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St. Anthony Medical Center Settlement

Welcome to the Owens v. St. Anthony Medical Center, Inc. Settlement website. This website is intended to keep Settlement Class Members informed regarding the Class Action Settlement. The content of this website is the responsibility of Class Counsel and has not been approved by the Court.

On April 16, 2019, the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman granted preliminary approval of the Settlement.  Information regarding the Settlement can be found in the Court-approved Notice and by reading the following:

Background

On June 2, 2014, Plaintiffs Lenore Owens, Jean Jewett, Lori Buksar, and Julia Snyder filed a putative class action Complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against St. Anthony Medical Center (“SAMC”) and various other Defendants alleging violations of ERISA. The Complaint alleged that Defendants denied the participants and beneficiaries of the St. Anthony Medical Center Retirement Plan (“Plan”) the protections of ERISA by claiming the Plan qualified as an ERISA exempt “church plan.” The Complaint alleges that the Plan is not a “church plan” because neither SAMC nor Franciscan Sisters of Chicago Service Corporation (“FSCSC”) is a church or a convention or association of churches, and because the Plan was not established by a church or by a convention or association of churches. The Complaint further alleges that the Defendants breached their duties under ERISA by, among other things: underfunding the Plan by over $32 million; failing to furnish Plaintiffs or any member of the class with ERISA-required disclosures; violating ERISA’s anti-cutback provisions; failing to obtain insurance for the Plan from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation; and failing to properly terminate the Plan in accordance with ERISA. The Complaint alleges that, following the termination of the Plan in 2012, Plan participants received pension benefits which were substantially less than the actuarial equivalent of the pension benefits which they had been promised and had accrued under the Plan. Defendants deny and continue to deny all claims asserted by Plaintiffs. The Complaint further alleges that operation of the Plan as a church plan is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Defendants maintain that the Plan qualified as a church plan under ERISA, and that the Plan was operated, funded, and terminated in accordance with the Plan’s governing documents and applicable laws. Defendants deny that they have engaged in any wrongdoing whatsoever.

A similar case concerning the church plan exemption was heard by the Supreme Court in 2017. Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton, 137 S. Ct. 1652 (2017). The Supreme Court ruled against the plan participants, holding that a church plan did not need to be established by a church. This ruling was issued while this case was pending and eliminated one of Plaintiffs’ arguments that the Plan was not a church plan. Following that ruling, on December 4, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their Third Amended Class Action Complaint, which includes alternative state law claims. Defendants denied that Plaintiffs had any valid state law claims.

The Parties negotiated to resolve the Action over the course of several years. The Parties first met in September 2016 with a mediator to attempt to resolve the Action, but negotiations were unsuccessful. The Parties resumed negotiations via telephone and with the assistance of a mediator in August 2018. The negotiations continued through November 2018. On November 27, 2018, the Parties filed a notice of Settlement to inform the Court that they had reached an agreement. This Settlement is the product of those arm’s-length negotiations between Class Counsel and Defendants’ counsel, which occurred over many months and were overseen and assisted by an experienced third-party mediator.

The Settlement Class

On April 16, 2019, the preliminary approval of the Settlement was granted on behalf of the following Settlement Class:

All Plan participants or Plan beneficiaries who received or were issued a reduced benefit distribution from the Plan in 2012, after the Plan’s termination on March 31, 2012. Excluded from the class are the Individual Defendants named in the Complaint.

The Settlement Class shall be certified as a non-opt out class action for settlement purposes only, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23 (b)(1) and/or (b)(2).

Settlement FAQs

Q: What does the Settlement provide?

Defendants are required to deposit four million dollars ($4,000,000.00) in cash to an escrow account. One million dollars of the $4 million will be used to settle Plaintiffs’ court-approved attorneys’ fees and expense reimbursement, and incentive awards to Named Plaintiffs. The remaining $3 million will be allocated and paid to the Settlement Class proportionally based on the amount that each Plan participant’s benefit was reduced in 2012.

The above description of the operation of the Settlement is only a summary. The governing provisions are set forth in the Settlement Agreement.

