GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS – Firefighters, collective bargaining agreement: Metro Louisville/Jefferson County Government v. Abma (COA 9/4/2009)

Metro Louisville/Jefferson County Government v. Abma
2007-CA-001417 9/4/09 2009 WL 2837355 Rehearing pending

Opinion by Judge Nickell; Judges Acree and Senior Judge Knopf concurred.

The Court affirmed in part and vacated in part and remanded orders of the circuit court related to breach of contract claims by two groups of firefighters against the City of Louisville.

The Court held that the trial court properly granted summary judgment to the firefighters after finding that the City breached its contract with the union. The Court first held that the firefighters could maintain a contract action separate from their wage and hour complaint. Although the wage and hour law filled any gaps in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the City’s obligation to pay overtime was stated in the CBA negotiated between the City and the union. The Court then held that the trial court correctly found that the City had breached the CBA based on the CBA language, the intent of the parties under the CBA and well-settled caselaw. The Court next held that the judgment was not interlocutory. While the judgment reserved some issues for the taking of proof or later determination, it did specify the formula the City was to use in calculating the additional overtime pay. Further, by certifying the judgment as final on some but not all of the pending issues, the trial court enabled the City to perfect an appeal and to proceed in calculating damages. The Court also held that the firefighters could recover damages under both the contract and wage and law causes of action but that they could not recover twice for the same damage. The Court next held that the applicable statue of limitations was 15 years, as provided in KRS 413.090(2) for actions on written contract, not five years under KRS 413.12(2) for statutory violations, as the underlying cause of action was for breach of contract. The Court next held that although sovereign immunity could be asserted for the first time on appeal, the defense could not be asserted by the newly merged government to avoid a contractual obligation resulting from an agreement entered into by one of its predecessors.

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