Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Fund

Frequently Asked Questions

New or revised FAQs and answers may be posted from time to time, depending on the inquiries we receive.

The Lawsuit

Paul Sniadach and others filed this lawsuit against Bennett Walsh, David Clinton, Vanessa Lauziere, Celeste Surreira, Francisco Ureña, and Marylou Sudders (“Defendants”), due to the outbreak of COVID-19 that occurred at the Soldiers’ Home in March 2020.

The lawsuit alleges that the Defendants’ actions resulted in more than 160 veterans who were living at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home unnecessarily contracting COVID-19 and suffering as a result, which the complaint alleges was a violation of the veterans’ constitutional rights. The Defendants deny any liability.

This lawsuit was brought as a class action because the claims of the “class representatives” are similar to the claims of other similarly situated individuals or estates. All of these people together constitute a “Class” and members of the Class are referred to as “Settlement Class Members.” If approved by the Court, the proposed Settlement would resolve the claims of all Settlement Class Members.

Parties settle lawsuits to avoid the time, risk, expense, and anguish associated with litigation.

In this case, as a matter of law, the risks of proceeding with litigation are high for the plaintiffs because (1) the Defendants have a number of defenses available to them that could prevent the plaintiffs from ever proceeding to trial, (2) even if the plaintiffs managed to proceed to and prevail at trial, the individual Defendants would not be able to pay any verdict secured at trial, and (3) Massachusetts indemnification laws could prevent the plaintiffs from recovering any monies from the Commonwealth that might be awarded to them at trial.

The proposed settlement avoids these risks of litigation and ensures that Participating Class Members will obtain a payment in settlement of the claims raised in the lawsuit.

You qualify as a class member if you, a veteran under your care, or a veteran’s estate for whom you are identified as the next of kin qualify as a member of the Settlement Class. This Settlement resolves claims on behalf of two Settlement Classes:

Settlement Class A: Any veteran, or estate of a deceased veteran, who was living at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home at any time between March 1, 2020 and June 23, 2020, who (i) tested positive for COVID during that same period and (ii) did not die prior to June 23, 2020.

Settlement Class B: Any estate of a veteran who was living at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home at any time between March 1, 2020 and June 23, 2020, who died between March 1, 2020 and June 23, 2020, and who either (i) had tested positive for COVID-19 in the last COVID-19 test administered to the veteran prior to his or her death, or (ii) had Coronavirus listed as one cause of death on his or her death certificate, or (iii) had previously tested positive for COVID-19 but not in the last COVID-19 test administered to the veteran prior to his or her death and had a cause of death similar to Coronavirus listed as one cause of death on his or her death certificate, and/or (iv) is a named plaintiff in the Second Amended Complaint, in the above entitled lawsuit.

Class Counsel are the attorneys who were appointed by the court to represent the Settlement Class Members in the class action lawsuit. 

They are:  

 Thomas Lesser, Esq. 

lesser@LNN-law.com 

Michael Aleo, Esq. 

aleo@LNN-law.com 

413-584-7331 (tel) 

413-586-7076 (fax)

No. Consulting with Class Counsel will not cost you money. Class Counsel are being paid separately out of settlement funds. Their fees will not affect the amount of money available for your claim or anybody else’s claims.

Payment

Payments will be made out of the $56 million Global Settlement Amount. The amounts that will be paid to members of each Settlement Class are described below. The payment of attorney fees will not reduce these payment amounts.

Settlement Class A: Members of Settlement Class A will receive an average payment of $20,000. Members of Settlement Class A will receive a minimum of $10,000. The Claims Administrator will have the discretion to award additional amounts based on the information you provide as part of the claims Questionnaire, but not more than the minimum amount available to members of Settlement Class B, which is $400,000. Some payments will be above the average; some will be below. But none will be less than the minimum.

Settlement Class B: Members of Settlement Class B will receive an average payment of $510,000. Members of Settlement Class B will receive a minimum of $400,000. The Claims Administrator will have the discretion to award additional amounts based on the information you provide as part of the claims Questionnaire. Some payments will be above the average; some will be below. But none will be less than the minimum.

The Claims Administrator has the sole discretion to award additional funds above and beyond the minimum amounts described above. When deciding how to allocate the discretionary amounts, the Claims Administrator will consider: the veteran’s age at death, the severity and duration of the veteran’s suffering, any future earnings and support the veteran would have provided to others, the frequency of contact the veteran had with family members and other loved ones, and other information that you share about the veteran.

