PARKERSBURG – Plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against a Wood County hospital are asking they be awarded more than $10 million for lost benefits, and the hospital's former parent company put its remaining hospitals currently on the auction block up as collateral.

Last year, nine former St. Joseph's Hospital employees -- Carole S. Caplinger, Carol S. Dearman, Earlene Workman, Mark Workman, Beverly J. Flanagan, Mary Kathleen Moore, Ed Rardin, Shannon M. Nelson and K.C. Stalnaker -- filed suit alleging they and their co-workers were not paid their accumulated sick leave following their termination from St. Joseph's prior to its merger with Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital.

The two officially became Camden-Clark Medical Center on March 1, and is now an affiliate of West Virginia United Health System. Prior to the merger, St. Joseph's was owned by the Houston, Texas-based Signature Hospital Corporation, which is named as a co-defendant in the suit.

In April, Wood Circuit Judge Robert A. Waters granted a motion by the employees' attorneys, Ginny A. Conley and George Cosenza, to give the suit class-action status so as to enable the remaining St. Joseph's employees the ability to become a party to it, and share in any proceeds. Records show, between 630 and 700 people are potential plaintiffs in the suit.

In a filing made Nov. 16, Conley and Cosenza put a dollar amount they believe Signature owns their clients. They maintain all members of the class "are entitled to recover in excess of $10,800,000, plus attorneys' fees and costs."

The dollar figure quoted came as part of a petition Conley and Cosenza made for an order of attachment. Believing Signature does have $10 million, they asked Waters to "order a prejudgment attachment to any assets or property necessary to secure the expected recovery in this action until the litigation is completed."

Specifically, they asked the attachment be made to the two remaining hospitals it owns in Texas, the Gulf Coast Medical Center in Wharton, and the Pampa Regional Medical Center. The petition came following a deposition taken of Steve Peterson, Signature's chief financial officer, and one if its general partners, that the company had intentions of selling the two facilities and possible suitors, but no firm commitments.

In a response dated Nov. 23, Peterson asked that Waters deny Conley and Cosenza's petition. In his response, he said an attachment would not only interfere with Signature's ability to sell the hospitals, but also "would result in substantial damage and undermine even what the Plaintiffs want to do in this case."

As of presstime, Waters had yet to rule on the petition. Trial in the case is scheduled to begin Monday, Jan. 30.

Wood Circuit Court case number 11-C-98

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