1997--Defendants send a letter to all psychologists on the managed-care panel announcing a 30-percent rate cut and telling psychologists they have 15 days either to take the rate cut or drop off the panel.

1998--After unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a solution with the defendants, the Virginia Academy of Clinical Psychologists (VACP) and the other plaintiffs file suit against Blue Cross/Blue Shield of the National Capital Area and its mental health subcontractor, Value Options.

1999--BC/BS tries to move the case to federal court, arguing that the claims are preempted under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. VACP defeats this effort, assisted by a supporting brief from the U.S. Department of Labor.

2000--BC/BS refuses to produce any documents, claiming it has no responsibility in this case--despite the fact that the case involves its HMO and the psychologists who serve it. VACP successfully moves for the court to order BC/BS to produce documents and to pay sanctions. (Almost three years later, BC/BS still refuses to pay those sanctions to VACP.)

Intensive discovery takes place, defendants produce and VACP reviews almost 30,000 pages of documents, and the parties take 50 days of depositions.

Defendants file massive summary judgment motions, seeking to dismiss every claim on various grounds. Plaintiffs respond. Briefs exceed 300 pages and are supported by thousands of pages of exhibits.

2001--Changes of judges delay the ruling on summary judgment. Despite this limbo, plaintiffs are forced to file extensive pre-trial papers and respond to defendants' motion to limit the evidence.

2002--Summary judgment motions are finally heard and ruled upon. The judge allows two of the three core claims--that the defendants breached their contracts with consumers and psychologists--to proceed to trial but dismissed the plaintiffs' claims that the defendants had intentionally misled them. The defendants then filed a motion asking the court to split the case into two trials--one for the psychologist plaintiffs and one for the consumer/patient plaintiffs. The court rejects this motion.

2003--Defendants file a second motion to limit the evidence, resulting in a split ruling with parts favoring the defendants and parts favoring the plaintiffs. The court allows defendants to file their fourth motion challenging VACP's ability to play a role in this case on behalf of their members. At press time, that motion was still pending.

The trial is set for April 7.