Abbott Plaintiffs Win Class Action Certification

January 4, 2006 ( - A group of former Abbott Laboratories employees has won the right to collectively challenge their termination as part of the spinoff of an Abbott business.

US District Judge Robert Gettleman of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois certified the thousands of plaintiffs into a legal class from which they can pursue their claims that the spinoff of Abbott’s hospital products business to Hospira, Inc., violated their rights under federal benefits laws, Reuters reported.

The plaintiffs, laid off in 2003 and 2004, sued Abbott and Hospira with allegations that the two companies had violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Gettleman’s order certifies a plaintiff class for each count of the three-count lawsuit.

“The plaintiffs allege that Abbott designed the spinoff to cut off the employees’ pension benefits and insulate itself from ever paying any of the increased pension obligations accrued by its older employees as they approached their peak salary years,” theWashington law office of Sprenger & Lang said in a news release on Wednesday.

However, Abbott said in its own statement that Gettleman’s ruling was procedural and “has no bearing on the merits of the case,” and said it was confident of prevailing in the case.

Abbott, a suburban Chicago-based maker of prescription drugs and medical devices, said it spun off Hospira because its products were no longer a primary company focus.

The Gettleman opinion is  here .