Judge allows class action vs. Abbott to proceed
Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:51pm EDT
By Emily Chasan
NEW YORK, July 14 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has allowed a group of former Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N: Quote
, Stock Buzz
) employees to go to trial in their class action lawsuit against the company, related to claims Abbott's 2004 spin-off of Hospira Inc (HSP.N: Quote
, Stock Buzz
) interfered with their retirement plans.
In a 2004 lawsuit, the former employees claimed that when their Abbott unit was spun off to create Hospira, Abbott and Hospira created policies that prevented 10,000 new Hospira employees from keeping certain pension benefits and retiree medical care.
Specifically, the employees claim their unit contained more older employees relative to the rest of the company and that their benefits were terminated in the spin-off as Abbott struggled with its underfunded pension liabilities.
In a court order dated July 10, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettlemen denied the companies' motions for summary judgment in the case, saying there were genuine issues about the intent the companies had in preventing the employees from keeping those benefits. The move will allow the case to go to trial, at a date to be determined later this month.
"Evidence that Abbott compared the financial implications of continuing to provide plaintiffs' benefits under the Abbott plans with the implications of eliminating or reducing those benefits ... is relevant to the ultimate issue of whether (Abbott and Hospira) had the specific intent of interfering with the plaintiffs' attainment of benefits," Gettlemen, who sits in federal court in Chicago, wrote in the decision.
The plaintiffs are seeking to be reinstated in the Abbott retirement, or other relief of equal value.
"We are anxious to get this case to trial as quickly as possible," Steven Sprenger, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement on Monday.
Attorneys for Abbott and Hospira were not immediately available. (Editing by Gary Hill) © Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved