Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Allegheny County; Honorable Frederick G. Weir, Judge.
James Webster, Springer, Bush & Perry, Pittsburgh, for Hartford Life Ins.
John A. Bacharach, Girman & Bacharach, Pittsburgh, for Borough of Braddock.
Thomas H.M. Hough, Hough & Gleason, P.C., Pittsburgh, Anthony J. Martin, Martin & Martin, Monroeville, for appellees.
Barry and Smith, JJ., and Narick, Senior Judge.
[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 641]
Appellants, Borough of Braddock (Borough) and Hartford Life Insurance Company (Hartford), appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County which found Hartford liable to Appellees, Joseph Fisher (Fisher), Joseph Franco (Franco), Peter Zablocki (Zablocki), Irene Drusky (Drusky), and Francis Muracca (Muracca) and the Borough liable to Muracca only for benefits due from a failed employee pension plan. The trial court's decision is affirmed in part and reversed in part.
The issues presented on appeal are whether the trial court erred in finding Hartford liable to Drusky despite the fact that Drusky did not amend her complaint to specifically include Hartford as a defendant; in holding the Borough liable to Appellees even though the enabling ordinance allowed the Borough to terminate the pension plan; and in finding that the Borough and Hartford are estopped from denying pension benefits to Appellees.
These appeals arise under a common set of facts and present a common issue and were therefore consolidated for trial by the trial court.*fn1 Appellees were all employees of
[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 642]
the Borough in 1975 when it adopted an ordinance providing for the establishment of a pension plan (Plan) for all employees except police officers.*fn2 Prior to the passage of this ordinance and after negotiations, Hartford and the Borough reached an agreement on June 6, 1974 regarding the type of Plan to be offered. The Plan gave approximately twenty-five percent of the covered group immediate vested rights. After adoption of the Plan, an informational meeting was held for Borough employees. During that meeting, a booklet was distributed which summarized the Plan, and a representative from Hartford informed the employees that as long as they contributed six percent of their salaries and met all other eligibility requirements, they would receive a pension upon retirement.
Under the Plan, the Borough was required to and did make periodic contributions to Hartford through 1980. After the Borough ceased its payments, Appellees continued to have six percent of their salaries deducted and Hartford continued to accept the payments. Neither Hartford nor the Borough advised Appellees of the Borough's failure to make payments or of the consequences of such failure. Each Appellee reached retirement age, satisfied all eligibility requirements, and applied for a pension. The Borough eventually terminated the Plan by ordinance enacted on June 22, 1982. Hartford advised Appellees prior to that date that their pensions were being terminated or that they would not receive a pension.*fn3
Thereafter, Drusky filed her complaint in 1982 and the remaining Appellees filed their complaint in 1984. While the Getsie ...