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156086 - Rita Kendzierski v Macomb County

Rita Kenderzierski, Bonnie Haines, Greg Dennis, Louise Bertolini, John Barker, James Cowan, Vincent Powierski, Robert Stanley, Alan Moroschan, and Gaer Guerber, on Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated,

 

Christopher Legghio

Stuart M. Israel

 

Plaintiffs-Appellees,

 

v

(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)

 

 

(Macomb – Druzinski, D.)

 

Macomb County,

 

Susan H. Zitterman

 

Defendant-Appellant.

 

Summary

Plaintiffs are retired employees of Macomb County who filed this class action suit, seeking an injunction against the county prohibiting it from diminishing or otherwise altering their right to lifetime health benefits as established in the various collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in effect from 2008-2010. Plaintiffs assert a vested right to these benefits under the CBAs. The suit was filed after the county adopted several changes to retiree health care, including increased prescription co-pays, changes in deductibles, and reductions in plan options. The trial court held that plaintiffs’ health care benefits were vested under the CBAs, but that the content of those benefits was subject to reasonable modification. Both sides appealed. The Court of Appeals held in a published opinion that plaintiffs’ entitlement to health care benefits was vested for the lifetime of all retirees and their spouses, and that those benefits could not be modified without the consent of the affected retirees. In reaching this conclusion, the Court of Appeals found that the subject CBA, which was silent on vested health care benefits, was ambiguous, thereby allowing for the consideration of extrinsic evidence. The Supreme Court has ordered oral argument on the county’s application for leave to appeal. 

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