Area firm obtains $39 million settlement in class action case

Bradley Schram, president of Hertz Schram PC, a Bloomfield Hills-based law firm, announced last week that the firm obtained a landmark settlement of more than $39 million on behalf of disabled retirees of the Carpenters Pension Trust Fund – Detroit and Vicinity Pension Plan. The settlement recovers more than $15 million in back benefits and more than $24 million in future benefits.

“We are pleased to have represented participants of the plan who suffered financial hardship due to the cut in their benefits,” said Schram. “Our pension lawyers are vigilant in their efforts to secure better remedies for pension plan participants who have suffered a monetary loss because of a violation of the pension laws.”

The Detroit and Vicinity Pension Plan, a multi-employer pension plan subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), dramatically reduced the class members’ Disability Retirement Benefits (DRB) by an average of more than 61 percent and threatened total elimination of their DRB, according to Schram.

The 324 plaintiffs, most of whom reside in the Detroit area, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, contending that an August 2013 plan amendment that reduced their DRB was unlawful under both the plan’s terms and the Pension Protection Act of 2006.

“This was an egregious breach of stewardship by the trustees of the plan,” said Eva Cantarella, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney from Hertz Schram. “This ruling is significant not only because it restores benefits to these disabled retirees, but also in its potential impact to protect the benefits of disabled retirees nationwide.”

After a fairness hearing in which class members and Hertz Schram attorneys Cantarella and Robert Geller testified, U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Michelson granted approval of the settlement. Distributions to class members commenced March 23.

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