National Group for Retirees Joins Suit Against Caterpiller over Health Benefits

The AARP has joined a lawsuit against Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar Inc. filed by retirees who claim the company has reneged on an obligation to provide them free health care coverage for life.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville, Tenn., on March 31 claims that all Caterpillar retirees who left the company between Jan. 1, 1992 and March 1998, a period during which there was no valid contract between Caterpillar and the United Auto Workers, are owed free lifetime health insurance by the company.

Plaintiffs Gary T. Winnett, Fred Jackson-Chittum and Casper R. Harris have requested class-action status.

A Caterpillar spokesman said that the company does not discuss pending litigation.

The AARP is a national advocacy organization for people over 50. Attorneys for the AARP Foundation Litigation have become co-counsel in the lawsuit.

AARP’s chief counsel on the case says he thinks it has a good chance of attaining class-action status and could eventually cover up to 1,100 plaintiffs. The AARP does not provide legal representation to individuals but will represent a class of people, he said.