State could reduce settlement with phone call, victor says
June 22, 2003
The winner of a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to Nevada’s immunity from family leave lawsuits says he has yet to hear from the state.
William Hibbs says Attorney General Brian Sandoval told reporters he would sit down with Hibbs and his attorney after the landmark May 27 ruling that Nevada had no immunity when it came to the Family Leave Act.
Until the ruling, the state claimed it could not be sued because it had sovereign immunity.
Hibbs’s attorney Treva Hearn said that since the ruling, she has made two or three phone calls to Sandoval in an effort to resolve the issue without going back to court.
“We have the ability to actually save some money,” she said. “With the state being in the financial crunch it’s in, I would think that would be important.”
Hibbs said he doesn’t want to hold the state up for money, but that he needs to get the issue, which has dragged on for six years, resolved.
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“I’m not looking to bankrupt the state,” he said. “I live here, too. My concern is that the longer this goes on, the more they are going to spend. Believe me, I can save the state a lot of money. I just want what is fair an reasonable.”
Hibbs took leave in 1997 after his wife, Diane, was involved in a 1996 traffic accident. He sought to extend his leave under the family leave bill and was told he’d already taken it. Hibbs was ordered back to work just before his wife was due for a major surgery. When he refused, he was fired.
Federal District Court Judge Howard McKibben ruled Hibbs could not sue the state, but that ruling was overturned on appeal and confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hearns said the lawsuit would be sent back to McKibben for trial.
Tom Sargent, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said work in the Legislature is taking precedence.
“We are really busy with the Legislature going on and some election issues that have been popping up,” he said. “This is an important case and we are not blowing anybody off. We will be getting back to Mr. Hibbs’ counsel.”
Sargent pointed out the case has not yet returned to either the appeals or the district court.
“The case has never been heard on its merits,” Sargent said. “The Supreme Court case was about venue. We’re fine and can live with that. We need to move on from there. Once the case gets back to district court, we are looking forward to moving.”
In the meantime, Hibbs is unemployed and living in McGill because that is where they found a home they could afford to purchase.
“We couldn’t live anywhere else,” Hibbs said. “Work has become unattainable. When you’re in court suing, employers think you’re bad news. We can’t afford monthly medicines for my wife and all this stuff makes it worse.”
Hibbs said he is spending $1,700 a month on his wife’s medicine and that she has $1,070 coming in.
“Every month we have to borrow money to buy prescriptions,” he said. “You just survive however you can. It has been that way for quite a while.”