Judge approves SRHS class action settlement

Judge approves SRHS class action settlement

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A federal judge has signed off on a class action settlement between Singing River Health System and its retirees, calling the settlement "fair, reasonable, and adequate."

In Thursday's ruling, Judge Louis Guirola said the settlement "provides the best hope of providing continuing benefits to current and future SRHS retirees."

The $150 million settlement, paid over 35 years, would give retirees 100 percent of the money they're owed and shore up the plan moving forward. Some key points include:

  • SRHS must deposit $149,950,000 into the retirement trust pursuant to a 35-year schedule. This payment will fully compensate the Plan for the 2009 through 2014 missed contributions.
  • Jackson County agreed to pay $13,600,000 to SRHS to support the indigent care and principally to prevent default on a bond issue by supporting the operations of SRHS in nine installments between now and 9/30/24.
  • SRHS will pay attorneys’ fees and expenses.
  • The Plan will be monitored by Stephen Simpson, the special fiduciary appointed by Jackson County Chancery Court to oversee the Plan.  He will receive quarterly reports from SRHS. He’ll give quarterly reports to Chancery Court.
  • The proposed settlement provides Plan-wide relief.  No specific monetary damages are awarded to any individual. The objectors' arguments that the proposed settlement will not treat class members equally are therefore without merit.

SRHS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Holland released this statement Thursday afternoon:

We are very pleased with Judge Guirola's ruling that the proposed settlement of the Singing River Health System pension plan is appropriate and should now move forward. This has been a long and very difficult process that required a great deal of work from all parties concerned. Now the over 3,100 individuals who are members of the pension plan will know that their benefits will continue into the future. We are pleased that we can begin the process of closure for this matter, and we commend all who worked diligently to help bring it to this point. All through the process, it has been the goal and intention of Singing River Health System to bring a satisfactory conclusion to the retirement benefit situation for all concerned, and we are comfortable that today's court ruling has done that.

This pension battle has been brewing since 2014 when SRHS administrators revealed that the hospital had stopped contributing to its employees retirement fund since 2009.

Since the Singing River Hospital System is the primary health care provider in Jackson County, Judge Guirola wrote in his ruling that "it 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."

He said the court found no evidence that the settlement is the product of fraud or collusion.

"The parties have achieved the best result that could be expected given the difficult circumstances and poor alternatives."

Plaintiffs attorney Jim Reeves helped engineer the deal, and said he's proud of it.

"We think this is a very good day for all the pension members," Reeves told WLOX News Now. "This should allow us to get this ugly chapter of coast history behind us. It should allow the pension plan to be funded again shortly."

Reeves also thanked all the people involved, saying he knows it has been a huge undertaking.

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