Goetz v. Board of Trustees, Policemen's and Firemen's Retirement System, City of Wichita, 45316

Decision Date17 May 1969
Docket NumberNo. 45316,45316
Citation454 P.2d 481,203 Kan. 340
PartiesPeggy J. GOETZ, Appellant, v. The BOARD OF TRUSTEES, POLICEMEN'S AND FIREMEN'S RETIREMENT SYSTEM, CITY OF WICHITA, Appellee.
CourtKansas Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. In an appeal by the widow of a deceased fireman from an order of the district court upholding the action of a Board of Trustees denying the widow's pension, the record is examined and it is held: The widow is collaterally estopped from asserting that her deceased husband's diseased heart condition was contracted by reason of his occupation as a fireman, where such issue had previously been determined by the Board adverse to the widow's husband upon his application for a pension.

2. Under K.S.A. 13-14a07 if the widow of a deceased fireman is to prevail on her claim (as set forth in the opinion) for pension benefits, she must establish that her husband died of a disease contracted by reason of his occupation as a fireman.

3. The word 'retire' or 'retired,' as used in the Employees' Retirement Systems Act, is construed to mean termination of employment after the fireman has served twenty-two years or more with the Fire Department and has reached the age of fifty years.

4. Under the provisions of K.S.A. 60-2101(a) an aggrieved party may appeal from a final order of an administrative agency or tribunal exercising quasi-judicial functions to the district court.

5. Under the doctrine of collateral estoppel the Board's determination of the husband's right to a pension in his lifetime adverse to him, which became final upon litigation in the courts, precludes the widow from relitigating the issue actually determined therein, regardless of whether it is based on a different claim or cause of action by the widow for a pension.

6. The doctrine of collateral estoppel is different from the doctrine of res judicata. Instead of preventing a second assertion of the same claim or cause of action, the doctrine of collateral estoppel prevents a second litigation of the same issues between the same parties or their privies even in connection with a different claim or cause of action.

7. Under K.S.A. 13-14a07, which authorizes the granting of a pension to firemen, their widows or dependents under the conditions specified, the first consideration must be given to the question whether the injury or disease of the fireman which caused his disability or death is compensable. Once this is determined the next question must be: Who is entitled to the benefits? If the first question is determined in the negative, then no one, neither the fireman nor his widow or dependents, is entitled to the benefits.

8. Where the widow of a deceased fireman under K.S.A. 13-14a07 derives any and all rights she may have had to pension benefits from and through her deceased husband, she is in privity with her deceased husband. They are identified in interest by their successive relationship to the same rights in property, that is, pension beneifts.

9. The summary disposition of a cause may logically and properly follow a pretrial conference when the pretrial procedures disclose the lack of a disputed issue of material fact, and the facts so established indicate an unequivocal right to judgment favoring a party as a matter of law.

10. Summary judgment procedure can be utilized to invoke the doctrine of collateral estoppel.

Harry L. Hobson and J. Francis Hesse, Wichita, argued the cause and were on the brief for appellant.

H. Jay Setter, Wichita, argued the cause, and John Dekker and Eugene Pirtle, Wichita, were with him on the brief for appellee.

SCHROEDER, Justice.

This is an appeal by the widow of a deceased fireman from an order of the district court upholding the action of the Board of Trustees, Policemen's and Firemen's Retirement System of the city of Wichita, denying the widow's pension.

The underlying question involves the construction of K.S.A. 13-14a07-whether the widow's right to a pension is dependent upon the right of her deceased husband, while living, to a pension.

Lawrence C. Goetz, the husband of Peggy J. Goetz (plaintiff-appellant) was employed by the Wichita Fire Department as a fireman from May 9, 1955, through April 21, 1961.

Lawrence filed his resignation as a fireman with the Wichita Fire Department, in writing, on the 22nd day of April, 1961, having filed his application for a disability pension on the previous day.

The Board of Trustees of the Wichita Firemen's Pension Fund, during the lifetime of Lawrence, denied his application for a disability pension on the 4th day of August, 1961.

Thereafter Lawrence filed a mandamus action in the district court of Sedgwick County, Kansas, and at the direction of the district court the Board of Trustees gave Lawrence a rehearing upon his application for a pension. As a result thereof the Board of Trustees denied Lawrence a pension. The district court in the mandamus action thereupon considered the record of the proceedings before the Board of Trustees, together with oral testimony of members of the Board, and on the 31st day of August, 1962, upheld the action of the Board denying the pension.

Thereafter Lawrence appealed to the Supreme Court where the decision of the district court was affirmed in Timmons, Administrator v. McGaughey, 193 Kan. 171, 392 P.2d 835. Pending the appeal Lawrence Goetz died and the action proceeded in the name of his administrator, Timmons. Lawrence died at the age of thirty-six years and was survived by his wife, Peggy, and eight minor children.

