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Northern Montana Hospital Settlement

Welcome to the Cleary v. Retirement Plan for Employees of Northern Montana Hospital et al. Settlement website. This website is intended to provide Covered Participants with general information regarding the Settlement of that lawsuit. While the District Court has approved the Notice of Proposed Settlement (the “Notice”) and ordered that certain documents filed with the Court be posted on this website, the content of this website is the responsibility of Plaintiff’s Counsel and has not been approved by the court.

On July 30, 2018, the Court granted preliminary approval of the Settlement. A hearing to determine if final approval will be granted will be held on November 7, 2018.


This case was brought on behalf of named plaintiff Joel Cleary, M.D. (referred to as “Plaintiff”) and certain current and former participants of the Retirement Plan for Employees of Northern Montana Hospital (referred to as the “Plan”). The Defendants are the Plan itself, the Plan’s Administrative Committee, David Henry, Kim Lucke, and Bonnie O’Neill, individually and as members of the Administrative Committee, and Northern Montana Hospital (referred to as “Defendants”). The law applicable to the claims in the lawsuit is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (also known as “ERISA”).

The lawsuit alleges that Defendants improperly denied pension benefits to Plaintiff, miscalculated the pension benefits of Plaintiff and other Plan participants and otherwise violated ERISA by failing to comply with Plan terms, failing to maintain certain records and having a deficient claims procedure.

Plaintiff filed his complaint on June 7, 2016 in the United States District Court for the District of Montana, Great Falls Division.  After hard fought litigation, extensive discovery, and multiple depositions held, the Parties engaged in mediation on May 24, 2018, which resulted in a Settlement the terms of which are set forth in a Settlement Stipulation. If you wish to review court documents related to this case, please see the Case Documents section at the bottom of this page.

The Settlement

The Settlement resolves all benefit claims against Defendants which Plaintiff had asserted on behalf of himself and certain other individuals referred to as “Covered Participants” in the Settlement Stipulation as well as claims for injunctive relief on behalf of all Plan participants. The Parties have agreed that nothing in the Settlement Stipulation shall be deemed to constitute any finding of wrongdoing or actionable conduct and are not admissions of any liability by Defendants. If you are a Covered Participant, please review the legal notice you received in the mail for further information on your individual settlement amount or other details of the Settlement. Each notice will contain information specific to your settlement amount.

Benefits to Plaintiff and the Covered Participants

The Settlement provides that Plaintiff will receive his pension benefits and that each Covered Participant will receive a payment which reflects the present value of the amount by which his or her monthly pension benefit was miscalculated. These amounts, called “Settlement Payments” in the Settlement Stipulation, differ for each Covered Participant depending on that person’s length of employment, hours of service and compensation, as required by the Plan’s terms. These amounts have been calculated by Plaintiff and agreed to by Defendants solely for purposes of settlement. Defendants deny any wrongdoing in the calculation of benefits.

The total monetary value of the Settlement is $297,529.11.

The Settlement also provides that Northern Montana Hospital will maintain records in compliance with section 209 of ERISA and will conduct processing of claims for benefits in accordance with section 503 of ERISA and the Secretary of Labor’s regulations which are codified at 29 C.F.R. section 2560-503-1.

Released Claims 

In return for his Settlement Payment, upon the Settlement becoming Final, the Plaintiff will release the Defendants from any claims he may have against them except for his claim for attorneys’ fees and costs. Similarly, the Defendants will release the Plaintiff from any claims they may have against him.

Also, upon the Settlement becoming Final, in return for their Settlement Payments, Covered Participants will be barred from pursuing any claims based on the allegations raised by Plaintiff in this lawsuit (referred to as “Barred Claims” in the Settlement Stipulation). Importantly, this will not affect any Covered Participant’s Vested Benefits from the Plan.This means that if a Covered Participant is currently receiving a monthly pension, he or she will continue to receive it. Or, if a Covered Participant is entitled to receive a benefit starting in the future, he or she will receive it.

Right to Object

Each Covered Participant has the right to object to the Settlement if he or she thinks it should not be approved. The procedure for objecting is set forth in the Notice that was mailed to all Covered Participants, a copy of which is available below.

Fairness Hearing

The Court will hold a Final Hearing on November 7, 2018 at 10:00 a.m., at the federal courthouse in Great Falls, Montana, 125 Central Avenue West, Great Falls, MT 59404, to determine whether to give Final Approval to the Settlement. At that time the Court will consider whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate and also address any objections which may have been filed. If you wish to address the Court at the Final Hearing, you must follow the procedure set forth in the Notice that was mailed to all Covered Participants, a copy of which is available below.

Attorneys’ Fees, Costs and Expenses

Plaintiff’s Counsel, Keller Rohrback L.L.P., has pursued this lawsuit on a contingency basis. This means that Plaintiff has not paid for the legal services provided in the lawsuit or reimbursed any of the money Plaintiff’s Counsel has expended (such as for travel, deposition transcripts, photocopying, etc.) nor will he. Rather, Plaintiff’s Counsel will seek to be paid its fees and costs pursuant to ERISA which provides that the Court, in its discretion, may require the Defendants to pay for Plaintiff’s legal fees and costs. Plaintiff’s motion for fees and costs is to be filed within two weeks after Judgment is entered by the Court. The amount of fees that will be paid to Plaintiff’s Counsel, if any, will be determined by the Court. The fee award will not affect the amount of the Settlement Payments to Covered Participants.


If you are a Covered Participant and you have questions regarding the Settlement, please contact Plaintiff’s Counsel at 888-684-9353.

Case Documents

Complete records of this litigation can be accessed on the internet via the Pacer system ( by searching for the case number 4:16-cv-00061 or at the U. S. District Courthouse located at 125 Central Avenue West, Great Falls, MT 59404.