PARKERSBURG - A class-action lawsuit by former St. Joseph's Hospital employees against the hospital's former parent company is expected to be settled, according to the plaintiffs' attorneys.
George Cosenza and Ginny Conley, representing the plaintiffs in the class action suit, announced Saturday a settlement has been reached with Signature Hospital Corporation on the issue of the loss of accrued benefits, with a hearing planned in late March to finalize the proposed settlement.
Last April, Cosenza and Conley filed suit against Signature, the then parent company of St. Joseph's Hospital, alleging Signature, doing business as St. Joseph's Hospital, failed to compensate employees for their accrued sick leave following the hospital's purchase by West Virginia United Health Systems and merger into Camden Clark Medical Center.
The plaintiffs allege 613 former employees were short-changed by Signature. Conley contended the accrued leave ranged from just a few hours to more than 900. She said at least one employee lost 980 hours of banked sick time. In a November filing, the attorneys stated they believe Signature owes their clients in excess of $10.8 million dollars.
In 2010, officials with United Health, Camden-Clark, Signature and St. Joseph's announced a deal to merge the two hospitals into one facility. In January 2011 Signature Hospital Corp. announced its intent to sell its other two hospitals and wind down operations by the end of that year.
On Saturday, Conley announced Signature has agreed to pay $4.7 million dollars to resolve the class action case involving the loss of sick leave benefits. The sick leave is valued at $3.6 million, Conley said.
The settlement proposal has been filed with Wood County Circuit Court and a hearing will be held March 29 to approve the settlement, Conley said.
"The goal of this litigation from the beginning was to get these hardworking and dedicated hospital employees their sick leave pay that they earned during their years at St. Joseph's. We are thrilled the proposed settlement gets them what they deserve," Conley and Cosenza said in a press release Saturday.
Vienna resident Earlene Workman, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said the employees were happy with the proposed settlement and praised the work done by the attorneys.
"I feel it was a fair settlement," Workman said.
"We were reimbursed 100 percent of our sick pay, and that's all we asked for," she said.
The purchase of the St. Joseph's Hospital campus from Signature was an "asset purchase" only, said CCMC spokesman Greg Smith. CCMC was not involved in the lawsuit as a party or participant, he said.
"It included the physical structures only," Smith said of the purchase. "It did not include benefits."
Smith added that when CCMC hired the St. Joseph employees, they were put under the CCMC benefit plan.