The Supreme Court found there was substantial evidence to provide a rational basis for the conclusion of the administrative board denying Lawrence's application for a pension. In the opinion the court said:

'* * * It is evident that the testimony obtained by the Board failed to supply the evidence upon which the plaintiff's pension could have been allowed, but, on the contrary, apparently satisfied the Board that his disability was not service connected. In arriving at its conclusion that the plaintiff was ineligible under the statute for a pension, the record discloses that the Board took into consideration all of the medical evidence before it, including the letters of the three doctors submitted by plaintiff when he filed his application for a pension.' (p. 180, 392 P.2d p. 841.) (Emphasis added.)

Further in the opinion the court said in commenting on the Board's findings:

'* * * The findings of the Board were supported by competent and substantial evidence and from our review of all the facts and circumstances, its denial of plaintiff's application for his pension was not unreasonable, arbitrary or oppressive, and the district court did not err in denying the writ of mandamus. * * *' (p. 181, 392 P.2d p. 842.)

On the 4th day of March, 1964, the Board of Trustees met to consider the application of Peggy J. Goetz for a pension. Her application for a pension was in the form of a letter and dated January 21, 1964. This application was delivered to the Board of Trustees following the death of Lawrence, and while the appeal of Lawrence was pending in the Supreme Court of Kansas. The Board advised Peggy by letter that no action could be taken on her application pending the outcome in the Supreme Court of the case appealed by her husband, Lawrence, while he was living.

On the 6th day of May, 1964, one day after the appeal in the Timmons case was argued in the Supreme Court, Peggy in a separate cause of action filed a suit in the United States District Court alleging that she was entitled to a widow's pension, her husband having died in the state of Missouri on the 31st day of December, 1963, following hsi change of residence from the state of Kansas to the state of Missouri.

The case in the United States District Court was tried to a jury, and the court found upon special questions answered by the jury generally in favor of Peggy. Thereupon the city of Wichita and the Board of Trustees appealed the decision of the United States District Court to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on the 29th day of July, 1966, where the judgment of the district court was reversed and the cause of action dismissed. (Trapp v. Goetz, 373 F.2d 380 (10th Cir. 1966).) The Court of Appeals found in effect that the United States District Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter, and among other reasons, stated the Board of Trustees had never made a determination based on Peggy's application and the action was premature.

The Board of Trustees then notified Peggy her application would be considered by the Board on the 14th day of September, 1966.

At the hearing before the Board on the 14th day of September, 1966, Peggy presented her evidence. In addition to introducing the application and the various letters between the secretary of the Board and Peggy, counsel for Peggy read a narrative statement which consisted of the testimony given in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. All of this evidence was favorable to Peggy in that the doctors who testified all connected the disability and death of Lawrence Goetz to his work as a fireman for the Wichita Fire Department. The Board of Trustees was furnished a complete transcript of the record in the United States District Court, as well as a copy of the opinion reversing that court by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

At the hearing on the 16th day of November, 1966, the chairman of the Board of Trustees announced that the attorneys for the Board had presented no testimony or evidence since the meeting of September 14, but the secretary of the board stated:

'MR. LAUCHLAND: The board does have in its possession the file of Mrs. Goetz's application, the related file, and the board, of course, has referred to that file.'

The related file included the application of Lawrence, the original mandamus action in the Sedgwick County district court, and the appeal therefrom to ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
36 cases
  • Frick v. City of Salina
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • June 5, 2009
    ... ... State Board of Health, 202 Kan. 721, Syl. ¶ 4, 451 P.2d 239 ... Board of Trustees, Policemen's & Firemen's Retirement System, 205 ... 479 P.2d 860 (1971) (disability benefits); Goetz v. Board of Trustees, 203 Kan. 340, 454 P.2d 481 ... ...
  • Snyder v. American Kennel Club
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Kansas
    • October 6, 2009
    ...succession, or purchase." Bernhard v. Bank of America, 19 Cal.2d 807, 811, 122 P.2d 892, 894 (1942). See also Goetz v. Board of Trustees, 203 Kan. 340, 454 P.2d 481 (1969). Wells v. Davis, 226 Kan. 586, 589, 603 P.2d 180 (1979). That the owner and the AKC share an interest in the same facts......
  • Klaassen v. Atkinson
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Kansas
    • September 28, 2018
  • Stephens v. Unified School Dist. No. 500
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • December 1, 1975
    ... ... Phillips, Kansas City, argued the cause, and Patrick D. McAnany and ... and married females were taken into the system to fill this void ... 'The testimony further ... which were called to the attention of the board which would have been in justification whatsoever ... Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, 206 Kan. 392, 402, P.2d 860, 868.) Just ... Board of Trustees, Policemen's & Firemen's Retirement System, 205 ... 371, 424 P.2d 513 (zoning); Goetz v. Board of Trustees, 203 Kan. 340, 454 P.2d 481 ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT