CHICAGO–LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – In an order issued July 12, 2007, Judge Trauger of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee granted class certification in a case against Caterpillar for retiree health insurance benefits. Plaintiffs will represent a class of more than 4,000 retirees and surviving spouses who have been charged for medical benefits, allegedly in violation of their union contracts.
Caterpillar retirees and surviving spouses of retirees sued the company on March 28, 2006 alleging that Caterpillar has denied them retiree medical benefits that were offered for years under their union contracts. Caterpillar has charged retirees for portions of their medical insurance premiums and also charged retirees and surviving spouses of retirees increased payments on prescription drugs and medical procedures.
The plaintiffs sued Caterpillar on behalf of a class of all retirees and surviving spouses of retirees who were represented by the union and who retired on or after January 1, 1992 and before March 16, 1998. The plaintiffs brought their claims under ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(a)(1)(B) and (a)(3) and the LMRA, the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C § 185 (a).
Plaintiffs filed a motion with the court to represent these retirees and the surviving spouses. Caterpillar opposed this motion. In the July 12, 2007 Memorandum Opinion and Order, Judge Trauger granted class certification. She held that the class satisfied all the requirements of class certification. In reviewing the appropriateness of class certification, she held:
“The court finds that the named plaintiffs share a keen interest in declaring the rights of the entire class to vested, lifetime healthcare benefits under the 1988 agreements and plans without any premium–sharing payment by them and without the modifications that have reduced their benefits and imposed new out-of-pocket costs since January 1, 2006.” (p. 16)
The judge ordered that the case will now proceed as a class action.
“We’re very pleased with the ruling because it puts over 4,000 retirees closer to the no cost healthcare benefits that they were promised by Caterpillar,” said Michael Mulder, an attorney at Meites, Mulder, Mollica & Glink, who represents the plaintiffs.
Read the entire opinion (Winnett, et al v. Caterpillar, Inc., No. 06-cv-00235) at http://www.mmmglaw.com/CM/CurrentCaseUpdates/Cat%20Memorandum.pdf.
The plaintiffs and class are represented by Michael M. Mulder, Shona Glink, and Karen Sheley of Meites, Mulder, Mollica & Glink, 20 S. Clark Street, Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60603, Elizabeth Alexander and Kathryn Barnett of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, 150 Fourth Avenue N, Suite 1650, Nashville, Tennessee 37219 and Jay Sushelsky of AARP Foundation Litigation, 601 E. Street, NW, Washington, DC.
Caterpillar is represented by Columbus Gangemi, Jr., Joseph Torres, and Derek Barella of Winston & Strawn, 35 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601.
ABOUT MEITES, MULDER, MOLLICA & GLINK
Meites, Mulder, Mollica & Glink represents plaintiffs in nationwide class actions and multi-party complex litigation in federal and state courts, focusing on employment discrimination, workplace benefits, whistleblower actions, consumer rights, and securities litigation. The firm’s guiding principle is to pursue cases that have a positive impact on society by advocating on behalf of classes of employees, investors, consumers, and others whose legal rights have been denied.