Gold Weems Employment Group Prevails on Class Action After 11-year Battle

March 15, 2019

On May 1, 2008, Jack Duty (“Duty”), a retired City of Natchitoches Firefighter, filed a lawsuit on behalf of himself and all other firefighters in the state of Louisiana belonging and making contributions to the Firefighter Retirement System (the “FRS”) against the City of Natchitoches and all other municipal fire departments in the state of Louisiana, who have firefighters contributing to the FRS.

The Gold Weems Employment Group led by Steven M. Oxenhandler and Michael J. O’Shee represented the lead and representative defendant City of Natchitoches.  This case, then, involved putative plaintiffs’ and defendants’ classes.  Duty, the plaintiff’s class representative, sought additional retirement contributions from the City of Natchitoches (the “City”) because the City  failed to include “Scheduled Overtime” in the pool of funds making up the City’s matching contributions to the FRS.  At the outset of this case, there were potentially thousands of putative plaintiffs and hundreds of putative defendant class municipalities.  Importantly, plaintiff sought to go back more than 30 years to capture the missing Scheduled Overtime for each firefighter.  Duty also sued the FRS.  Discovery commenced and involved a large amount of data being generated.  After resolving the venue issue in favor of Duty, in 2011, the City of Natchitoches filed an Exception of Prescription for both retirement contributions and retirement benefits limiting possible claims to three (3) years, which would effectively gut the alleged claims of the putative plaintiffs’ class.  In 2012, the trial court granted the City’s Exception of Prescription and held both retirement contributions and retirement benefits were subject to a 3-year prescriptive period, and the La. Supreme Court denied plaintiff’s writ application (both decisions are attached).  Next, in 2013, the City filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment to decertify the Defendant class, which the Court granted (this decision is also attached).  Over the next several years, the plaintiff’s finally realized, they could not certify a plaintiff’s class and, in 2019, decided to settle the case as to Jack Duty only, a de minimus amount, and dismiss the action, with prejudice.  This case represents an important win for all municipalities in Louisiana.

For all rulings see:
Court Ruling Granting Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Dismissing Plaintiff's Allegations of a Defendant Class (7/3/13)
Duty v Louisiana Firefighters Retirement System - S Ct denying plaintiff's writ application (4/27/12)
Duty v Louisiana Firefighters Retirement System - 3rd Circuit decision (2/22/12)