Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is a class action?
Answer: A class action is a legal procedure used to prosecute a lawsuit efficiently in which a large number of people have been injured by a common act or set of actions. In this case, 26 named plaintiffs stand in for the entire group of similarly aggrieved persons during the course of the litigation (the “Plaintiff Class”). In this lawsuit, 26 plaintiffs sued the State of North Carolina and related entities on April 20, 2012. The Honorable Judge Edwin Wilson certified the case as a Class Action on September 2, 2016.
Question: What is an Opt-Out Class Action?
Answer: Potential class members have the option of, after receiving notice, excluding themselves from a class action, and pursuing the case on their own. This is referred to as Opt-Out Class Action Litigation.This case, I. Beverly Lake, et al, is an opt-out Class action lawsuit, meaning that unless a Class Member opts out, the Class Member will be included as a Plaintiff in the Lawsuit.
Question: If I choose to be involved in a class action, is there risk or expense for me?
Answer: You do not need to take steps of your own to join the class action. Only those who wish to exclude themselves from a class need to do anything. If you do not want to be involved in the Class Action you must opt-out using the process described on the Opt-Out page. By participating in the case, you accomplish several objectives. First, you may receive damages you have sustained. Secondly, as a member of a class of similarly harmed persons, you help to demonstrate to the Court that the alleged harm done was substantial and affected a large number of people, increasing both the likelihood of a recovery and its size. Moreover, the only cost to you will be drawn from any settlement or judgment upon successful resolution of the matter.
Question: How are attorneys paid in class action cases?
Answer: The Plaintiffs’ attorneys are usually paid pursuant to an order from the Court overseeing the case. The judge responsible for the class action reviews a submission made by the attorneys, called a “fee petition.” This petition sets forth in detail the work the attorneys have done on behalf of the class. After consideration, the court enters an order fixing the amount of the fees to be paid to the attorneys from the case’s judgment or settlement fund. The amount of the fees awarded is based on a number of factors, including the quality of the work, the difficulty of the case, the nature of the result, the amount of time spent on the case, and the risks involved. As a percentage of the gross settlement or recovery, the fee amount can vary greatly within a wide range depending on the factors the court takes into account and the weight it attaches to each of them.
Question: What are my responsibilities?
Answer: Individual class members involved in a class action are obligated to tell the truth. They are not responsible for paying any fees or costs associated with the lawsuit. Generally, class members are not called upon to assist in any way. However, some class members, including the 26 named Plaintiffs, may provide information that can help with the case.
Question: How can I receive updates regarding the class action?
Answer: The website at www.LakeClassCase.com was designed for this purpose. Also, you may contact Class Counsel at (704) 790-6030.
Question: How long will it be until there is a significant development in the class action?
Answer: Following the Supreme Court’s decision, further proceedings in the trial court will likely take several months to more than one year to determine the issues remaining to be determined based on the Supreme Court’s decision. In the meantime, the attorneys will be preparing for those additional proceedings before the trial court.
Question: If I have specific evidence or concerns regarding the class action, what should I do?
Answer: Call the Lake Class case telephone number at (704) 790-6030 and continue to check the www.LakeClassCase.com website for updates. If you have specific evidence that you think may be helpful in prosecuting the case on behalf of the Class, you should direct that information and documentation to the attention of Class Counsel as soon as possible.
Question: Who are the class action lawyers?
Answer: The primary attorneys handling the case on behalf of the class are Michael L. Carpenter, Marcus R. Carpenter, Christopher M. Whelchel, and Marshall P. Walker of the law firm of Gray, Layton, Kersh, Solomon, Furr & Smith, P.A., Gary W. Jackson of The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, and Sam McGee of Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, PLLC. Click their names for links to their biographical information and click the firm names for more information about the law firms.
Question: How can I get more information about the class action?
Answer: Call the Lake Class case telephone number at (704) 790-6030 and continue to check the www.LakeClassCase.com website for updates.
Question: What must I do to participate in the class action?
Answer: You do not need to take any action because you are automatically included in the Plaintiff Class.
Question: What is the Lake case all about? What did the NC Supreme Court do?
Answer: The Lake case is a civil lawsuit to restore contractually and constitutionally guaranteed non-contributory retirement health benefits for certain State retirees. In 2011, the General Assembly passed a law requiring retirees to pay premiums to keep an 80/20 plan. This lawsuit was filed in 2012 to have the non-contributory 80/20 benefits restored and damages paid for unilateral reduction in benefits. On March 11, 2022, the NC Supreme Court held that eligible State employees have a vested right in a noncontributory health plan for life, but found that additional proceedings at the trial court level will be required to determine certain remaining issues in the case based on that ruling.
Question: How will the Supreme Court’s decision benefit me?
Answer: Prior to this lawsuit and the Supreme Court’s ruling in this lawsuit, the State had taken the position that the retirement health benefits at issue were non-contractual and could be unilaterally reduced or even eliminated – including for retirees who already vested and retired. The Supreme Court’s decision means that all eligible vested retirees are entitled for life to have non-contributory health benefits in retirement that they were promised at the time they vested. In short, the Supreme Court’s ruling means that the State cannot now unilaterally eliminate retirement health benefits for eligible retirees.
Question: What happens next in the case?
Answer: The Supreme Court ordered that the case be returned to the trial court to determine the value of the different health insurance plans in place when retirees vested in those benefits, and potential differences in that value compared to subsequent health insurance benefits offered by the State.It is not yet known how long those proceedings will take.
Question: Will retirees be reimbursed for the funds they have paid for their health insurance since their retirement?
Answer: This is a question that will be resolved when the case goes back to the trial court. The Plaintiffs and class counsel are taking the position that those retirees who paid for the 80/20 plan after 2011 should be reimbursed for the premiums paid for retiree only coverage.
Question: Will this ruling have any impact on the Humana plan now being offered by the State?
Answer: We do not presently have an answer to that question.
Question: How many retirees are affected by this ruling? Does it affect retirees of local government?
Answer: This case is a class action. There are approximately 220,000 persons in the class, composed of state retirees who vested in retirement health benefits and certain surviving spouses. They are members of the N. C. State Health Plan. Persons who retired from a local government under LGERS and are members of a local government health plan are not affected by this case. Retirees who retired after 2011 are not presently members of the class as the class was set-up and defined as of that date. There has not yet been a determination made as to whether retirees who retired after 2011 will be later included or how their rights might be affected by this case.