MOBILE, Ala., June 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi has approved a $149,950,000 class action settlement negotiated by attorneys with the law firms of Cunningham Bounds, LLC in Mobile, Alabama and Reeves & Mestayer, LLC in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Court's decision followed a two-day hearing in which the Court heard testimony from witnesses, reviewed documentary evidence, and evaluated the arguments of counsel for all parties. The settlement resolves claims on behalf of more than 3,000 Singing River Health System ("SRHS") employees, retirees, and other plan beneficiaries related to the pension crisis that has been embroiling the hospital for more than a year.
In its 43-page order approving the settlement, the Court found that "[i]t is in the best interest of all – proponents as well as objectors, elected and appointed officials, and importantly, all the citizens of Jackson County, to make every reasonable effort to protect and nurture the hospital system upon which they depend for their critical health care needs." The settlement both restores the missing pension funds and helps to ensure that Jackson County's primary healthcare provider remains economically viable in the future.
In October 2014, SRHS announced that it had not made a contribution to the Singing River Health System Employees' Retirement Plan and Trust ("Trust") since 2009. The law firms of Cunningham Bounds, LLC and Reeves & Mestayer, LLC were the first to file a class action lawsuit seeking recovery of the missed contributions that they alleged SRHS should have been making to the Trust each year. They conducted extensive written discovery, hired experts in forensic accounting, and engaged in rigorous and lengthy negotiations involving more than two dozen attorneys from 12 different law firms before finalizing the terms of the agreement, which then had to be approved by the Court.
Under the settlement, SRHS has agreed to pay $149,950,000 to the Retirement Trust over time. This amount is equivalent to the Plaintiffs' calculation of the present value of the missed contributions that SRHS failed to make to the Trust between 2009 and 2014. Additionally, Jackson County will pay $13,600,000 to SRHS between 2016 and 2024 to support indigent care and principally to prevent default on outstanding bonds. The settlement also provides that a Special Fiduciary, whose sole fiduciary responsibility is to the Trust, will report to the Jackson County Chancery Court on a quarterly basis regarding the financial condition of SRHS, the pension plan, and the status of the repayment schedule. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the pension plan cannot be modified without the approval of the Special Fiduciary and the Jackson County Chancery Court after sixty (60) days' notice to the Class Members and an opportunity for a hearing.
"Within a few days of the pension crisis being made public, Cunningham Bounds began fighting for the hard working employees and retirees of Singing River Health System – and we have aggressively litigated on their behalf ever since. This was an extraordinarily complex case involving more than 150 parallel state court actions, 3 federal class actions, and multiple appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court. We are thrilled that our determined efforts have resulted in the restoration of the six years' of contributions to the pension plan that the Hospital should have made, but didn't until we got involved," said Lucy Tufts, an attorney with Cunningham Bounds.
Steve Nicholas and Lucy Tufts of Cunningham Bounds, LLC and Jim Reeves of Reeves & Mestayer, LLC were appointed by the Court as Class Counsel. Also representing the Plaintiffs in the federal class action lawsuit was Matthew Mestayer of Reeves & Mestayer, LLC.
The law firm of Cunningham Bounds, LLC, founded in 1958, is based in Mobile, Alabama and has been representing plaintiffs for over 50 years. Today the firm continues its tradition of representing victims in cases involving catastrophic personal injury, industrial accidents, defective products, truck and automobile accidents, and medical malpractice. The firm also has expertise in business litigation, complex litigation, and national and state class action litigation involving defective products and consumer fraud.
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SOURCE Cunningham Bounds, LLC