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Diehl v. County of Allegheny

July 7, 2009

PETER MICHAEL DIEHL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Before the Court is Plaintiff Peter Michael Diehl's ("Plaintiff") Motion to Mold Verdict to Include Loss of Value of Whole Life Insurance Policy (Docket No. 79); Defendant County of Allegheny's ("Defendant") Motion in Limine to Exclude Pension Contributions from Back Pay Calculations (Docket No. 80); and Defendant's Motion to Compel the Production of Documents (Docket No. 86). The Court will address each motion, in turn.

I. Plaintiff's Motion to Mold Verdict to Include Loss of Value of Whole Life Insurance Policy (Docket No. 79)

After Plaintiff was terminated from his position with Defendant, he cashed in his life insurance policy for a cash surrender value of $5,677.75. (Docket No. 79 at 2). Plaintiff contends that he was forced to redeem said policy as a result of his termination, and would otherwise have redeemed the policy for $25,000 at the age of 62. (Id. at 2). Plaintiff claims, therefore, that he suffered a loss of $28,048.12.*fn1 (Id. at 4).

Defendant argues that because, prior to trial, the parties agreed that the jury would consider compensatory damages and the Court would consider the availability of front and back pay, Plaintiff may not seek to introduce evidence of special damages at this stage. (Docket No. 83 at 1).*fn2 Plaintiff counters that he is not requesting the value of his insurance policy as a part of his back pay; rather, he is requesting it as an item of special damage, and asserts that he can properly raise this issue at this stage of the litigation. (Docket No. 87 at 1). Plaintiff relies on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(c) and Moussa v. Pa. Dep't of Pub. Welfare, 289 F. Supp. 2d 639, 665 (W.D. Pa. 2003) in support of this proposition. (Id. at 1-2).

Plaintiff's reliance on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(c) is misplaced. Rule 54(c) provides that "final judgment should grant the relief to which each party is entitled, even if the party has not demanded that relief in its pleadings." FED. R. CIV. P. 54(c). Plaintiff argues that under the rule, he "is not required to list or raise any particular item of special damage at trial or in the pleadings." (Docket No. 87 at 1). However, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(g) dictates that "[i]f an item of special damage is claimed, it must be specifically stated" in the pleadings.

FED. R. CIV. P. 9(g). Thus, Rule 9(g) is an exception to Rule 54(c), in that it requires that a complaint plead special damage. Avitia v. Metropolitan Club, 49 F.3d 1219, 1226 (7th Cir. 1995). At the same time, failure to plead special damages does not preclude a special damages award as long a defendant had adequate notice, as the purpose of the rule is to prevent the defendant from being surprised by "the extent and character of the plaintiff's claim." 5A C. Wright, A. Miller, & M. Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1310 (3d ed. 2004); see also Bowles v. Osmose Utils. Servs., 443 F.3d 671, 675 (8th Cir. 2006).

A review of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint reveals that he did not plead any item of special damage. (See Docket No. 12). Plaintiff did, in his pretrial statement, list as an item of special damage indicating that "because of his financial condition he had to case in a whole life insurance policy worth $8,000." (Docket No. 59 at 6). However, given that Plaintiff is now claiming he is entitled to $29,240.00 as a result of cashing in his life insurance policy, this one line in his pretrial statement cannot be said to adequately put Defendant on notice as to extent of Plaintiff's claim. Thus, Plaintiff failed to properly plead damages related to the loss of value of his insurance policy.

Furthermore, Plaintiff's reliance on Moussa is similarly misplaced. The court in Moussa found that the plaintiff's testimony during trial that he was forced to cash in savings bonds that he had put aside for his children's education supported the jury's finding that he suffered actual injury. Moussa v. Pa. Dep't of Pub. Welfare, 289 F. Supp. 2d 639, 666 (W.D. Pa. 2003). Unlike the instant case, the court in Moussa was not asked to determine whether it was appropriate to award an item of special damage, post-trial, where the plaintiff had not previously pled the special damage at issue.

Accordingly, Plaintiff's Motion to Mold Verdict to Include Loss of Value of Whole Life Insurance Policy (Docket No. 79) is DENIED.

II. Defendant's Motion in Limine to Exclude Pension Contributions from Back Pay Calculations (Docket No. 80)

Plaintiff contends that the Court, in calculating back pay, should include damages in the amount of $90,500.00, which represents the amount of matching contributions the County made to his pension prior to his termination. (Docket No. 80-2 at 2). Defendant argues that Plaintiff is not entitled to the County's matching contributions because even after he was terminated, he could have opted to have his contributions remain with the Allegheny County Retirement Board, and would have been entitled to receive his pension upon reaching retirement age. (Docket No. 80 at 2-3). However, Plaintiff decided to withdraw his contributions to the fund upon his termination, and Defendant contends that Plaintiff signed a valid waiver in which he relinquished all rights to the benefits he now seeks. (Id.). Plaintiff contends that the waiver is not a valid contract. (Docket No. 85 at 9).

Under Pennsylvania law, in determining whether a valid contract was formed, the Court must consider "(1) whether both parties manifested an intention to be bound by the agreement; (2) whether the terms of the agreement are sufficiently definite to be enforced; and (3) whether there was consideration." ATACS Corp. v. Trans World Commc'ns, Inc., 155 F.3d 659, 666 (3d Cir. 1998). Here, the parties do not dispute that the waiver satisfied the first two elements.

Indeed, the agreement is very detailed, written in plain English, outlines the rights and benefits that Plaintiff was to relinquish, and is signed by Plaintiff. (See Docket No. 80-3 at 1-5). Furthermore, Plaintiff is college-educated and, having served as an employee of Defendant for over twenty years, should have been familiar with the county's employment system. However, while Plaintiff has not contested that the agreement satisfies the first two elements, he contends that ...


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