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Media Alerts - Davis v. City of Greensboro -- Fourth Circuit
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January 14, 2015
  Davis v. City of Greensboro -- Fourth Circuit
Headline: First Responders' Claims of Underpayment Will See Their Day in Court

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Governmental Immunity, Contracts

Issues Presented: (1) Whether the court had jurisdiction to review the district court's interlocutory orders; and (2) if so, whether the district court erred in rejecting the City's claims of governmental immunity.

Brief Summary: In a consolidated action brought by four groups of current and retired Greensboro, NC police officers and firefighters, the officers claimed that the City of Greensboro failed to pay wages and benefits owed under the City's "longevity payment program." Among other causes of action, the officers alleged that the City breached a contract for longevity pay, and some of the officers claimed they were entitled to the payments under the doctrines of equitable and quasi-equitable estoppel. The City moved to dismiss every cause of action from each of the four groups on the basis that there was no valid contract and thus immunity from suit. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina rejected the City's governmental immunity claim and denied in part the motions to dismiss. The City appealed on both grounds. The City argued that the officers failed to allege that their contracts were pre-audited and reduced to writing, as required by North Carolina statute.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit first addressed the threshold question of whether jurisdiction over the appeals was appropriate. Relying on the collateral order doctrine, the court concluded that it had jurisdiction over appeals of orders rejecting governmental immunity. Turning to the substantive issues presented on appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's rulings on the motions to dismiss. First, the statutory requirement for a pre-audit applies only if the obligations in the contract come due the same year the contract is formed. Furthermore, because the officers properly pled that there was a written contract for longevity pay, governmental immunity was an insufficient defense. The Fourth Circuit concluded that at this stage in the litigation the officers had sufficiently alleged they had valid contracts for longevity pay, and thus, dismissal on the basis of governmental immunity was not warranted.

To read the full text of this opinion, please click here.

Panel: Judges Motz and King and Senior Judge Davis

Argument Date: 09/16/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 10/22/2014

Docket Number: No. 13-1820

Decided: Affirmed by published opinion

Case Alert Author: Megan Raker, Univ. of Maryland Carey Sch. of Law

Counsel: ARGUED: Kenneth Kyre, Jr., PINTO, COATES, KYRE & BROWN, PLLC, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellant. Torin L. Fury, FRAZIER HILL & FURY, RLLP, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellees. ON BRIEF: William L. Hill, James Demarest Secor, III, FRAZIER HILL & FURY, RLLP, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellees.

Author of Opinion:
Judge Motz

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 01/14/2015 10:21 AM     4th Circuit  

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