Prescott v. Bd. of Educ. of Albuquerque Pub. Schs., A-1-CA-38986

Case DateSeptember 22, 2022
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico

BETENA PRESCOTT, GEORGIA DAVIS, ANNIE HILL, BILLIE NEFF, and PATSY STEINER, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,


No. A-1-CA-38986

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

September 22, 2022

Corrections to this opinion/decision not affecting the outcome, at the Court's discretion, can occur up to the time of publication with NM Compilation Commission. The Court will ensure that the electronic version of this opinion/decision is updated accordingly in Odyssey.


Youtz &Valdez, P.C. Shane C. Youtz Stephen Curtice James A. Montalbano Albuquerque, NM for Appellants

Modrall, Sperling, Roehl, Harris &Sisk, P.A. Arthur D. Melendres Zachary L. McCormick Dominic A. Martinez Albuquerque, NM for Appellee




{¶1} Plaintiffs, retirees of Albuquerque Public Schools (APS), appeal the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant, the Board of Education of APS. We affirm.


{¶2} Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against Defendant, alleging that Defendant's termination of life insurance premium subsidy benefits for retirees constituted a breach of contract.[1] Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing, in pertinent part, that the Bateman Act (the Act), NMSA 1978, Section 66-11 (1968), rendered any implied-in-fact contract between Plaintiffs and Defendant regarding such subsidy benefits void as a matter of law. Under the Act,

[i]t is unlawful for any board of county commissioners municipal governing body or any local school board . . . to become indebted or contract any debts of any kind or nature whatsoever during any current year which, at the end of such current year, is not and cannot then be paid out of the money actually collected and belonging to that current year, and any indebtedness for any current year which is not paid and cannot be paid, as above provided for, is void

Id. The district court initially denied Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the basis that Defendant failed to plead the Act as an affirmative defense. Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration in which it demonstrated that it had, in fact, adequately pled the Act as an affirmative defense, and the district court subsequently granted Defendant's motions for reconsideration and summary judgment.[2] Plaintiffs appeal.


{¶3} Plaintiffs argue that the district court erroneously granted summary judgment, specifically contending that the Act cannot prohibit the type of indebtedness at issue here-that is, subsidies for retirees' life insurance premiums paid during the life of each individual retiree-because the existence of a "contingency fund" available to "offset unexpected expenditures" renders the Act inapplicable.[3] Defendant answers


that the district court properly granted summary judgment in Defendant's favor, arguing that the Act bars Plaintiffs' breach of contract claim as a matter of law, and Plaintiffs' contentions regarding the "contingency fund" are unavailing because the fund in question was neither created for the purpose of, nor identified as available for, funding the subsidized life insurance premiums of retirees.

{¶4} "We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo." All. Health of Santa Teresa, Inc. v. Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 2007-NMCA-157, ¶ 7, 143 N.M. 133, 173 P.3d 55. We likewise review issues of law de novo. Bank of N.Y.


Mellon v. Lopes, 2014-NMCA-097, ¶ 6, 336 P.3d 443. "Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no evidence raising a reasonable doubt that a genuine issue of material fact exists." Beggs v. City of Portales, 2009-NMSC-023, ¶ 10, 146 N.M. 372, 210 P.3d 798. "An issue of fact is material if the existence (or non[]existence) of the fact is of consequence under the substantive rules of law governing the parties' dispute." Martin v. Franklin Cap. Corp., 2008-NMCA-152, ¶ 6, 145 N.M. 179, 195 P.3d 24 (internal quotation marks omitted).

{¶5} Under these standards, we examine whether Plaintiffs have demonstrated the existence of any specific evidentiary fact that is of consequence under the substantive rules of law governing this appeal. While Plaintiffs do not explicitly frame their assertions regarding the existence of the "contingency" fund as creating a genuine issue of material fact warranting reversal, whether such a fund exists- and, crucially, whether the fund was created for the purpose of, or identified as available for, funding the subsidy benefits-are the only discernible disputed facts in this case that could be of consequence under the Act, which is the substantive law governing this appeal. See id. In its order granting Defendant's motion for...

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