St. Anthony Medical Center & Franciscan Sisters

Owens v. St. Anthony Medical Center, Inc. (“SAMC”) 
United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Case No. 14-4068

Case Overview

Plaintiffs allege that St. Anthony Medical Center, The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago Service Corporation, Franciscan Alliance, Inc., and the individual and Committee Defendants are improperly claiming that its defined benefit pension plan, the St. Anthony Medical Center Retirement Plan (the “St. Anthony Plan” or “Plan”), was exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), a federal law, pursuant to a statutory exemption intended for “church plans.”

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants claimed that the St. Anthony Plan was a “church plan” and thus was not subject to ERISA regulation so they could cut back retirement benefits for Plan participants by 30-40%. Participants in the Plan who had been receiving monthly annuities were abruptly informed in May 2012 that their benefits were being cut.

Plaintiffs allege that the Plan did not meet the various statutory requirements for a church plan. Further, Plaintiffs allege that if the statute exempting church plans did apply to the Plan, the statute would, to that extent, be unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated ERISA, by, among other things:

  • underfunding Plan
  • failing to terminate the Plan in compliance with ERISA (ERISA prohibits termination of plans with insufficient assets);
  • cutting back benefits by up to 40% when the St. Anthony Plan was purportedly terminated.

Plaintiffs also allege, in the alternative, that if the Plan was a church plan, then Defendants have violated state law in the operation of the Plan.

Case Status

The Third Amended Complaint was filed on December 4, 2017. The Court denied in part and granted in part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss on September 29, 2018. Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Class Certification and Appointment of Class Counsel on November 1, 2018.

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