Qwest seeking court
costs in retirees' suit
Judge ruled in company's favor on death benefit
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, October 7, 2008 at 12:05 a.m.
U S West/Qwest retirees are miffed that the Denver telco is seeking $2,672 in court costs
in connection with a lawsuit the retirees filed to try to
preserve a death benefit.
The retirees' claims in the 2005 suit were denied last month by
Magistrate Judge Boyd Boland in U.S. District Court in Denver, and a Qwest attorney recently notified
the retirees group that the company would seek to recover the
cost of transcripts and copies of materials used in the hearing.
Curtis Kennedy, attorney for the Association of U S West
Retirees, said in an e-mail to the company attorney that he was
"flabbergasted to see that Qwest would be so petty" to ask the
retirees to pay court costs in such a case.
Lucent didn't seek such costs in a similar case, Kennedy wrote.
"Qwest has wasted millions on the defense of former CEO Joe
Nacchio," Kennedy said in the e-mail. "And don't forget the over
$1.5 million wasted on the quick sale of (current CEO) Ed
As part of a relocation benefit, Qwest bought Mueller's California home and sold it for a $1.8
Qwest spokeswoman Diane Reberger said, "The court already
ordered that Qwest can recover the costs in this case and we're
merely providing proof of those costs to the court."
There's also a dispute over whether Qwest made its filing on
Retirees say Qwest threatened in 2003 to eliminate the
longstanding death benefit -- a benefit equal to a year's pay
and payable to a surviving spouse when a retiree dies. The
retirees sued to prevent the company from doing so.
Boland ruled the death benefit wasn't vested or guaranteed, as
claimed by the retirees, but a "welfare" benefit a company is
generally free to terminate.
Qwest already has eliminated the death benefit for those who
retired on or after Jan. 1, 2004, according to court documents,
and is considering eliminating the benefit for all retirees.