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BENSALEM TWP. v. WESTERN WORLD INS. CO.
April 16, 1985
WESTERN WORLD INSURANCE CO.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLAK
Plaintiff Bensalem Township seeks a declaration that defendant Western World is contractually bound to cover any liability which plaintiff may incur in Johnson v. Township of Bensalem, Civil Action No. 83-0449 (E.D. Pa.), an age discrimination action brought by the widow of a former Bensalem Township police officer. See 609 F. Supp. 1340. Defendant has counterclaimed for a declaration of non-coverage, arguing that the insurance policy in question excludes coverage for (1) claims made before February 21, 1982, and (2) claims arising out of willful violations of federal or state statutes. The parties have stipulated to the relevant facts,
and have filed cross-motions for summary judgment.
A. The Johnson Litigation
The facts are uncomplicated. On January 31, 1981, Sergeant William L. Johnson retired from the Bensalem Township Police Department. Sergeant Johnson, then fifty-four years old, was required to retire under the township's mandatory retirement policy for police officers. Sergeant Johnson died on May 11, 1981. Four months later, on September 18, 1981, Harriet Johnson, the Sergeant's widow, filed an age discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On September 24, 1981, the township received a letter from the EEOC notifying the township that a discrimination charge had been filed against it. The EEOC letter stated in full:
The law provides that after receiving such a charge, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is required to notify the prospective defendant and try to eliminate any alleged unlawful practice by informal conciliation, conference, and persuasion.
An Equal Opportunity Specialist will contact you in the near future to review the circumstance involved in this case and, if possible, to work out some solution consistent with the statute and agreeable to the parties.
Letter from Marvin Meyers, ADEA Supervisor, to Director of Personnel, Township of Bensalem (Sept. 22, 1981) (attached as Exhibit B to the Stipulation of Facts). The enclosure to which Mr. Meyers' letter refers was a copy of the charge itself. That document contained the following two-sentence explanation of Mrs. Johnson's age discrimination claim:
On January 31, 1981, my husband, William L. Johnson (deceased), was forced to retire at age 54, after 25 years of service as a Police Officer.
Respondent's policy stated that employees with 25 years of service and were [sic] 50 or more years of age had to retire.
Charge of Discrimination (attached as Exhibit A to the Stipulation of Facts).
Six months later, on March 22, 1982, the township received a letter from one Kevin J. Berry, who was identified as the "Equal Opportunity Specialist" to whom the Johnson matter had been assigned. Mr. Berry's letter briefly discussed the EEOC's procedure of seeking voluntary settlement of discrimination charges, and requested some general information concerning the township's retirement policy for police department personnel. Letter from Kevin J. ...
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