California county defeats retirees’ health-plan appeal – 9th Circ – Reuters

  • Court had revived claims in 2012, 2018

Orange County, California, did not breach its contract with retired employees by slashing the amount of a monthly grant to defray the cost of their health insurance premiums, a U.S. appeals court said on Thursday.

In a 2-1 opinion, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling by a federal judge in Santa Ana, California, who found no evidence that the county had ever promised, or even implied, that the grants would never change.

The retirees said the promise had been implied when the county and the workers’ union first agreed to the grant in 1993, and was expressly included in annual agreements between 1994 and 2007.

Thursday’s decision was the third time the 9th Circuit has weighed in on the case, which Gaylan Harris first filed on behalf of thousands of Orange County retirees in 2009 – two years after the county and the union restructured the retirees’ health benefits and cut the grants by 50%.

Arthur Hartinger of Renne Public Law Group, who argued the case for the county, said in an email that it “acted responsibly to save a medical plan that was on the verge of bankruptcy” at the time, and is “very gratified” by the 9th Circuit’s decision.

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