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Mercy (fka Sisters of Mercy Health System)

Sanzone v. Mercy Health 
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
Case No. 16-923

Case Overview

Plaintiffs allege that Mercy Health (“Mercy”), a non-profit healthcare conglomerate based in St. Louis, Missouri and operating healthcare facilities in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas, is improperly claiming that its defined benefit pension plan, the Retirement Plan for Employees of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, St. Louis (also known as the Personal Pension Account Plan), is exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), a federal law regulating pension plans. Mercy claims that it need not comply with ERISA because of a statutory exemption for a “church plan.”

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

Plaintiffs allege 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 Plan; and
  • failing to file annual reports with respect to the Plan with the Secretary of Labor.

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

Case Status

The Complaint was initially filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. On June 21, 2016, the case was transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and on August 4, 2016 the Court appointed Ron Kilgard of Keller Rohrback L.L.P. and Karen Handorf of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC, as interim co-lead counsel. The Consolidated Second Amended Class Action Complaint was filed on August 23, 2017. Judge Catherine D. Perry granted Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Consolidated Second Amended Class Action Complaint on August 27, 2018, and the case was dismissed without prejudice. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued an opinion in this case on March 27, 2020.

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