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Federal court opens lost-benefits lawsuit to 14,000 retirees

A federal judge this week granted class action status to a lawsuit by retirees against phone companies Sprint Nextel and Embarq for canceling the retirees' health benefits and life insurance.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Kansas opens the retirees' lawsuit to some 14,000 phone company retirees, and thousands of spouses, in 18 states.

Previously, the suit represented 17 retirees, including 11 from North Carolina, seeking to have their health benefits restored. The case also represented 756 retirees, all in North Carolina, for age discrimination.

The retirees allege that for more than three decades, phone company representatives made promises verbally and in writing that their retiree benefits were guaranteed for life. Some took early retirement to lock in on the benefits.

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