MEDFORD CIRCUIT COURT RULES THAT CITY OF MEDFORD VIOLATED RETIREES RIGHTS TO HEALTH INSURANCE UNDER ORS243.303
On November 15, 2017, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Gerking issued a important decision in the long-running lawsuits, Doyle et al v City of Medford and Bova v City of Medford. The Doyle case is filed on before of 4 individual retirees. The Bova case is a class action on behalf of a class of current employees. The two cases were first filed in federal court 11 years ago challenging decisions made by the City of Medford in 1990 and 2001; and the cases have resulted in opinions by the Oregon Supreme Court and the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Prior to 1990, Medford provided group health insurance to all City employees that permitted them to continue their insurance upon retirement, at the employee's expenses, until age 65. In 1990, the City moved its health insurance for police officers to a provider, the Oregon Teamsters Employee's Trust, that did not allow retirees to continue their insurance upon retirement. In 2001, the City moved the bulk of its managers and many other employee groups onto the same OTET health insurance program. Two groups of employees, firefighters and employees represented by AFSCME, continued to have health insurance through different providers that allowed retirees to continue their health insurance upon retirement after 2001.
Under ORS 243.303(2), if a public employer makes health insurance available to its officers and employees, the public employer has a mandatory obligation to make health insurance available to retirees, their spouses and some dependent children. The public employer's mandatory obligation may only be excused if the public employer shows that it was not possible to pbtain retiree health insurance coverage absent undue burdens.
Judge Gerking ruled that the City "did not take seriously its responsibilities under the statute"; "disregarded legal advice that was provided by its attorneys" and did "little or nothing to comply with the statute." As a result, Judge Gerking ruled that City in violation of ORS 243.303(2) throughout the relevant time period.
Trial has been scheduled in April 2018 to determine the damages of the plaintiff in Doyle. In the Bova case, the court has set a schedule of briefing to determine relief for the class.
OREGON SUPREME COURT RULES THAT OREGON LAW GIVES PUBLIC EMPLOYEE RETIREES RIGHT TO HEALTH CARE INSURANCE SUBJECT TO AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE OF IMPOSSIBILITY
On February 4, 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court issued a favorable decision in the cases of Ronald Doyle, Robert Deuel, Ben Miller and Charles Steinberg v City of Medford and Michael Dyal. This case involves claims by four retirees of the City of Medford who contend that the City violated a state law, ORS 243.303, engaged in age discrimination and violated due process rights when the City denied plaintiffs the option of continuing their group health insurance upon retirement.
U.S. District Judge Owen Panner originally granted the City summary judgment dismissing the age discrimination and due process claims. The Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court on the age discrimination claim finding that the District Judge abused his discretion by failing to permit the plaintiffs to conduct discovery. On the due process claim, the Ninth Circuit certified questions of law to the Oregon Supreme Court on the meaning of a state law, ORS 243.303. The Ninth Circuit asked the Oregon Supreme Court to advise the Ninth Circuit as to the amount of discretion that ORS 243.303 grants to local public entities to deny retirees the option to continue their group health insurance upon retirement. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the answer to this question may determine whether the plaintiffs rights to due process were violated when the City denied them the option to continue their health insurance.
On February 4, 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court answered the certified questions ruling that ORS 243.303 creates a mandatory obligation on local governments to make health insurance available to retirees. The Oregon Supreme Court held that the mandatory obligation to make health insurance available to retirees is limited to making coverage available "in so far as and to the extent possible." The local government may be excused from the obligation to provide health insurance if the local government can demonstrate that it was not possible under the statutory standard to make the coverage available. Perhaps most important, the Supreme Court held emphatically that the local government can not meet the "impossibility" standard by simply pointing to the fact that the local government has chosen an insurance provider that does not offer retiree health insurance coverage.
The due process claim now returns to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which will decide whether, based upon the Oregon Supreme Court's decision, ORS 243.303 gives employees of local government a property interest subject to due process protection under the U.S. Constitution.
The plaintiffs age discrimination is pending in the U.S. District Court. The same plaintiffs have claims under state laws pending in Jackson County Circuit Court.
The Oregon Supreme Court's decision is publicly reported as Doyle, et al v City of Medford and Dyal,347 Or 564 (2010).
JACKSON COUNTY JUDGE DENIES MEDFORD'S REQUEST TO DELAY ORDER REQUIRING COMPLIANCE WITH ORS 243.303 ON SAME DAY AS OREGON SUPREME COURT ISSUES FAVORABLE RULING
On February 4, 2010, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Schiveley issued an important decision favorable to current employees of the City of Medford in the class action case, Bova v City of Medford, Case Number 09-1663-E7.
