On May 28, 2009, the Honorable Peter A. Buchsbaum, J.S.C. decided Mark Petersen v. Township of Raritan, Docket No. HNT-L-446-08. The complaint alleged contractual violations of the 1997-1999 collective bargaining agreement between the Township of Raritan and the Plaintiff.
Plaintiff was police officer who retired in 1999. The 1997-99 collective bargaining agreement included retiree health benefits at Article XXII. As of July 1, 2008, current employees and retirees would no longer be able to enroll in the Traditional Plan. Those who were already enrolled in that plan, such as Plaintiff, could switch to the POS plan without any cost to them. They could, however, choose to remain in the Traditional Plan, provided they agreed to pay the excess premium between these two plans from that point in time.
Count one of the complaint alleges a violation of Section 5 of the insurance clause of the collective bargaining agreement because, as of July 1, 2008, Plaintiff is paying a premium differential for the Traditional Plan in which he is enrolled, that is, the difference in premium costs between the Traditional Plan and the POS plan offered by the Township. Count two of the complaint alleges a violation of Section 5 of the insurance clause of the collective bargaining agreement because, as of July 1, 2008, Plaintiff’s co-pays for certain prescription drugs have increased. In response to the complaint, Defendant moved for summary judgment.
The trial court found the language of the collective bargaining agreement sufficiently complex to warrant further examination. Specifically, the court found ambiguity in the insurance clause as to whether the language “shall continue to receive all health and medical benefits provided by the employer for the remainder of his life” would reasonably lead Plaintiff to believe that he would receive health coverage equivalent to the Traditional Plan for the remainder of his life. Therefore, the court determined Defendant’s motion for summary judgment was premature and, thus, factual exploration of the issues in this matter is necessary.