Sharply reducing its demands on pensioners, Walt Disney Co. has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit that accused the company of reneging on promised medical benefits for thousands of retired studio and theme-park workers.
The proposed settlement covers 3,800 20-year Disney employees and their families, including 1,600 former and current workers at Disneyland. Lawyers expect to file a joint settlement motion next month in Los Angeles federal court, plaintiffs' attorney William T. Payne said Friday.
A hearing to allow objections will be scheduled before the motion can be approved.
"We don't expect there will be any serious objections," Payne said.
The federal lawsuit said Disney had promised no-premium retirement health care to 20-year employees ages 62 and older.
It accused the company of first changing the age to 65 and then charging premiums for all but health maintenance organization coverage in the mid-1990s.
Disney contended the changes stemmed from skyrocketing medical costs and were allowed under its contracts with workers.
Its outside attorney in the case, Phyllis Kupferstein, referred a call for comment to Disney lawyer Barbara Kellams.
Kellams and Disney spokesman Ken Green did not return phone calls Friday.
Payne said a typical Southern California couple--one of whom retired from Disney in 1994 or earlier, and who declined to join an HMO--wound up paying $1,023 per year in premiums under changes in the medical plans phased in by the company.