Presuming that the court approves the settlement as a whole, the Claims Administrator has the sole discretion to award additional funds above and beyond the minimum amounts described above.

The only monies that would reduce the payments to you would include any liens on file from governmental agencies or private third-parties, estate taxes owed, or costs incurred by Class Counsel that were specific to your individual case. These will be determined by the parties, not by the Claims Administrator.

The attorneys representing the class, referred to as Class Counsel, will be paid approximately 19.875% of the total Global Settlement Amount, if Class Counsel’s fee application is approved by the Court. However, the fees paid to the attorneys will not reduce the amount of money available to be paid to the Class Members as described above.

It is expected that the Court should decide whether to grant final approval of the Settlement by the middle of November, 2022. If the Court grants final approval of the Settlement by then and there are no appeals of that final approval, then payments are expected to be made before the end of 2022.

Submitting a claim

To confirm you want to participate in the Settlement, you must fill out and submit the Claim Form and Release to the Claims Administrator as soon as possible, but in any event so that it is received by the Claims Administrator no later than August 16, 2022.

IF YOU DO NOT SUBMIT THE CLAIM FORM AND RELEASE BY THE DEADLINE, YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE ANY COMPENSATION.

In order to be paid more than the minimum amount described above, you must also fill out and return to the Claims Administrator the Questionnaire, in addition to your Claim Form and Release.

If you choose, you will also have the opportunity to speak with the Claims Administrator or his staff.

When deciding how to allocate the discretionary amounts, the Claims Administrator will consider: the veteran’s age at death, the severity and duration of the veteran’s suffering, any future earnings and support the veteran would have provided to others, the frequency of contact the veteran had with family members and other loved ones, and other information that you share about the veteran.

The Questionnaire identifies the types of information you should consider sending the Claims Administrator to make your claim. In addition to a narrative statement, it would also be helpful to provide documents that support the claim for additional compensation above the minimum amount. For example, while a summary of a veteran’s anticipated future income or financial support to loved ones would be helpful, it would be even more helpful to submit documents like pension statements, tax documents, etc.

The documents you need to submit to the Claims Administrator are located here.

To participate in the settlement, you must submit:

i. A Claim Form 

ii. A Release

iii. A Questionnaire 

If you submit medical records to the Claims Administrator, the Claims Administrator will not provide them to the Commonwealth or Class Counsel unless (a) the Court orders the Claims Administrator to do so or (b) the parties request to see the medical records and you consent to this in writing.

The parties and the Claims Administrator will endeavor to keep any sensitive personal information out of the public record.

Submit any forms or information to the Claims Administrator as follows:

By mail:

Donald K. Stern

Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Claims Administrator

P.O. Box 961987

Boston, MA 02196

If you wish to submit documents electronically, please contact the Claims Administrator via email: HSHClaims@affiliatedmonitors.com

Please do not send sensitive documents via this email account. Instead, please email to receive instructions on how to submit electronic documents securely.

You will have the opportunity to talk about your claim to the Claims Administrator or a member of his staff. You can request a meeting with the Claims Administrator by indicating this on the Questionnaire or by contacting the Claims Administrator by telephone or email. Because of the number of claimants, the distances involved, and current circumstances, the Claims Administrator will notify you whether the meeting will be in person, by telephone, or by videoconference (if you have that capability), and whether the meeting will be with the Claims Administrator or a member of his staff.

Yes. You may still submit the Claim Form and Release in the name of a deceased veteran even if you have not yet had someone appointed as Personal Representative. If you are acting on behalf of the estate of a veteran that does not yet have a Personal Representative, you must do the following:

  • Submit the Claim Form and Release by August 16, 2022.
  • Submit a Petition to the Probate Court to have someone named as Personal Representative as soon as possible.
  • Once the Probate Court appoints a Personal Representative, provide the Claims Administrator with a copy of the Probate Court’s Letter of Authority, appointing the Personal Representative of the veteran’s Estate.              
  • If you have filed a petition with the Probate Court to have someone appointed as the Personal Representative but the Court has not issued the Letter of Authority, you should inform the Claims Administrator of the circumstances prior to September 15, 2022.

