Fom the San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
A state appeals court has revived a lawsuit by retired employees of the
University of California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory over
UC's decision in 2008 to switch their health insurance to a private plan
that covered less and cost more.
The four retirees presented
evidence that the university had promised them lifetime health coverage
and can try to prove that the shift to a lesser plan was a breach of
contract, the First District Court of San Francisco ruled Monday. The
court reversed an Alameda County judge's decision to dismiss the suit.
they have not filed a class-action suit on behalf of all retired lab
employees, Dov Grunschlag, a lawyer for the four retirees, predicted
that their case would lead to reinstatement of all Livermore retirees'
UC health coverage.
The ruling "reaffirms that California law
will protect the right of people who worked for public entities for many
years to continue receiving the health coverage that was promised to
them once they retired," Grunschlag said.
The university said it remains hopeful of winning when the case goes to trial.
plaintiffs worked at Livermore for decades and had retired before 2007,
when UC transferred management of the lab to a partnership called
Lawrence Livermore National Security, which includes the university and
UC then terminated the retirees'
government-sponsored health insurance and assured them that they would
receive equivalent coverage from the new managers. But the court said
the new plan is inferior and more expensive. Superior Court Judge Frank
Roesch dismissed the suit in May 2011, saying it was unclear that the
university had ever promised the employees lifetime coverage - and that
even if such a promise was made, it was not legally binding.
later last year, the state Supreme Court ruled in an Orange County case
that public employees could rely on a government agency's express or
implied promise of future health benefits.
In this case, the
appeals court cited such statements as an assurance in a 1979 UC
retirement system handbook that employees with five years of service
have "a non-forfeitable (vested) right to a retirement benefit"
including university contributions.
A number of UC publications
"contain language that could be read as implying a commitment to provide
these benefits throughout retirement," said Presiding Justice Barbara
Jones in the 3-0 ruling.
The ruling can be viewed at www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/nonpub/A132778.PDF
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Thursday, January 3, 2013
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