Attorney at law, Edward Earl Younglove III with Younglove and Coker, P.L.L.C. in Olympia led the case for the plaintiffs, all either retired employees or the widows of deceased retired PUD employees, against the PUD and its attorney Jim Finlay. Five of the plaintiffs won settlements from the PUD.
“The retired PUD employees and their spouses were extremely pleased that the court upheld the retired employee’s expectations that in the event the retired employee died first, their spouse is entitled to continue their medical insurance coverage at the same rate,” Younglove told the Herald. “This was a retirement benefit these PUD employees had earned during their employment based on the PUD’s longtime practice. The court’s decision also compensates those widows of retired PUD employees who have been overcharged for their insurance ever since the PUD changed its long time practice. The Plaintiffs are a great group of people and it was a pleasure to work with each one of them.”
The following is the “Brief Statement of Case” authored by Younglove for the court:
“Pacific County PUD offers medical insurance coverage as an employee benefit. Insurance coverage is available for both the employee and the employee’s spouse. The employee is responsible for a percentage of the insurance cost to the PUD as determined by a union contract, but the same benefit has been historically extended to all employees whether represented by the union or not. The employee percentage for much of the time was zero percent.
In addition, when the employee retired, the employee and the employee’s spouse could continue the insurance coverage by paying whatever percentage of the premium the employee was required to contribute that was in effect at the time the employee retired, including zero percent for the remainder of their lives. If the employee died, the surviving spouse was permitted to continue the insurance coverage on the same terms. This practice continued for a period of at least thirty years and was well known to both the PUD management and PUD employees. Employees and their spouses relied on the policy in making retirement plans.
While the PUD now claims this practice was the result of an employee bookkeeping error, the PUD’s former bookkeeper, two former office employees who worked with her and two former finance managers claim the practice was an intentional one and one that was well known to the PUD management.
In September 2009, the PUD announced that while the retired employee and spouse could both continue to obtain medical insurance on those terms while the retired employee was alive, once the retired employee passed away, the spouse would be responsible for 100% of the premium if he/she wanted to continue coverage. This change in policy had a dramatic detrimental impact on the medical insurance cost to the surviving spouse of a retired employee.
Several retired employees (and spouses), the spouses of deceased retired employees and the estate of one deceased spouse of a retired employee who out lived her husband for a number of years (collectively referred to as simply “employees” for ease of reference) have sued to establish the right of the surviving spouse of a deceased retired PUD employee to continue insurance coverage on the same terms as when the employee retired, which was the practice for so many years. . .”
The court ruled the following:
“For and in consideration of the sum of $117,897.21 paid to Plaintiffs, above named, by the above-named defendant [PUD No. 2 of Pacific County], full satisfaction is hereby acknowledged of the judgment of the above-entitled court, entered on June 25, 2013, in favor of the Plaintiffs and against the Defendant . . . The monetary judgments awarded herein to accrue interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum from the date hereof until paid.”
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on www.hometowndebate.com 8/1/13. If you would like to respond to this story, go to hometowndebate.com. Editor George Kunke contributed to this story.