The Association of U S West Retirees



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 Mueller's house."

As part of a relocation benefit, Qwest bought Mueller's California home and sold it for a $1.8 million loss.

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 time.

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.