Q: What rights am I giving up in the Settlement?

If the Settlement is approved, the Court will enter a judgment. This judgment will fully, finally, and forever release, relinquish, and discharge any and all actual or potential claims, actions, causes of action, demands, obligations, liabilities, attorneys’ fees, expenses and costs arising out of the allegations of the Complaint, or otherwise, in connection with the sponsorship, funding, maintenance, operation or termination of, or distributions from, the Plan, including any claims that were brought or could have been brought under federal law or state law as of the date of the Settlement Agreement by any member of the Settlement Class, including any current or prospective challenge to the “church plan” status of the Plan.

Released Claims do not include any claims which may arise out of this Settlement Agreement itself or the final distribution benefit to be distributed on a pro rata basis.

Q: How do I know whether I am part of the Settlement?

The Court has certified the Action as a class action. You are a member of the Settlement Class if you are a Plan participant or beneficiary who received or was issued a reduced benefit distribution from the Plan in 2012, after the Plan’s termination. Excluded from the Settlement are the Individual Defendants named in the Complaint.

Q: Can I exclude myself from the Settlement?

You do not have the right to exclude yourself from the Settlement. For settlement purposes, the Action was certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(1) and/or 23(b)(2) (non-opt-out class) because the Court determined the requirements of that Rule were satisfied. Thus, it is not possible for any of the members of the Settlement Class to exclude themselves from the Settlement. Members of the Settlement Class will be bound by any judgments or orders that are entered in the Action for all claims that were or could have been asserted in the Action against Defendants or are otherwise included in the Released Claims under the Settlement.

Although members of the Settlement Class cannot opt-out of the Settlement, they can object to the Settlement and ask the Court not to approve the Settlement.

Q: Do I have a lawyer in the Action?

The law firms of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC and Keller Rohrback L.L.P. (“Class Counsel”) represent Named Plaintiffs and the Settlement Class. You will not be charged directly by these lawyers. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.

Q: How will the lawyers be paid?

Prior to the Fairness Hearing, Class Counsel will apply for an award of attorneys’ fees and expense reimbursement, and incentive awards of $15,000 for each Named Plaintiff. The application for attorneys’ fees, expenses, and incentive awards will not exceed one million dollars ($1,000,000.00).

To date, Class Counsel have not received any payment for their services in prosecuting this Action on behalf of the Settlement Class, nor have Class Counsel been reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses. The fee requested by Class Counsel would compensate all of Plaintiffs’ counsel for their efforts in achieving the Settlement for the benefit of the Settlement Class and for their risk in undertaking this representation on a contingency basis. The Court will determine the actual amount of the award.

Q: How do I tell the Court if I don’t like the Settlement?

Any member of the Settlement Class who wishes to object to the fairness, reasonableness, or adequacy of the Settlement, to any term of the Settlement Agreement, to the application for payment of attorneys’ fees and expenses, or to the application for incentive awards for Named Plaintiffs, may file an Objection in writing. All written objections and supporting papers must: (1) clearly identify the case name and number “Owens, et al. v. St. Anthony Medical Center, et al., Case No. 14-cv-4068-SJC;” (2) be filed with the Court and either postmarked and mailed or faxed to Class Counsel and Defendants’ counsel at the addresses below by no later than July 17, 2019; (3) set forth your full name, current address, and telephone number; (4) set forth a statement of the position you wish to assert, including the factual and legal grounds for the position; (5) set forth the names and a summary of testimony of any witnesses that you might want to call in connection with the objection; (6) provide copies of all documents that you wish to submit in support of your position; (7) provide the name(s), address(es) and phone number(s) of any attorney(s) representing you; (8) state the name, court, and docket number of any class action litigation in which you and/or your attorney(s) has previously appeared as an objector or provided legal assistance with respect to an objection; and (9) include your signature.

