St. John Health System will pay $13.6 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that the seven-hospital Ascension Health subsidiary conspired with several of its Detroit-area competitors to depress nurse wages. The settlement, which is subject to court approval, is the second stemming from lawsuits backed by the Service Employees International Union targeting hospitals and systems in Albany, N.Y.; Chicago; Detroit; Memphis, Tenn.; and San Antonio.
St. John Health believes it acted appropriately and lawfully, and strongly denies the allegations in the lawsuit, including the allegation that nurse wages have been adversely affected, but agreed to settle to avoid further expense, inconvenience, and the distraction of protracted litigation, St. John said in a written statement.
The lawsuits, filed in 2006, alleged that the hospitals and systems violated federal antitrust law by sharing wage data in a scheme to prevent competition for nurses from driving up what hospitals would have to pay to recruit and retain them. With St. John settling, there are seven remaining defendants in the Detroit lawsuit. Earlier in March, two-hospital Northeast Health, Troy, N.Y., agreed to pay $1.25 million under a proposed settlement while, like St. John, vigorously denying the alleged conduct.