Attorney for retirees considers appeal of federal judge ruling in SRHS case

Attorney for retirees considers appeal of federal judge ruling in SRHS case

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Federal Court Judge Louis Guirola gave the thumbs up to a class action lawsuit settlement for Singing River Health System retirees on Thursday.

The $150 million settlement will be paid over 35 years, and will give retirees 100 percent of the money they are owed between 2009 and 2014; as well as shore up the plan going forward.

But, some say there are no guarantees. SRHS retirees have been battling for their pension plan for a year and a half, and many aren't ready to stop.

"I don't give up," said retiree Irby Tillman. "But, it's according to what the group wants to do. It's according to what our lawyers want us to do. To me, it's not fair when 17 people can speak for 3,000 people."

Tillman retired in 2005 after 24 years with Singing River. He doesn't believe anyone is being held responsible for putting retirees in the situation in the first place.

"You wouldn't buy a car without a guarantee on it; you just wouldn't do it. Nobody's guaranteeing this settlement."

Attorney Harvey Barton is upset that the settlement releases both Singing River Health System administrators and Jackson County officials from liability. As a result, lawsuits for his retiree clients in Jackson County Circuit Court have been weakened.

"With Jackson County remaining as a viable defendant, we would have been happy with that outcome," Barton said. "They're the only ones with pockets deep enough to make this plan viable."

Attorney Jim Reeves helped create the deal.

"Now, about half dozen federal or state court judges, or former judges, have looked at this," Reeves said. "It's been looked at angles by about 23 different attorneys. This is a great deal for the pension plan members, and it's not going to get any better."

However, Barton isn't quitting. The attorney is considering appealing the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"After this fairness hearing the clients were asking me at what stage of the proceedings are were in," Barton said. "And my comment was we're at the end of the beginning."

In a press release, Singing River CEO Kevin Holland says he was pleased with the ruling and that the pension plan is appropriate and should move forward.

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