NCRGEA Update: Statement on Lake Case, October 2022

Raleigh, October 20, 2022 — Tim O’Connell, Executive Director of the North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association, announced today that the United States Supreme Court has denied the Petition filed by the State of North Carolina seeking review of the North Carolina Supreme Court decision affirming a partial judgment in favor of retired State employees seeking promised health care benefits.

This past March, the NC Supreme Court ruled that a vested State retiree is contractually entitled to the same retiree health care benefits that were in place at the time they vested. The NC Supreme Court ruling sends the case back to the North Carolina Superior Court for a determination of whether the State’s actions in reducing benefits was a material breach of the contract and if so, a determination of damages.

“It is time for this case to be resolved,” O’Connell stated. “Our retirees have been waiting over ten years to receive the benefits the State promised them when they became employed. I urge the State to stop delaying and do the right thing for these retirees who relied on the State’s promises.”

The case was filed in Gaston Superior Court in 2012 after the North Carolina General Assembly reduced the benefits retirees would receive in the nonpremium contributory plan. The Superior Court granted a partial summary judgment for the retirees and reserved ruling on the amount of damages.

“This case has been up and down in the trial court and appellate courts for almost 11 years,” stated Chris Whelchel of the Gastonia law firm Gray, Layton, Kersh, Solomon, Furr and Smith, one of counsel for the retirees. “We are prepared to move on with this case to make sure these retirees receive what the courts have said they deserve. Many of the 220,000 retirees affected by this case have died waiting for justice to be served.”

The NCRGEA is a statewide organization with over 60,000 state and local government retirees. It represents the more than 340,000 state and local government retirees.