On July 21, 2010, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued an important decision in Bova v City of Medford providing another chapter in the continuing controversy over whether the city of Medford will be required to make the City's group health insurance available to retired City employees.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Mark Schiveley entered a judgment on December 7, 2010 that found the City in violation of ORS 243.303 and that required the City to make its group health insurance program available to retired City employees by a date certain. Retiring employees who chose to participate would receive the same health insurance as active employees but the retired employees would have to pay their own premiums. The City appealed the judge's decision to the Court of Appeals. After filing the appeal, Judge Schiveley denied the City’s request to delay enforcement of the judgment until the appeal was finished. Subsequently, the City asked the Court of Appeals to overrule Judge Schiveley’s decision. In a decision today, the Court of Appeals denied the City’s request to delay implementation of Judge Schiveley’s decision.
The Court of Appeals found that it was unclear whether the City provided any evidence to Judge Schiveley that including retirees in the health insurance program would be cost prohibitive. The Court of Appeals expressed concern that the City chose not to give the Court of Appeals some important documents filed in the trial court which would show whether the City submitted to Judge Schiveley evidence that including retirees in the group health insurance program would be cost prohibitive. The Court of Appeals concluded that while it was possible that the City might prevail on appeal, the City failed to show it was likely to succeed on appeal.
The Court of Appeals decision means that the City will need to work with attorneys representing Mr. Bova, the unions, and employees to comply with Judge Schiveley decision while the case is on appeal.
The Court of Appeals decision follows several recent decisions unfavorable to the City. On June 24, 2010 a Jackson County jury awarded four retired employees of the City damages of $283,000. On July 14 and 15, 2010, Judge Schiveley issued orders requiring the City to pay in excess of $144,000 for the costs and attorney fees of Joseph Bova’s lawsuit.
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