Summary of the Lawsuit

This lawsuit alleges that the non-profit healthcare system Catholic Health Initiatives (“CHI”) improperly claims that its pension plans qualify as “Church Plans” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). In operating its plans as “Church Plans,” CHI does not comply with many protections afforded to pension beneficiaries under ERISA.  The lawsuit seeks to compel CHI’s pension plans to fully comply with ERISA.

Summary of the Claims

The Complaint alleges that CHI is violating numerous provisions of ERISA, while wrongfully claiming that the CHI Plans are exempt from ERISA’s protections because they are “Church Plans.” The Complaint alleges that the CHI Plans are not “Church Plans” because CHI is not a church or a convention or association of churches, and because none of the CHI Plans were established by a church or a convention or association of churches.  The Complaint further alleges that Defendants breached their duties under ERISA by, among other things:

  • underfunding the CHI Plans by approximately $892.8 million;
  • failing to furnish Plaintiffs or any member of the class with a Pension Benefit Statement, Summary Annual Reports, Notification of Failure to Meet Minimum Funding, or Funding Notices; and
  • failing to file annual reports with respect to the CHI Plans with the Secretary of Labor.

Class Action

This lawsuit was brought on behalf of the following persons:

All participants and beneficiaries of defined benefit pension plans that are established, maintained, administered, or sponsored by CHI, or by CHI’s committees, and claimed to be “Church Plans” under ERISA. Excluded from the Class are any high-level executives at CHI or any employees who have responsibility or involvement in the administration of the Plans, or who are subsequently determined to be fiduciaries of one or more of the CHI Plans.

Plaintiffs filed an Amended Motion for Class Certification on December 23, 2013. On August 26, 2014, Judge Blackburn denied Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification.

Status of the Litigation

The Complaint was filed on May 10, 2013 in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado and an Amended Complaint on November 22, 2013.  In response, Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint.  Magistrate Judge Mix issued a Report and Recommendation on August 13, 2014 that Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss be granted in part and denied in part. District Judge Blackburn issued an Order on September 30, 2014, that approved and adopted in part, and rejected in part, Judge Mix’s Recommendation. Defendants filed their Answer to Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint on October 21, 2014.

Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on January 29, 2014, asking the Court for an order granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on Count I of the Amended Complaint, declaring that the CHI Plans are not Church Plans within the meaning of ERISA, declaring each of the CHI Plans to be an ERISA-covered pension plan, and ordering the CHI Plans into compliance with ERISA. On July 9, 2014, Magistrate Judge Mix issued a Report and Recommendation that Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment be granted in part and denied in part, including that the Court enter a declaratory judgment that the CHI Plan is not a church plan within the meaning of ERISA, and that the CHI Plan must comply with ERISA. District Judge Blackburn issued an Order on August 26, 2014 rejecting the Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Mix and denying Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Certify that Order for Appeal to the Tenth Circuit, but that Motion was denied on October 27, 2014..

This case is currently set for trial. A Final Pretrial Conference is scheduled for December 18, 2015, with a trial commencing on January 4, 2016.

Whom to Contact for More Information

If you are a member of the proposed class or you have information which might assist us in the prosecution of these allegations, please contact one of the following persons:

Karen L. Handorf, Esq.:
Michelle C. Yau, Esq.:
Maria Dewees, Paralegal
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC
1100 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20005
Telephone:  888-240-0775 (Toll Free) or 202-408-4600