Minnesota Supreme Court hears city of Duluth retirees' caseThe question of whether the city of Duluth can change retirees’ health insurance benefits to match those of current employees is in the hands of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
The question of whether the city of Duluth can change retirees’ health
insurance benefits to match those of current employees is in the hands of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
On the line is perhaps as much as $60 million in savings for the city over the next 30 years.
Supreme Court justices heard arguments Monday from the attorneys representing the city and the retirees who sued the city over the issue three years ago. The justices have no deadline for issuing a ruling.
“They said they will issue a decision in due course,” said Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson, who attended the hourlong
hearing in St. Paul. “I would anticipate a decision will come within four to eight months.”
Johnson said the hearing went well.
“Every one of them (the seven justices) asked a question, some asked multiple questions, about the case,” he said. “They were very well thought out and probing questions, very relevant to the case.”
Minneapolis attorney John “Mac” Lefevre Jr. argued the city’s case; Duluth attorney Shelly M. Marqardt argued the retirees’ case. Lefevre deferred to Johnson, and Marqardt couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The issue has been in the courts since May 2008, when two city retirees and a retiree’s spouse filed what became a class-action
lawsuit against Duluth, claiming the city did not have authority to change the health benefits it provided to them at the date of their retirements.
Duluth took the position that it is required by contract only to provide retirees with the same type of insurance coverage that current employees receive. District Court Judge Kenneth Sandvik ruled in October 2009 that the city may modify the retirees’ benefits whenever and however benefits for active employees are modified. The retirees appealed Sandvik’s ruling, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals largely upheld his decision in