Yes. Signing the Claim Form gives the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and the Commonwealth and its agencies permission to send the Claims Administrator and Class Counsel the veteran’s COVID testing results. The Commonwealth will also send the Claims Administrator and Class Counsel the death certificates of any deceased veterans. In some limited circumstances, the Commonwealth will also provide the Claims Administrator and Class Counsel any medical records it has for the veteran, but only if the Claims Administrator first receives a proper HIPAA Release.

What if the veteran is deceased or is unable to make decisions?

If the veteran is alive but unable to act on his or her own, then a duly appointed representative may act on behalf of the veteran, pursuant to a fully executed Power of Attorney or other similar grant of authority, a copy of which must be provided to the Claims Administrator with the Claim Form. If the veteran does not have documentation evidencing a Power of Attorney available now, then the documentation may be provided to the Claims Administrator at a later date, but it must be received by the Claims Administrator on or before August 16, 2022, unless the Claims Administrator agrees that it may be submitted up until September 15, 2022.

If the veteran is deceased, a legal action must be filed in the appropriate Probate and Family Court to appoint someone as the Personal Representative (sometimes referred to as an “Executor”) to the Veteran’s Estate. In order for the estate of a deceased veteran to receive any compensation, a Personal Representative must be appointed.

This process can take some time, and you may want to hire an attorney to help you to expedite the process.

You may still submit the Claim Form and Release in the name of a deceased veteran even if you have not yet had someone appointed as Personal Representative. A copy of the Letter of Authority appointing you as the Personal Representative of the veteran’s Estate must be received by the Claims Administrator on or before September 15, 2022.

If you have filed a petition with the Probate Court to have someone appointed as the Personal Representative but the Court has not issued the Letter of Authority, you should inform the Claims Administrator of the circumstances prior to September 15, 2022.

Any settlement award will be paid to the Estate of the veteran, and the Personal Representative of the veteran’s Estate would be responsible for distributing the funds in accordance with the law. Personal Representatives should consult with an independent attorney to better understand this process.

If the veteran is deceased and a Personal Representative has not yet been appointed, then you should begin the process of petitioning the appropriate Probate Court to have someone appointed as the Personal Representative.

The Claims Administrator cannot give you legal advice about this or any other matter.

You may consult with your own attorney for assistance in petitioning the Probate Court. If you do not have an attorney who can assist you, you may contact Class Counsel for further guidance about this process. They are available at:

Thomas Lesser, Esq.

lesser@LNN-law.com

Michael Aleo, Esq.

aleo@LNN-law.com

413-584-7331 (tel)

413-586-7076 (fax)

In order to file a claim on behalf of a deceased veteran, the person must be designated as the Personal Representative by the Probate Court. They can file the claim right away, but to participate they will need to be named as Personal Representative by the Probate Court in short order. Filing with probate requires the filing of an Informal Petition for the Appointment of a Personal Representative, which involves (1) several forms that are signed by the Personal Representative and other family members, (2) the submission of a copy of the death certificate, and (3) the original will if one exists.

If someone needs to understand how the Personal Representative process works, they can/should ask Class Counsel about it. They should contact Class Counsel—Lesser Newman Aleo & Nasser at 413-584-7331—right away. They are referring people to attorneys who are handling these on a discounted basis.  It does not matter if the Executor is out of state.

If someone needs to understand how the Personal Representative process works, they can/should ask Class Counsel about it. They should contact Class Counsel—Lesser Newman Aleo & Nasser at 413-584-7331—right away. They are referring people to attorneys who are handling these on a discounted basis. They may recommend that the informal process is fine. They will also likely recommend that the “voluntary statement” filed with the probate court is not sufficient.

What are your legal rights and options?

If you are an eligible claimant or the personal representative of an eligible claimant, you may receive money from the settlement, as described elsewhere in the settlement documents and these FAQs.

If you do not wish to receive any money relating to this Settlement, then you may simply do nothing and ignore the information on this website

If you wish to object to any of the terms included in the Settlement, then you must file a written explanation of the basis for your objection with the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which must be received by the Court no later than August 16, 2022. The court’s contact information is:

U.S. District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni

U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

300 State Street

Springfield, Massachusetts 01105

(413) 785-6800

With your written objection, you must include your full name, your address, the name of the veteran on behalf of whom you are writing (including the veteran’s date of birth), the basis for the authority that you have to act on the veteran’s behalf (i.e., a duly executed Power of Attorney or a duly issued Letter of Authority naming you as Personal Representative of the Veteran’s Estate), the name and docket number of the case Sniadach et al. v. Walsh et al., 20-CV-30115-MGM, and whether you plan on attending the Final Approval Hearing.

