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Judge denies motion to dismiss lawsuit against St. Clare's Corporation

Emily Burkhard
Created: July 15, 2020 11:28 PM

SCHENECTADY - Good news for over 1,100 former employees of St. Clare's Hospital in Schenectady; a judge denied motions to dismiss the lawsuit they filed against the people controlled their pension fund on Wednesday.

Attorneys for St. Clare's Corporation, tried to get the suit thrown out. They claim it was filed outside of the statute of limitations and that they had the right to terminate the contract at any time, but Judge Vincent Versaci denied all motions to dismiss the case.

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"We are not there yet, but we certainly have made some big strides,” co-chair of the St. Clare’s Pensioners Committee Mary Hartshorne said.

Hartshorne and the 172 other former St. Clare's Hospital employees were thrilled to hear that their lawsuit will continue to move forward.

The suit names St. Clare's Corporation, the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger and Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard as defendants.

“I think what will happen is we are finally going to get some answers as to how and why this happened in the first place,” Hartshorne said.

The defense argued the suit was filed outside of the 6-year statute of limitations from when the breach of contract occurred and that they had the right to terminate the contract at any time for any reason.

Judge Vincent Versaci's ruling said the contract states none of those changes can reduce benefits employees had already accrued. Meaning if the plan is terminated, pensioners still get 100 percent of the benefits they have earned up to that time.

He also sided with plaintiffs, saying that the breach occurred in 2019 when the payments were stopped or reduced, not in 2008 when the fund was found to be about $47 million dollars short as the defense claimed.

Victoria Esposito is one of the attorneys representing pensioners in this case. She spoke with NewsChannel 13 about the next steps Wednesday afternoon.

"This is a complex issue we have I think 172 plaintiffs so there's a lot to rope in, a pension is not something that you can just figure out,” Esposito said. “We need to go about finding experts and that nature of things so I would think it's going to take a little bit of time. But the first step is sitting down and deciding what a reasonable timeframe is for everyone involved."

Hartshorne said she has dealt with her fair share of naysayers who discouraged legal action. She said this ruling is proof positivity and persistence goes a long way.

"We believe in miracles and it looks to us like we've already gotten some of those small miracles so far,” Hartshorne said. “So the bottom line is don't give up, keep trying, keep taking care of each other and good things happen."

The defense now has 30 days to answer questions posed in the amended complaint.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates.


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