WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc. and its unions asked a federal court Tuesday to dismiss the workers' claims against the Wichita aircraft maker, agreeing there is not enough evidence to support the class-action lawsuit it faces over pension benefits.
The litigation was first filed in August 2005 by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace stemming from Spirit's purchase earlier that year of Boeing Co.'s commercial aircraft operations in Wichita.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers joined the case in January 2007. A year later, the court consolidated into the litigation a similar case brought by several workers.
Plaintiffs continue to pursue their claims against co-defendant Boeing.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Boeing pension participants who had at least 10 years of service and who were between ages 49 and 55 when they went to work for Spirit around June 17, 2005 in the wake of the sale of Boeing's commercial operations in Wichita.
The case isn't short on paperwork. The filing shows plaintiffs have produced more than 24,000 pages of documents; 220,000 pages from Boeing and 68,000 from Spirit. The parties also questioned 36 witnesses during depositions.
In the joint motion filed in federal court, attorneys for the plaintiffs said they could not find evidence Spirit had violated its pension plans or bargaining agreements after it assumed certain assets and liabilities for pension benefits earned by former Boeing employees.
The retiree health care benefits specifically sought in the lawsuit were not a part of the purchase agreement, and the unions concluded that Spirit had agreed only to offer future retiree health care benefits when it bought Boeing's assets.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs told the court that under these circumstances, their claims against Spirit lacked sufficient evidence to continue the lawsuit. Their court filing says dismissing the claims with prejudice — meaning the claims could not be raised again — is "an appropriate resolution."