Case Overview

Plaintiffs alleged that SSM Health Care Corp., a Missouri non-profit corporation that operates healthcare facilities in Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, is improperly claiming that its defined benefit pension plans: the Retirement Plan for Employees of SSM Health Care; the Retirement Plan for Employees of Certain Illinois Entities Related to SSM Health Care; and the Retirement Plan for Employees of St. Mary’s Hospital Centralia, Illinois (collectively the “SSM Pension Plans” or the “Plans”) are exempt from the Employee Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), a federal law, pursuant to a statutory exemption intended for “church plans”.

Plaintiffs alleged that the Plans do not meet the various statutory requirements for church plans. Further, Plaintiffs alleged that if the statute exempting church plans did apply to the Plans, the statute would, to that extent, be unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants are violating ERISA by, among other things:

  • failing to furnish Plaintiffs or any member of the proposed Class with Summary Plan Descriptions, Summary Annual Reports, Notifications of Failure to Meet Minimum Funding, or Funding Notices;
  • under-funding the Plans; and
  • failing to file annual reports with respect to the Plans with the Secretary of Labor.

Plaintiffs also alleged, in the alternative, that if the Plans are church plans, then Defendants have violated state law in the operation of the Plans.

The First Amended Complaint was filed on September 6, 2017. The parties entered into a Class Action Settlement Agreement on January 14, 2019. Plaintiffs filed an Unopposed Motion for Preliminary Approval of Settlement Agreement on January 16, 2019. 

Case Status

Judge Henry Edward Autrey granted preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement on January 17, 2019 and entered the amended preliminary approval order on January 18, 2019. Judge Autrey granted final approval of the Settlement, totaling $60 million, at a fairness hearing held on June 6, 2019. An amended final approval order was entered on Juyl 17, 2019.

The case name is: Feather v. SSM Health Care Corp., Case No. 16-1669 (fka Case No. 16-393), United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.