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MATHIAS F. COYNE v. COUNTY ALLEGHENY (11/22/89)

filed: November 22, 1989.

MATHIAS F. COYNE, APPELLANT
v.
COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY, APPELLEE; FLOYD WEHRER, APPELLANT V. COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY, APPELLEE; TIMOTHY CASEY, APPELLANT V. COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY, APPELLEE



Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Allegheny County, Honorable Robert A. Doyle, Judge.

COUNSEL

Ronald P. Koerner, Esq., Michael J. Colarusso, Esq., GATZ, COHEN, SEGAL & KOERNER, P. A., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for appellant.

Thomas H. M. Hough, Esq., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and James J. Dodaro, COUNTY SOLICITOR, Caroline Liebenguth, ASST. COUNTY SOLICITOR, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for appellee.

Before: Honorable Francis A. Barry, Judge, Honorable Bernard L. McGINLEY, Judge, Honorable Emil E. Narick, Senior Judge

Author: Barry

Opinion BY JUDGE FRANCIS A. BARRY

Appellants, Timothy Casey, Floyd Wehrer and Mathias Coyne, appeal the orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County dismissing their civil actions*fn1 against appellee, the County of Allegheny, which actions alleged denial of benefits under the Heart and Lung Act.*fn2 The trial court found that it was without jurisdiction to resolve the actions. This conclusion was based upon the dispute resolution provisions of the collective bargaining agreement entered into pursuant to the Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, No. 111 (Act 111), 43 P.S. § 217.1-217.10, between the County of Allegheny and the Allegheny County Police Association. We affirm.

Appellants are three Allegheny County police officers who were injured in separate occurrences while in the performance of their duties. Each of the police officers was rendered disabled for varying periods of time by the injuries. It is undisputed that each received his regular pay during his temporary incapacity. Civil actions were instituted, however, to recover fringe benefits allegedly lost while not at work due to the injuries. These fringe benefits include vacation pay, holiday pay, extra holiday pay, festive day pay and sick leave. All of the parties are bound by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

Because each of the police officers' claims was for an amount less than $20,000, the actions were filed in the Arbitration Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. See Section 7361 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 7361; Pa. R.C.P. No. 1301; Allegheny County R.C.P. No. 1301. In its answer and new matter to each

[ 129 Pa. Commw. Page 557]

    complaint, the County of Allegheny raised as a defense the respective police officer's failure to exhaust the remedies provided for in the collective bargaining agreement. The board of arbitrators appointed pursuant to Section 7361 of the Judicial Code entered awards in favor of Casey and Wehrer on their claims under the Heart and Lung Act. In the action filed by Coyne, however, an award was entered in favor of the County of Allegheny. Timely appeals from the awards of the arbitrators to the court of common pleas were filed by the parties aggrieved by the awards.

Thereafter a non-jury trial de novo was held. See Section 7361(d) of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 7361(d). The trial was limited to determining whether the dispute resolution provisions of the collective bargaining agreement applied to the police officers' claims. The trial judge found the dispute resolution provisions applicable and dismissed the police officers' claims for lack of jurisdiction. The decision of the trial court, dated December 30, 1988, was entered on January 4, 1989. "Exceptions" to the decision were filed on January 25, 1989. An appeal to this court was taken on January 30, 1989.

The issue presented for our review is whether the trial court erred as a matter of law in concluding that the police officers' claims are subject to the dispute resolution provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

Preliminarily we are compelled to address the procedural irregularities in this case. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure No. 227.1 requires a party seeking post-trial relief to file post-trial motions within ten days of "the filing of the decision or adjudication in the case of a trial without jury". Pa. R.C.P. No. 227.1(c)(2). In this case, "Exceptions", see Pa. R.C.P. No. 227, not post-trial motions, were filed twenty-one days after the entry of the trial court's decision. Although there was no error in the trial court treating the "Exceptions" as post-trial motions, there remains the issue ...


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