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Good v. Indiana Teachers Retirement Fund

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 20, 2015

JERI GOOD, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA TEACHERS RETIREMENT FUND, Appellee-Defendant

APPEAL FROM THE FULTON SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Wayne E. Steele, Judge. Cause No. 25D01-1402-MI-97.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MARK LEEMAN, Leeman Law Offices, Logansport, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, Attorney General of Indiana; KATHY BRADLEY, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

CRONE, Judge. FRIEDLANDER, J., and KIRSCH, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 979

CRONE, Judge

Case Summary

Jeri Good was a member of the Indiana Teachers Retirement Fund (now a part of

Page 980

the Indiana Public Retirement System (" INPRS" )) for twenty-nine and a half years and left her INPRS-covered job. Five months later, she purchased a half-year of additional service credit from INPRS, which made her eligible to receive retirement benefits starting at age fifty-five based on thirty years of service. Shortly before she turned fifty-five, Good contacted INPRS to ask about the consequences of delaying her application for retirement benefits. An INPRS employee told Good that her benefits would be paid retroactively but failed to inform her that, pursuant to statute, they could be paid retroactively only up to six months before her application date. Based on the information provided by the INPRS employee, Good delayed filing her application for one year and requested benefits retroactive to her fifty-fifth birthday. INPRS determined that she was entitled to only six months of retroactive benefits. Good filed an administrative appeal, which was decided in INPRS's favor. She then petitioned for judicial review of that decision, which the trial court affirmed.

On appeal, Good does not dispute that Indiana law limits an INPRS member to six months of retroactive retirement benefits. Instead, she contends that she is entitled to additional retroactive benefits based on the theories of equitable estoppel, unjust enrichment, and breach of fiduciary duty. We conclude as follows: (1) equitable estoppel is inapplicable because the facts regarding Good's retirement were equally available to both parties and she is charged with knowledge of the law regarding retroactive benefits; (2) unjust enrichment is also inapplicable in light of that imputed knowledge; and (3) her fiduciary duty claim fails because there is no indication that the INPRS employee was a fiduciary. Therefore, we affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

The relevant facts are undisputed. Good was born in June 1956 and became a member of INPRS in August 1977. She left INPRS-covered employment in December 2006. In May 2007, Good purchased a half-year of additional service credit from INPRS for $3722.23, which made her eligible to receive INPRS retirement benefits starting in June 2011 when she turned fifty-five based on thirty years of service. See Ind. Code § 5-10.2-4-1(b)(3) (" A member [of INPRS] is eligible for normal retirement if ... the member's age in years plus the member's years of service is at least eighty-five (85) and the member is at least fifty-five (55) years of age." ). Without this credit, Good would not have been eligible to receive benefits until December 2011, and those benefits would have been based on only twenty-nine and a half years of service.[1]

In June 2011, Good contacted an INPRS employee to inquire about the consequences of delaying her application for retirement benefits. Good told the INPRS employee that she would be unable to complete her application in the near future because she was " very busy" as a funeral director. Appellant's App. at 82. The INPRS employee told Good that her benefits would be paid retroactively but failed to mention that, pursuant to statute, they could be paid retroactively only up to six months before her application date. See Ind. Code ยง 5-10.2-4-1(d) (" A member who is eligible for normal ... retirement is entitled to ...


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