Manderson-Saleh v. Regents of the University of CaliforniaAnnotate this Case
Amira Manderson-Saleh was the daughter of an oncology nurse (Mother) who worked at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) for about 12 years until she retired shortly before her death. Mother earned a pension under rules permitting the employee to designate a beneficiary to receive specified monthly pension benefits upon the employee’s death. When Manderson-Saleh claimed her rights as the designated beneficiary shortly after Mother’s death, The Regents of the University of California (Regents) denied her claim, finding Mother did not properly identify Manderson-Saleh as the contingent beneficiary before her death. Thus, none of the earned pension benefits were paid. Manderson-Saleh filed a complaint against the Regents, alleging breach of contract. Alternatively, she sought a writ of mandate to overturn the Regents’ decision. The Regents demurred only to the contract claim, and the court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. Proceedings on the mandate petition, the court found Manderson-Saleh was not entitled to relief because the Regents had the right to strictly apply its rule that contingent-annuitant pension benefits were conditioned on the Regents receiving a signed beneficiary-election form before the employee’s death, and the Regents received this form one week after Mother’s death. The court rejected Manderson-Saleh’s different interpretation of the rule and her arguments this rule was satisfied by the Regents receiving Mother’s election worksheet before her death. The court entered a final judgment sustaining the demurrer and denying the mandate petition. Manderson-Saleh challenged both rulings. Finding the trial court properly sustained the demurrer, the Court of Appeal affirmed in part. However, the trial court erred in denying the mandate petition. "The undisputed evidence establishes Mother substantially complied with the Regents’ pension rules and the Regents abused its discretion in failing to consider and apply the substantial compliance doctrine in evaluating Manderson-Saleh’s claim." The matter was remanded with directions for the trial court to grant mandamus relief, and to issue a a writ ordering the Regents to grant Manderson-Saleh's contingent-annuitant pension claim.