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Jones v. Singing River Health Services Foundation

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

June 5, 2015

THOMAS JONES, JOSEPH CHARLES LOHFINK, SUE BEAVERS, RODOLFOA REL, and HAZEL REED THOMAS, on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated PLAINTIFFS
v.
SINGING RIVER HEALTH SERVICES FOUNDATION, et al. DEFENDANTS and REGINA COBB, SUSAN CREEL, and PHYLLIS DENMARK, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated PLAINTIFFS
v.
SINGING RIVER HEALTH SYSTEM, et al. DEFENDANTS and MARTHA EZELL LOWE, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated employees PLAINTIFFS
v.
SINGING RIVER HEALTH SYSTEM, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER CONCERNING THE PLAINTIFFS' MOTIONS TO CONSOLIDATE ACTIONS AND APPOINT LEAD COUNSEL

          LOUIS GUIROLA, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT are the following Motions filed in cause number 1:14cv447-LG-RHW: (1) the Motion [44] for a Stay of Claims or, in the alternative, to Consolidate Actions and Appoint James R. Reeves, Jr., as Interim Lead Counsel filed by Thomas Jones, Joseph Charles Lohfink, Sue Beavers, Rodolfoa Rel, and Hazel Reed Thomas (hereafter collectively referred to as “the Jones plaintiffs”); and (2) the Motion [46] to Consolidate Actions and Appoint Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC, as Interim Lead Counsel and the Law Offices of Dustin Thomas as Interim Liaison Counsel filed by Regina Cobb, Susan Creel, and Phyllis Denmark (hereafter collectively referred to as “the Cobb plaintiffs”). Also before the court is the Motion [22] to Consolidate Actions and Appoint Interim Lead Counsel and Liaison Counsel filed by the Cobb plaintiffs in cause number 1:15cv1-LG-RHW. The Motions have been fully briefed by the parties.

         After reviewing the submissions of the parties, the record in this matter, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion for a Stay filed by the Jones plaintiffs and the Motion to Appoint Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC, as Interim Lead Counsel and the Law Offices of Dustin Thomas as Interim Liaison Counsel filed by the Cobb plaintiffs should be denied. The Court further finds that the Motions to Consolidate Actions and the Motion to Appoint James R. Reeves, Jr., as Interim Lead Counsel should be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Three putative class action lawsuits - Jones, Cobb, and Lowe - have been filed as a result of the alleged under-funding of the Singing River Health System Employees' Retirement Plan and Trust.

         I. The Jones Lawsuit

         The Jones plaintiffs filed their original Complaint on December 11, 2014. They later filed two amended complaints. The Second Amended Complaint names the following defendants:

Singing River Health Services Foundation, Singing River Health System Foundation, Singing River Hospital System Foundation, Inc., Singing River Hospital System Employee Benefit Fund, Inc., Singing River Hospital System, Transamerica Retirement Solutions Corporation, KPMG, LLP, Singing River Health System, Michael J. Heidelberg, Michael D. Tolleson, Tommy Leonard, Lawrence H. Cosper, Morris G. Strickland, Ira Polk, Stephen Nunenmacher, Hugo Quintana, Allen Cronier, Martin Bydalek, William Descher, Joseph Vice, Eric Washington, Marva Fairley-Tanner, Gary C. Anderson, Stephanie Barnes Taylor, Michael Crews, and Paul Grayson Carter, Jr.

(Jones 2d Am. Compl., ECF No. 76). The Jones plaintiffs bring their lawsuit on behalf of themselves and the following class:

Any and all current and former employees of Singing River Health System hired full time before October 1, 2011, who contributed to the Plan and who, by law and/or contract, were entitled to receive contributions paid by their employer, but who did not. Excluded from the Class are fiduciaries of the Plan, including the individual Defendants.

(Jones 2d Am. Compl., ECF No. 76). The Jones plaintiffs attempt to assert the following claims: Contracts clause claims filed pursuant to the United States Constitution and Mississippi Constitution; Takings Clause claims filed pursuant to the United States Constitution and Mississippi Constitution; Section 1983 claims filed against the individual defendants in their official capacities; a breach of contract claim; an accounting claim; a declaratory judgment claim; a claim for injunctive relief; claims of fraud, intentional fraudulent misrepresentation, and deceit filed against KPMG, Transamerica, and the individual defendants in their individual capacities; claims filed pursuant to ERISA; a breach of fiduciary duty claim; a claim for specific performance; a constructive trust claim; a claim filed pursuant to the Mississippi Uniform Trust Code; an equitable estoppel claim; a promissory estoppel claim; a Section 1983 conspiracy claim against KPMG, Transamerica, and the individual defendants in their official capacities; and negligence and professional malpractice claims filed against KPMG and Transamerica. On May 7, 2015, the Jones plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the following defendants: Hugo Quintana, Stephen Nunenmacher, Martin Bydalek, William Descher, Joseph Vice, and Eric Washington.

         II. The Cobb Lawsuit

         On January 5, 2015, the Cobb plaintiffs filed their lawsuit against the following defendants:

Singing River Health System, the Board of Trustees for the Singing River Health System, Michael J. Heidelberg, Michael D. Tolleson, Allen L. Cronier, Tommy L. Leonard, Lawrence H. Cosper, Morris G. Strickland, Ira S. Polk, Stephen Nunenmacher, Hugo Quintana, Marva Fairley-Tanner, William S. Descher, Joseph P. ...

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