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City of Miami Firefighters’ and Police Officers’ Retirement Trust and Plan v. Castro

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

September 18, 2019

CITY OF MIAMI FIREFIGHTERS’ AND POLICE OFFICERS’ RETIREMENT TRUST & PLAN, et al., Appellants,
v.
Lieutenant Jorge CASTRO, et al., Appellees.

         Appeals from a non-final order from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Michael A. Hanzman, Judge. Lower Tribunal Nos. 14-7987 & 14-7997

         Klausner, Kaufman, Jensen & Levinson, and Robert D. Klausner, Adam P. Levinson and Paul A. Daragjati (Plantation), for appellants.

         Sorondo Rosenberg Legal, PA, and R. Edward Rosenberg; The Silverstein Firm, LLC, and Ira B. Silverstein (Philadelphia, PA); James C. Blecke, for appellees.

         Before LOGUE,[1] SCALES and LINDSEY, JJ.

          OPINION

         SCALES, J.

Page 804

          The Miami-Dade Circuit Court determined, as a matter of law, that the two City of Miami retirement boards and their respective boards of trustees were not protected by sovereign immunity from the breach of contract claims brought by certain City employees. We reverse because the subject pension ordinances, relied upon by the trial court in determining that the defendants owed contractual duties to the plaintiffs, do not impose the express contractual obligations that the plaintiffs alleged were breached. Thus, the retirement boards and their trustees are sovereignly immune from the alleged breach of contract claims.

          I. Case History

          A. The Parties

         This consolidated appeal is from an amended order on a motion to dismiss entered by the trial court on June 22, 2018. The order was entered in two cases below which, for ease of reference, we call the Castro case[2] and the Rodriguez case.[3] The plaintiffs in the Castro case (appellees here) are Lieutenant Jorge Castro and fellow former and current City of Miami Police officers. The three named defendants in the Castro case are: the City of Miami Firefighters’ and Police Officers’ Retirement Trust and Plan; the Board of Trustees of the City of Miami Firefighters’ and Police Officers’ Retirement Trust; and the City of Miami. The plaintiffs in the Rodriguez case (also appellees here) are Jose Rodriguez and fellow former and current City of Miami civilian employees. The three named defendants in the Rodriguez case are: the City of Miami Civil Employees’ and Sanitation Employees’ Retirement Trust and Plan; the Board of Trustees of the City of Miami Civil Employees’ and Sanitation Employees’ Retirement Trust; and the City of Miami. For the purposes of this opinion, the retirement boards and trustee defendants in both cases will be referred to collectively as "the Pension Defendants," and the City of Miami will be referred to as the "City."

         B. Relevant Background Procedure and Facts [4]

         The plaintiffs in each case were eligible to receive retirement benefits in accordance with the terms and conditions of their retirement plans administered, managed and operated by the Pension Defendants. Both retirement plans were created

Page 805

pursuant to, and are memorialized within, city ...


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