Top court clears retired worker to launch class action over changes to benefits

Ice coats tree branches outside of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on December 10, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada says a retired Vivendi Canada worker can launch a class-action lawsuit against his former employer for changing its health-benefits plan for retirees.

The question before the high court revolved around whether former Vivendi employee Michel Dell'Aniello could represent all retirees who were eligible for health benefits under the company plan.

Before it was bought by Vivendi, Seagram Co. set up a health plan that covered employees while they worked for the company and after they retired.

Seagram changed its plan in the mid-1980s and added a footnote that had not been in the original 1977 plan indicating that the company reserved the right to change or suspend the plan or increase the amount paid by employees and retirees.

In September 2008, new owner Vivendi announced it would raise the plan's annual deductible, only cover certain prescription drugs and set a lifetime total of $15,000 for all coverage under the plan.

Dell'Aniello filed a motion to launch a class action against Vivendi, but Quebec's Superior Court didn't allow it.

However, Quebec's appeals court overturned the lower court's decision and the matter made its way up to the Supreme Court, while released a 7-0 decision today in favour of Dell'Aniello.


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