The parties in an eleven-year class action lawsuit in the Massachusetts Suffolk Superior Court announced that they had reached a proposed settlement and that notice of the settlement is being sent out tomorrow to certain policyholders of The Savings Bank Life Insurance Company of Massachusetts, also known as SBLI, who are members of the Class. A website dedicated to the proposed settlement is also being launched tomorrow at www.SBLISETTLEMENT.com where additional information is available.
Judge Margaret Hinkle preliminarily approved the proposed settlement of a class action lawsuit between SBLI and the court-certified class of certain of its policyholders, and directed that legal notice be sent to those Class members by March 5, 2010. The settlement, which must receive final court approval after a fairness hearing scheduled for May 20, 2010, would resolve a lawsuit that began in May 1998 and involved claims by the plaintiff-policyholders that SBLI had underpaid annual dividends on their policies as well as Special Dividends required as a result of SBLI's 1992 reorganization. SBLI has denied the allegations from the outset, maintaining in the litigation that it paid dividends consistent with all its legal requirements. The settlement contains no admission of liability by SBLI.
The plaintiffs and SBLI agreed to settle this lawsuit for $18,675,330 plus the costs of noticing and administering the settlement. A Settlement Fund was created containing $15,000,000, which is in addition to the $3,675,330 already paid in 2005 to a subset - called a Subclass - of policyholders in the case. After the payment of attorneys' fees and expenses to plaintiffs' class counsel in an amount to be determined by the Court, the remainder of the Settlement Fund will be used to pay, on a pro rata basis, settlement dividends to the owners of the approximately 515,000 policies in the Class. Current and former policyholders in the Class who receive notice will be sent their Settlement payments without having to file a claim form, but former policyholders may need to update their address.
"We are glad to have resolved this case with these substantial benefits to the Class after nearly 12 years of heavily-fought litigation," said Jason B. Adkins, plaintiffs' lead counsel from the Boston law firm of Adkins, Kelston & Zavez, P.C.
SBLI President and CEO Robert K. Sheridan said, "We are pleased to be able to resolve the litigation in a mutually acceptable fashion that is in the best interests of our policyholders and the Company."
The policyholders entitled to receive a settlement dividend under prior Court rulings are limited to owners (or their beneficiaries or eligible heirs) of (a) policies in effect during the period from December 31, 2000 to December 31, 2002 that paid dividends (the "Main Class"), or (b) policies issued prior to 1992 that were entitled to Special Dividends as the result of SBLI's reorganization in 1992 (the "Subclass"). Such persons should look for a settlement notice in the mail next week to learn more about the settlement and their rights and interests, and to ensure that the Settlement Administrator has their correct address. Excluded from the Class are policies that were not entitled to receive dividends or were not in effect during the relevant time periods. SBLI and its legal representatives, shareholders, directors, officers, successors-in-interest and assigns, are also excluded from the Class.
The Main Class members will be entitled to receive a minimum of five dollars ($5.00) per eligible policy, but may receive more depending on the amount of calculated annual dividends deemed to have been paid on such policies in 2001. Those Subclass members who did not already receive a portion of the $3,675,330 payment made in 2005 will be entitled to receive a settlement dividend, that is based on the pro rata share of their previously paid Special Dividends. Many members of the Class are members of both the Main Class and the Subclass.
Where a Class member has died, the policy beneficiary is eligible to receive the Settlement payment, or where there is no known living beneficiary who has timely filed a claim, the heirs may do so. Beneficiaries and eligible heirs will be required to submit a brief "Affidavit of Beneficiary or Heir" (where the settlement dividend is likely to exceed a threshold amount, a Proof of Claim form by beneficiaries or heirs may be required). No claim forms are required of the Members of the Class.
All Class Member inquiries or change of address information should be directed to the Settlement Administrator toll-free at 1-800-254-7328 or by visiting www.SBLISETTLEMENT.com and should not be made to the Court or SBLI.
SBLI is a registered trademark of The Savings Bank Life Insurance Company of Massachusetts, which is in no way affiliated with SBLI USA Mutual Life Insurance Company, Inc.