Judge Schiveley ruled in July 2009 that the City was in violation of ORS 243.303 by failing to provide City employees the option to choose to continue health insurance when they retire. The Judge concluded the City failed to show that it was not possible under ORS 243.303 to provide the continuation benefit. In December 2009, Judge Schiveley signed a Limited Judgment which required the City to come into compliance with the Oregon law.
The City subsequently filed an appeal of Judge Schiveley's rulings and asked the Judge for a "stay" of his Order and Limited Judgment while the case was on appeal. If granted a "stay" would give the City permission to delay complying with the Oregon law until the appeal was decided. On February 4, 2010, Judge Schiveley rejected the City's request for a delay.
Judge Schiveley made important rulings in denying the City's request for a delay. In particular, Judge Schiveley reviewed the Oregon Supreme Court's decision in Doyle v City of Medford and ruled that the City's appeal was not likely to succeed. After reviewing the Doyle decision, Judge Schiveley stated he remains persuaded that his interpretation of ORS 243.303 was correct. Further, Judge Schiveley pointed to Medford's conduct in delay and "unnecessarily compounding and confusing the record" in his court. He stated he was particularly concerned about evidence that Medford had received advice from two of its attorneys more than eight years ago that the City was in violation of ORS 243.303 and the City apparently decided to "roll the dice" about ORS 243.303.
Judge Schiveley ultimately denied City's request for a stay finding the current City employees are entitled to their right to elect continued health insurance coverage and requiring them to wait indefinitely until the appeal process ends would be unfair particularly given the "City's deliberate choice to proceed with its plan to eliminate retiree coverage notwithstanding the advice of two of its inside counsel."
Cases published in the national reporter system are publicly available in law libraries across the country. Many published cases are now also available on the internet. Mr. Brischetto’s publicly reported cases in the area of employment law are as follows.
Doyle v City of Medford, 256 Or App 625, __ P3d __ (2013)
Christianson v State of Oregon, 239 Or App 451, 244 P2d 904 (2011)
Doyle v City of Medford, 606 F3d 667 (9th Cir 2010)
Doyle v City of Medford, 347 Or 564 (2010)
Doyle v City of Medford, 565 F3d 536 (9th Cir 2009)
Bova v City of Medford, 564 F3d 1093 (9th Cir 2009)
Engquist v Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, 478 F3d 985 (9th Cir 2007)
Sink v Aden Enterprises, Inc., 352 F3d 1197 (9th Cir 2003)
Draper v Astoria School District, 995 F Supp 1122 (D Or 1998)
Miller v Zee’s, Inc., 31 F. Supp. 2d 792 (D Or 1998)
Mockler v Multnomah County, 140 F3d 808 (9th Cir 1998)
Koepping v Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, 120 F3d 998 (9th Cir 1997)
Mockler v Skipper, 942 F Supp 1364 (D Or 1996)
Schmidt v Safeway, Inc., 864 F Supp 991 (D Or 1994)
SAIF Corporation v Scott, 111 Or App 99 (1992)
Merritt v Mackey, 932 F2d 1317 (9th Cir 1991)
Raptopolous v WS, Inc., 738 F Supp 394, (D Or 1990)
Griffith v Hodes, 96 Or App 387, 772 P 2d 1370 (1989)
Yee v Department of Environmental Services, 826 F2d 877 (9th Cir 1987)
Merritt v Mackey, 827 F2d 1368 (9th Cir 1987)
Brinkley v Oregon Health Sciences University, 94 Or App 531, 766 P2d 1045 (1988)
Proctor v Consolidated Freightways, 795 F2d 1472 (9th Cir 1986)
Jefferson v Ashley, 643 F Supp 227 (D Or 1986)
Pannel v Wanke Panel Co., 618 F Supp 41 (1985)
Other publicly reported civil rights cases include:
Taylor v Lane County, 213 Or App 633, 162 P 3d 356 (Or App 2007)
Independent Living Resources v Oregon Arena Corp, 982 F Supp 698 (D. Or. 1997)
Independent Living Resources v Oregon Arena Corp, 1 F Supp 2d 1124 (D. Or. 1998)
Neisz v Portland Public School District, 684 F Supp 153 (D Or 1988)
Dodds v Simpson, 676 F Supp 1045 (D Or 1987)
Dempsey by Dempsey v Ladd, 829 F2d 747 (9th Cir 1987)
Laughlin v School District No. 1, 69 Or 63, (1984)
Bush v Greyhound Lines, Inc., 295 Or 6l9 (1983)
Kerr Center Parents Association v Charles, 572 F Supp 448 (D Or 1983)
Stewart v Salem School District 24J, 65 Or App 188 (1983)
Mr. Brischetto has filed Amicus Curiae briefs on behalf of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association in the following reported employment law cases:
Babick v Oregon Arena Corp, 333 Or 401, 40 P 3d 1059 (2002)
McCarthy v Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc., 327 Or 185, 957 P 2d 1200 (1998)