The class action lawsuit aimed at returning Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory retirees to University of California health care programs appears to be moving toward the final phase of a two-part trial in the coming year following one last case management conference in mid-February.

Judge George Hernandez of Superior Court in Oakland, where the suit is being heard, said last week that he anticipated setting the trial date at the February meeting.

Laboratory retirees lost access to UC health programs starting in 2008 after the U.S. Department of Energy turned Laboratory management over to a for-profit partnership, Lawrence Livermore National Security LLC.

A grass roots organization called UC Livermore Retirees Group filed suit in 2010. The suit became a class action in 2014.

The first phase of the trial took place in 2015 in Superior Court in Oakland, where Judge Hernandez found that UC had clearly intended to make health care commitments to its retirees and had actually made the commitment.

Since then, retirees have been trying to assemble a complete list of those who should be part of the lawsuit class, including LLNL retirees, dependents and survivors. The job has been made more difficult by University privacy rules and by a lack of clarity over the exact date when retirees lost their right to UC health care.

Attorneys for the retirees have complained that the University has delayed proceedings by providing inaccurate lists of possible class members. The delay has had consequences, they believe. In a statement to the court, they wrote that “at least 1,033 putative class members have passed away” since late 2007 and “at least 215 on the class list” have died since the class was certified on Oct. 30, 2014.

Still, the prospect of scheduling the second phase of the trial was encouraging to the Retirees Group. A recent email from group leadership noted management changes expected at Los Alamos National Laboratory and warned that similar changes at LLNL could produce health care programs even worse than “the inferior medical benefits” that are now available.