Jones et al v. Singing River Health Services Foundation et al
ORDER denying 344 Motion Lift Stay; denying 345 Motion Lift Stay Signed by District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr on 11/15/2017 (Guirola, Louis)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
THOMAS JONES, et al., on
behalf of themselves and
others similarly situated
CAUSE NO. 1:14CV447-LG-RHW
CONSOLIDATED WITH 1:15CV1-LG-RHW
CONSOLIDATED WITH 1:15CV44-LG-RHW
SINGING RIVER HEALTH
SYSTEM, et al.
ORDER DENYING OBJECTORS’ MOTIONS TO LIFT
STAY FOR THE PURPOSE OF OBTAINING DISCOVERY
BEFORE THE COURT are the Motions [344, 345] to Lift Stay for the
Purposes of Obtaining Discovery and to Take Depositions filed by the Objectors to
the proposed class settlement in this matter. The Motions have been fully briefed.
After reviewing the Motions, the record in this matter, and the applicable law, the
Court finds that both Motions should be denied.
These consolidated class action lawsuits arose out of the alleged
underfunding of the Singing River Health System Employees= Retirement Plan and
Trust. On June 28, 2016, this Court entered an Amended Order and Final
Judgment  approving the class action settlement in this matter. On July 27,
2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit entered an opinion
vacating and remanding this Court’s Order and Final Judgment  approving the
settlement. Jones v. Singing River Health Servs. Found., 865 F.3d 285, 303 (5th
Cir. 2017). The Fifth Circuit did “not hold that the settlement should not be
approved, or cannot be approved as modified.” Id. The Fifth Circuit instructed this
Court to consider the following issues on remand:
1. How, and how much, the future stream of SRHS’s payments into the
Plan, together with existing Plan assets and prospective earnings, will
intersect with future claims of Plan participants, including, but not
limited to, what effect the Settlement has on current retirees;
2. What are SRHS’s future revenue projections, showing dollar
amounts, assumptions and contingencies, from which a reasonable
conclusion is drawn that SRHS has the financial ability to complete
performance under the settlement;
3. Why any payments from litigation involving KPMG, Transamerica
or related entities are permitted to defray SRHS’s payment obligation
rather than supplement the settlement for the benefit of class
4. Why class counsel’s fees should not be tailored to align with the
uncertainty and risk that class members will bear.
The Objectors ask the Court for permission to conduct discovery regarding
whether Singing River shredded financial documents. They also request production
of various financial records from Singing River and Jackson County, Mississippi, as
well as permission to conduct depositions of the pension plan’s former special
fiduciary, the plan’s current special fiduciary, and all experts who have been
retained in this matter.
In its Opinion, the Fifth Circuit held that this Court did not abuse its
discretion in refusing to allow further testimony concerning whether documents
were shredded. Jones, 865 F.3d at 301. The Fifth Circuit also noted that nearly
two hundred thousand pages of financial information had been produced in
discovery. Id. It held that the Objectors had not demonstrated that there were any
discovery violations and it did not suggest that additional discovery was necessary.
This Court instructed the parties to the settlement to produce supplemental
memoranda addressing the issues delineated by the Fifth Circuit. Singing River
has produced updated financial documentation, and the Jones plaintiffs have
produced an updated expert report concerning Singing River’s finances. This Court
has also ordered the parties to provide supplemental notice to the class, and it has
scheduled a supplemental fairness hearing. After reviewing the updated financial
documentation produced by the parties, the Court finds that additional discovery is
unnecessary. As a result, the Objectors’ Motion is denied.
IT IS, FURTHER, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Motions [344,
345] to Lift Stay for the Purposes of Obtaining Discovery and to Take Depositions
filed by the Objectors are DENIED.
SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED this the 15th day of November, 2017.
Louis Guirola, Jr.
LOUIS GUIROLA, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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