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Skoutelas v. Port Authority of Allegheny County

April 16, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Stewart Cercone United States District Judge

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Plaintiffs, Paul P. Skoutelas ("Skoutelas") and Denise Skoutelas ("D. Skoutelas")(collectively "Plaintiffs") filed an amended complaint against Defendant, the Port Authority of Allegheny County ("PAAC" or "Defendant"), raising claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 2201 (Counts I and II), breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims (Count III), a claim of breach of contract in violation of state constitutional rights (Count IV), and a mandamus action. PAAC has filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, Plaintiffs have responded and the motion is now before the Court.


Skoutelas originally began his employment with PAAC in 1980 as a transit planner/engineer. Amended Complaint ("Am. Comp.") ¶ 10. In 1991, Skoutelas left PAAC to become the Chief Executive Officer of the Public Transit Organization of Orlando, Florida. Id. Skoutelas was hired by PAAC on March 31, 1997, to return as its Executive Director/CEO. Id. During both periods of employment with PAAC, Skoutelas participated in the PAAC pension plan for non-union employees (the "Plan"). Am. Comp. ¶¶ 12 & 14.

The Plan contained language indicating that it was subject to Section 415 of the Internal Revenue Code ("IRC"), which caps the annual benefit for ERISA pension plans. Am. Comp. ¶ 16. Section 415 also authorizes governmental employers, such as PAAC, to create a Qualified Governmental Excess Benefit Arrangement ("QGEBA") which permits the creation of a trust for the purpose of paying benefits that exceed the Section 415 limits. Am. Comp. ¶ 17. In August of 1998, PAAC created a QGEBA trust in order to pay pension benefits to those Plan participants whose annual benefits would otherwise be capped under Section 415 of the IRC. Am. Comp. ¶ 18.

On February 22, 2002, PAAC adopted a Resolution which amended the terms of the Plan and established a Deferred Retirement Option Plan ("DROP"). Am. Comp. ¶¶ 26 & 27. Under the provisions of the DROP, a retirement eligible employee would retire for pension purposes only and lock in their monthly pension benefit. Am. Comp. ¶ 27. The pension benefit payment would be recorded in the DROP account, while the employee continued employment with PAAC. Id. Upon separation from employment with PAAC, the pension monies accumulated in the DROP account are disbursed from the Plan together with earned interest. Id. Thereafter, the monthly pension benefit which was set at the time of DROP participation, is paid directly to the retired employee instead of to the DROP account. Id.

Skoutelas requested a calculation of his monthly pension from PAAC if he should retire and enter DROP in 2002. Am. Comp. ¶ 28. PAAC provided him with a monthly benefit calculation of $9,066.54. Id. Skoutelas formally entered DROP on July 21, 2002, and the first monthly benefit of $9,066.54 was recordedinto his DROP account that same month. Am. Comp. ¶¶ 28 & 29. The monthly pension payments were recorded into Skoutelas' DROP account through September, 2005, when he chose to separate from his service with PAAC. Am. Comp. ¶ 29. Subsequent to his separation, PAAC paid Skoutelas the full amount accumulated in his DROP account. Am. Comp. ¶ 32. PAAC then began making the regular monthly pension payments to Skoutelas in the amount of $9,061.89*fn1 . Am. Comp. ¶ 33. Skoutelas' monthly pension benefit was comprised of $5,947.05 from the Plan and $3,114.84 from QGEBA. Id.

In March of 2007, PAAC's Board of Directors adopted a resolution discontinuing the QGEBA as to current retirees and future participants effective July 1, 2007. Am. Comp. ¶ 34. After Skoutelas' May, 2007, benefit payment, PAAC discontinued the QGEBA payment and Skoutelas' monthly pension was reduced to $5,947.05. Am. Comp. ¶ 35. PAAC also notified Skoutelas that it deemed the prior payments from the QGEBA to be illegal, and demanded repayment of $64,778.88. Am. Comp. ¶ 36.


In deciding a motion under Rule12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court is required to accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences from the facts alleged in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Worldcom, Inc. v. Graphnet, Inc., 343 F.3d 651, 653 (3d Cir. 2003). It had long been part of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard that a complaint may not be dismissed "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41,45-46 (1957). Recently, however, the United States Supreme Court disavowed the "no set of facts" language as part of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard, instructing: "[t]his phrase is best forgotten as an incomplete, negative gloss on an accepted pleading standard: once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, ____ U.S. ____, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1969 167 L.Ed. 2d 929 (2007). Therefore, a plaintiff must make a factual showing of his entitlement to relief by alleging sufficient facts that, when taken as true, suggest the required elements of a particular legal theory. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965; Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008).

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit summarized the Twombly formulation of the pleading standard as follows: "'stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead 'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d at 234 (internal citations omitted). In so deciding, a court usually looks "only to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments without reference to other parts of the record," see Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994), but ...

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