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Langsford v. Firefighters Retirement System

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

March 29, 2018

ALVIN LANGSFORD
v.
FIREFIGHTERS RETIREMENT SYSTEM

          On Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket No. C632154 Honorable R. Michael Caldwell, Judge Presiding

          Gilbert R. Buras, Jr. New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Alvin Langsford

          Henry D. H. Olinde, Jr. Scott E. Mercer Douglas S. Smith, Jr. Steven S. Stockstill Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Firefighters' Retirement System

          BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND THERIOT, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         A retiree seeks review of a trial court judgment that granted the Firefighters' Retirement System's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the retiree's suit that sought to remove a beneficiary from his retirement plan. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Alvin Langsford was employed as a firefighter by the City of Kenner Fire Department from December 3, 1984 until April 9, 2009. On March 6, 2012, the Firefighters' Retirement System fFRS") sent Mr. Langsford correspondence that the FRS would commence payment of his retirement benefit when Mr. Langsford turned fifty on April 23, 2012. The FRS enclosed a "Retirement/DROP/IBO Application" that required Mr. Langsford to select a retirement benefit option. The correspondence instructed Mr. Langsford to review and complete the application and return it to the FRS.

         Mr. Langsford completed and submitted his application on March 16, 2012, electing "Option 3" and designating Luciene Pessoa DaSilviera as the beneficiary of 50% of his retirement benefit after his death. At the time of the election, Mr. Langsford and Ms. DaSilviera were engaged to be married. Next to his election, Mr. Langsford made the following acknowledgement below which he signed his name: "I hereby acknowledge that my option selection on this application is irrevocable and I cannot change my decision later." Below the referenced acknowledgement, Mr. Langsford executed an affidavit where he recognized that he was not married at the time of the election and that his retirement benefit would be reduced.

         Mr. Langsford received his first benefit payment in May 2012. Subsequently, according to Mr. Langsford, he and Ms. DaSilviera amicably broke off their engagement. Mr. Langsford then contacted the FRS to request that Ms. DaSilviera be deleted as the Option 3 beneficiary. On September 20, 2012, the FRS denied Mr. Langsford's request, noting that the Application clearly stated that "The beneficiary MAY NOT be changed after retirement/DROP effective date."

          In July 2014, Mr. Langsford filed a Petition, naming the FRS as defendant, and seeking, among other things, a declaratory judgment and mandatory injunction ordering the FRS to pay benefits at the actuarially appropriate rate under the election as sole beneficiary under the plan.

         Subsequently, the FRS moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Mr. Langsford's selection of Option 3 was irrevocable given that the time period for modification under the relevant statute had passed. In opposition to FRS's motion for summary judgment, Mr. Langsford asserted that there was neither a constitutional nor statutory prohibition to the FRS effecting his request to delete the beneficiary.

         Following a hearing, the trial court granted the FRS's motion for summary judgment. On October 12, 2016, the trial court signed a judgment dismissing Mr. Langsford's claims against the FRS. Mr. Langsford has appealed, asserting that the trial court erred ...


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