Sheetz v. Windham
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 20 Motion to Dismiss. Please read full text of attached ruling and order. Signed by Judge Robert N. Chatigny on 9/30/2011. (Ratakonda, M)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
TOWN OF WINDHAM,
CASE NO. 3:10-CV-1049(RNC)
RULING AND ORDER
Plaintiff, a former fire captain in the Willimantic Fire
Department, brings this action against the Town of Windham.
claims that the Town promised to begin paying his pension in 2011
but later reneged and said it would not begin paying for at least
The complaint presents claims for breach of
contract and promissory estoppel and seeks damages, equitable
relief and punitive damages.
Defendant has filed a motion to
dismiss or strike the requests for equitable relief and punitive
The request for equitable relief survives but the
request for punitive damages does not.
Accordingly, the motion
is granted in part and denied in part.
The complaint alleges the following.
In 2006, after nearly
twenty years as a firefighter in Willimantic, plaintiff undertook
an investigation of his pension plan prompted by an anticipated
move to Maine.
He learned two key facts about the plan: 1) ten
years of service in the fire department guarantees a pension from
the Town of Windham; and 2) a firefighter is able to retire after
twenty-five years of service regardless of age.
long enough to earn a pension but not long enough to go directly
into retirement, plaintiff scoured the plan documents to figure
out when his pension was due.
The answer was the “Normal
Retirement Date,” but this was undefined.
clarification, plaintiff reached out to the Town’s personnel
director, Don Muirhead, and was referred to the Town’s
controller, Robert Buden.
After lengthy discussions, Mr. Buden gave plaintiff a
written calculation of his pension showing he would start
receiving his pension in 2011 on the 25th anniversary of his hire
Plaintiff asked if he needed to do anything else to ensure
he would collect on his pension starting in 2011.
He was told
that his retirement papers would be mailed to him in Maine.
In May 2006, plaintiff retired and moved to Maine.
retirement papers did not arrive, he called the Town and was
told the papers were delayed because Mr. Buden had left the
After further delays, plaintiff’s counsel sought
confirmation that pension payments would commence in 2011.
Town subsequently announced that it would not begin to pay until
This lawsuit followed.
To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a
complaint must contain “only enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
A complaint is plausible when
sufficient facts are pleaded for a court to draw a “reasonable
inference” that the defendant is liable.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129
S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).
Defendant’s motion to dismiss or strike the claim for
equitable relief appears to challenge the plaintiff’s right to
recover anything other than money damages.
The defendant has not
shown that damages are the only potential remedy in a suit of
Accordingly, the motion to dismiss the claim for
equitable relief is denied.
Punitive damages typically are not awarded for a breach of
Barry v. Posi-Seal Int’l, Inc., 672 A.2d 514, 517
(Conn. App. Ct. 1996); see also Triangle Sheet Metal Works, Inc.
v. Silver, 222 A.2d 220, 225 (Conn. 1966).
Punitive damages are
permitted in a contract case when the complaint alleges tortious
See L.F. Pace & Sons, Inc. v. Travelers Indem. Co., 514
A.2d 766, 776 (Conn. App. Ct. 1986).
Even then, the “tortious
conduct must be alleged in terms of wanton and malicious injury,
evil motive, and violence.”
Plaintiff’s claim does not resemble a tort.
complaint does not allege the type of malicious behavior that can
support an award of punitive damages in a contract action.
Accordingly, defendant’s motion to strike plaintiff’s prayer for
punitive damages is granted.
For the foregoing reasons, the defendant’s motion to dismiss
is granted in part and denied in part.
So ordered this 30th day of September 2011.
Robert N. Chatigny
United States District Judge
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