The addresses for filing objections with the Court and service on counsel are listed below. Your written objection must be filed with the Court, and mailed or faxed to the counsel listed below by no later than July 17, 2019:

File with the Clerk of the Court:

Clerk of the Court
United States District Court
Northern District of Illinois
219 South Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60604

And, by the same date, serve copies of all such papers by mail or fax to each of the following:

CLASS COUNSEL:

Lynn Lincoln Sarko
KELLER ROHRBACK L.L.P.
1201 Third Avenue, Suite 3200
Seattle, WA 98101
Fax: (206) 623-3384

Ron Kilgard
KELLER ROHRBACK L.L.P.
3101 North Central Avenue, Suite 1400
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Fax: (602) 248-2822

Karen L. Handorf
COHEN MILSTEIN SELLERS & TOLL, PLLC
1100 New York Avenue, N.W., Fifth Floor
Washington, D.C. 20005
Fax: (202) 408-4699

DEFENDANTS’ COUNSEL:

René Thorne
Charles F. Seemann III
JACKSON LEWIS P.C.
650 Poydras Street, Suite 1900
New Orleans, LA 70130
Fax: (504) 208-1759

Sarah Gasperini
JACKSON LEWIS P.C.
150 N Michigan Ave
Suite 2500
Chicago, IL 60601
Fax: (312) 787-4995

UNLESS OTHERWISE ORDERED BY THE COURT, ANY MEMBER OF THE SETTLEMENT CLASS WHO DOES NOT OBJECT IN THE MANNER DESCRIBED HEREIN WILL BE DEEMED TO HAVE WAIVED ANY OBJECTION AND SHALL BE FOREVER FORECLOSED FROM MAKING ANY OBJECTION TO THE PROPOSED SETTLEMENT AND THE APPLICATION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND EXPENSES AND INCENTIVE AWARDS TO NAMED PLAINTIFFS.

Q: When and where will the Court decide whether to approve the Settlement?

The Court will hold a Fairness Hearing at 9:00 a.m. on August 14, 2019, at the United States District Court for the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 219 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60604, Courtroom 1425.

IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO OBJECT TO THE PROPOSED SETTLEMENT OR THE APPLICATION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND EXPENSES AND INCENTIVE AWARDS TO NAMED PLAINTIFFS, YOU NEED NOT ATTEND THE FAIRNESS HEARING.

At the Fairness Hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. If there are objections, the Court will consider them. After the Fairness Hearing, the Court will decide whether to approve the Settlement. The Court will also rule on the motion for attorneys’ fees and expenses and incentive awards to Named Plaintiffs. We do not know how long these decisions will take.

Q: Do I have to come to the hearing?

Class Counsel will answer questions Judge Coleman may have. You are welcome to come at your own expense. If you send an objection, you do not have to come to Court to talk about it. As long as you mailed your written objection on time, it will be before the Court when the Court considers whether to approve the Settlement as fair, reasonable and adequate. You may also have your own lawyer attend the Fairness Hearing at your expense, but such attendance is not necessary.

Q: May I speak at the hearing? 

If you are a member of the Settlement Class and you have filed a timely objection, you may ask the Court for permission to speak at the Fairness Hearing. To do so, you must send a letter or other paper called a “Notice of Intention to Appear at Fairness Hearing in Owens, et al. v. St. Anthony Medical Center, et al., Case No. 14-cv-4068-SJC.” Be sure to include your name, address, telephone number, and your signature. Your Notice of Intention to Appear must be served on the attorneys listed above, postmarked and mailed or sent via facsimile no later than July 17, 2019, and must be filed with the Clerk of the Court, postmarked no later than July 17, 2019.

The Fairness Hearing may be delayed by the Court without further notice to the Settlement Class. If you wish to attend the Fairness Hearing, you should confirm the date and time with a member of Class Counsel.

Q: What happens if I do nothing at all?

If you do nothing and you are a Settlement Class Member, you will participate in the Settlement as described above in this Class Notice if the Settlement is approved.

Contact

If you are a Settlement Class Member and you have questions regarding the Settlement, please contact Class Counsel at (888) 347-4600.

Please do not contact the Court. The Court personnel will not be able to answer your questions.