NEW ORLEANS, LA (WLOX) - The embattled Singing River Health System retirement plan was back in court Thursday, as arguments were heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Attorneys representing more than 200 Singing River retirees say the $150 million settlement approved in federal court last year is unfair to their clients. They say those clients should be allowed to "opt out" of the settlement and take their chances with lawsuits.
Attorneys representing the 240 retirees found some sympathetic ears on the three judge appeals panel. =One judge remarked, "It concerns me the pensioner doesn't have any idea what they're going to get out of this."
Another said in court that the settlement reminded her of similar deals in bankruptcy court, where 70 percent of the settlements fail in five years.
"Let us take our people out, let us opt out and try and get the money for them. That's what the jury system is all about and they're trying to preclude that. My people are willing to gamble that Mr. Denham and I can do better than what they're doing in that settlement, and I believe that we can," said attorney, Harvey Barton.
About 20 retirees made the trip to New Orleans to sit in on the court proceedings. Gloria Hall says it's her money at stake. She walked three miles to work during her three decades at the hospital.
"Thirty one years I walked to Singing River. I cleaned rooms. I cleaned all types of rooms. I cleaned OB, surgery rooms, I cleaned it," said Hall.
Attorneys representing Singing River Health System say they believe the settlement is a fair one.
"We are covering 100 percent of the unfunded monies to the pension plan," said attorney Lucy Tufts during her arguments in court. "What better could they do, if it went to trial?"
"Harvey and I just want to get back in the courtroom and start scrambling around and try to find these people some money to supplement their income. Some people just don't have anything else," added attorney Earl Denham.
Retirees say they're prepared to take the issue to the supreme court if needed.
"We are; because I'm fighting for justice. And when justice is involved, you go as high as you need to," said Aguilar.
There was no word on when the appeals court might issue its ruling.