boilers used at the Plant. After Dudley died later that year, Vicki amended the complaint to assert claims for wrongful death. The trial court applied New Mexico substantive law to Vicki's claims, including New Mexico's statute of repose, which the court found applied to Vicki's wrongful death claim and barred the action. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that New Mexico substantive law applied to Vicki's wrongful death claim. View "Pounders v. Ensearch E&C, Inc." on Justia Law
In this case, the Supreme Court addressed whether an employer can be held vicariously liable for an after-work accident caused by an employee who was on an extended away-from-home assignment. The accident occurred when the employee was driving back to his hotel after dinner. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that an employee on out-of-town travel status is not acting within the course and scope of his employment while traveling to or from a restaurant for a regular meal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the employee was not subject to his employer's control, he was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and therefore, the employer was not liable for the employee's actions.