City retiree fights appeals court ruling

Former Medford employee petitions for state Supreme Court review of decision in health insurance dispute

An eight-year legal battle between the city of Medford and retirees who claim they are owed health insurance could be heading back to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Former city attorney Ron Doyle filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court on July 1 after the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned a Jackson County Circuit Court ruling that found the city of Medford in contempt for failing to provide insurance to retired employees.

"I feel the Court of Appeals decision was incorrect," Doyle said.

The Court of Appeals, in overturning Judge Mark Schively's decision, found that Oregon Revised Statute 243.303 does not provide the ability to seek damages from a local government if it fails to carry out the obligations described in the statute.

Doyle is joined in his lawsuit by Benedict Miller, Robert Deuel and Charles Steinberg.

The lawsuit led by by Doyle is similar to one filed by Joseph Bova, who worked Public Works Department, have been winding their separate way through state and federal courtrooms.

Doyle and Bova have maintained that they are entitled to "bridge" health care coverage from the city until they are age 65.

The courts have treated the two cases differently because Doyle was retired when he filed the legal action, while Bova was still employed with the city.

In his ruling in the Bova case, Schiveley said the city has resisted court orders from 2009 that retired city employees are entitled to "bridge" health insurance.

In February 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled the city of Medford must provide health benefits to its retirees — or prove that it is unable to do so.

The Supreme Court found the retirees have constitutionally protected rights to health care coverage, but left open the door to further legal interpretation.

The Court of Appeals, in its ruling, pointed out that the Supreme Court didn't address the question whether the inability to provide health insurance allowed retirees to seek damages under state statute.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.


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