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Nicholas and Marion Sarapuchiello, Individually and As Guardians For v. City of Hackensack

June 3, 2011

NICHOLAS AND MARION SARAPUCHIELLO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GUARDIANS FOR NICOLE SARAPUCHIELLO, A MINOR, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
CITY OF HACKENSACK, A BODY POLITIC AND CORPORATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND HACKENSACK FIRE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-9759-09.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 16, 2011 -

Before Judges Reisner and Sabatino.

By leave granted, defendants the City of Hackensack (City) and the Hackensack Fire Department (Department) appeal from a May 24, 2010 order, granting partial summary judgment directing the City to reinstate plaintiff Nicholas Sarapuchiello's wife and daughter to the City's Group Health Benefits Plan and to restore their health insurance coverage retroactive to the date of their removal from the plan.*fn1 Because we conclude that this matter was not ripe for summary judgment, we vacate the May 24, 2010 order and remand this matter to the Law Division for further proceedings.

I

The trial court may grant summary judgment only where legally competent evidence establishes that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact challenged and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment or order as a matter of law."

R. 4:46-2(c); accord Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995). The trial court cannot decide disputed factual issues but must decide whether there are any factual disputes. Agurto v. Guhr, 381 N.J. Super. 519, 525 (App. Div. 2005). We review the trial court's decision de novo, employing the same standard. Ibid.

Significantly, in reviewing an appeal from a summary judgment motion, "we are obliged to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Estate of Hanges v. Met. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 202 N.J. 369, 374 (2010). Moreover, on occasion, a case will not be ripe for summary disposition even if both sides move for summary judgment. See Driscoll Const. Co., Inc. v. State, Dep't of Transp., 371 N.J. Super. 304, 317-18 (App. Div. 2004). We have independently reviewed the record with these principles in mind.

II

Nicholas Sarapuchiello (plaintiff) was hired as a firefighter for the City in 1969. After serving for eleven years, he retired on an ordinary disability pension in June 1980, at age thirty-eight. Immediately prior to his retirement, plaintiff's employment was covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the City and the Hackensack Fire Fighters Association, Local No. 2081 (union). The CBA covered the years l977 to 1980. The provisions of that agreement are at issue in this appeal.

Article XV of the CBA provides that retired union members are entitled to specified health benefits for themselves and their eligible family members. The provision includes union members who retire on a disability pension.*fn2 The relevant section reads as follows:

HOSPITALIZATION

15.1 All members covered by this Agreement and eligible members of their families shall be entitled ...


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