UCLRG Status Report 8/11/10
Our lawyers have finally filed a Petition for a Peremptory Writ of Mandate with the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda. The petition asks the Court to mandate that the Regents of the University of California provide retiree medical coverage to all UC retirees who retired from LLNL while UC was managing the laboratory. By taking this approach, we avoid the complications of a class action suit while seeking our goal of having our medical coverage transferred back to UC. Our arguments look very convincing, although some might consider us slightly biased.
The petition starts with a list of parties, including our plaintiffs (Joe Requa, Wendell Moen, Jay Davis and Donna Ventura), The Regents (UC) and Doe respondents (like in John Doe, not to be confused with Department of Energy) to be named later as details of what happened becomes clear.
The next section lays out the facts, as we believe them to be. The only surprise you may find there is that I initially approached UC as an individual before deciding I needed help and formed UCLRG.
With that background, we move on to the legal arguments. We are claiming three causes of Action, presumably in decreasing order of potency, to justify issuing a writ.
1. Impairment of Contract (This seems almost the same as breach of contract. We couldnŐt find a concise definition on the web.) We are claiming we have a vested right to medical benefits and the Regents impaired their contractual obligations under Article 9 Section 1 of the California Constitution. The thrust of our arguments is that we have a vested right and UCŐs actions deprived us of those vested rights by taking inappropriate actions.
2. Promissory Estoppel. (In the law of contracts, the doctrine that provides that if a party changes his or her position substantially either by acting or forbearing from acting in reliance upon a gratuitous promise, then that party can enforce the promise although the essential elements of a contract are not present.) UC and LLNL told us we were UC employees and that we would receive the same benefits and privileges as other UC employees. Now they are saying that is not true. This is a backup claim in case the court doesnŐt believe we have a vested right to medical coverage so impairment of contract doesnŐt apply.
3. Declatory Relief. (Declaratory relief refers to a judgment of a court, which determines the rights of parties without necessarily ordering anything be done, or awarding damages. By seeking a declaratory judgment, the party making the request is seeking for an official declaration of the status of a matter in controversy. Optimally, the resolution of the rights of the parties involved will prevent further litigation.) If nothing more, we would at least like the court to decide whether UC owes us medical coverage, regardless of the validity of of causes 1 and 2.
The Legal arguments are followed by a prayer for relief. We are asking for:
1. A writ of mandate directing the Regents to restore our medical benefits.
2. Payments of damages to petitioners, which includes all UC retirees from Livermore and not just plaintiffs,
3. Declare that the Regents were without authority to terminate our medical benefits.
4. Award attorneyŐs fees, at their normal rate rather than the reduced rate they are giving us and including any time they write off to stay within budget.
5. Direct respondents to reimburse Petitioners for the costs of this action
6. Issue such other and further relief as deemed appropriate.
With our filing, we are no longer invisible to UC, they will be forced to take some action or lose by default. We still have to serve the Regents with the Petition. That will start a 30 day clock by which the Regents must respond. We anticipate they will try to get the lawsuit dismissed, ,filing what is called a Ňdemurrer.Ó
Cause 1: UC will argue that our rights to medical coverage are not vested so no action is justified. The issue here is whether or not our medical coverage rights are indeed vested. Resolving that issue will be up to the lawyers on both sides. The fact that UC specifically offered a choice of a pension and medical bnefits or a lump sum without medical benefits to those who were receiving medical coverage immediately before retirement certainly led us to believe that medical coverage was vested and of some value. We believe that UC also argued that medical coverage was an important benefit when selling the various VERIPs.
Cause 2: I donŐt believe that UC has a valid argument to nullify this one, but I am not a lawyer so we will have to wait and see. Certainly the total benefit package offered, rather than just salary, was a consideration for choosing and remaining at the Lab.
Cause 3: This looks like a last act of desperation. If the Court determines that causes 1 and 2 are void, I doubt that it will be willing to provide declaratory relief. However, if the Court buys part but not all of the first two causes, declaratory relief might be in order. That might give us a chance to retest the political possibilities with enough justification that we could get some satisfaction.
In theory, UC must respond to our filing in 30 days. Earlier our lawyers told us that it is normal procedure for UC to ask for a 30 day extension and for us to grant it. That means that we may not know their initial response within 60 days. Standard practice is for their lawyers to ask for a dismissal and for our lawyers to fight dismissal. If we beat attempts to dismiss, UC has three options, fight us in court, negotiate for a mutually agreeable resolution, or roll over and play dead.
The cover and the petition can be found in the status reports area in the upper left corner of our web page llnlretiree.com.