IMPORTANT: To preserve your right to participate in the Settlement, you must also submit the Claim Form and Release to the Claims Administrator, which the Claims Administrator must receive by August 16, 2022, unless the Claims Administrator agrees in advance and in writing that it may be submitted up until September 15, 2022.

If you do not want to participate in this Settlement but you want to preserve your right to bring your own lawsuit relating to the same facts and circumstances underlying this case, then the veteran, or, if the veteran is deceased, the Personal Representative of the deceased veteran’s Estate, must notify the Claims Administrator no later than August 16, 2022. To opt out, you must:

  • Notify the Claims Administrator in writing that you are electing to “opt out” of the Settlement, which must be received by the Claims Administrator no later than August 16, 2022.
  •  State to the Claims Administrator in writing that you understand that, by opting out of the Settlement, you are permanently giving up your right to receive any of the settlement payments described above.
  •  Sign and date the statement.
  •  If you are acting on behalf of a veteran:
    •  For veterans who are alive but unable to sign the statement, another person may sign the statement pursuant to a properly executed Power of Attorney, a copy of which must be provided to the Claims Administrator.
    •  For veterans who are deceased, the statement must be signed by a duly appointed Personal Representative or Executor of the veteran’s Estate, and a copy of the document appointing that person as Personal Representative or Executor of the veteran’s Estate must be provided to the Claims Administrator.

By participating in this Settlement, you will give up your right to sue or continue a lawsuit against the Defendants or any other individuals relating to the claims described above (i.e., the spread of COVID-19 within the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home from March 1, 2020, through June 23, 2020). Giving up your legal claims is called a release. A copy of the Release that you must sign to be eligible to receive any portion of the settlement amount is available here.

Deadlines

Deadline for Potential Class Members to Opt Out or Object to Class Settlement.                   8/16/2022

Deadline for Participating Class Members to Submit Claim Forms and Questionnaires.        8/16/2022

Claim Administrator’s Report to Court Regarding Opt Outs and Objections.                            8/23/2022

Deadline for Commonwealth to Void Settlement Agreement Due to Opt Outs.                       8/30/2022

Final deadline for Participating Class Members to submit Claim Forms
and Questionnaires to Claims Administrator, if Granted an Extension.                                     9/15/2022

Claim Administrator’s Report to Court of Participating Class Members.                                  10/30/2022

Class Counsel’s Fee Petition and Brief in Support of Final Approval.                                          11/2/2022

Final Approval Hearing.                                                                                                                     11/14/2022

Final Court approval

The Court will hold a Final Approval Hearing on November 14, 2022, or at another time designated by the Court. If the Court designates a different time or date, this website will be updated.

The Court will hold the Final Approval Hearing at the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, 300 State St, Springfield, MA 01105, or at another place designated by the Court. If the Court designates a different place, this website will be updated.

You are not required to attend the Final Approval Hearing, but you are welcome to do so at your own expense. You cannot speak at the hearing if you have opted out of the Settlement.

The Court will consider whether the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate, and whether the Settlement should be granted final approval. The Court will also hear objections to the settlement, if any.

If the Court does not approve the Settlement or if it finally approves the Settlement and the approval is reversed on appeal, or if the Settlement does not become final for some other reason, you will receive no payments described above, any release you have executed will be void and have no further effect, and the lawsuit will continue.

Whom do I contact with questions?

You may contact either the Claims Administrator and his staff or Class Counsel with questions you might have by using the contact information below:   

 Claims Administrator: 

 Donald K. Stern 

HSHClaims@affiliatedmonitors.com 

617-807-1128 (tel) 

617-830-0563 (fax) 

Please do not send sensitive documents via email. Instead, please email to receive instructions on how to do so securely. 

 Class Counsel 

 Thomas Lesser, Esq. 

lesser@LNN-law.com 

Michael Aleo, Esq. 

aleo@LNN-law.com 

413-584-7331 (tel) 

413-586-7076 (fax) 

Consulting with Class Counsel will not cost you money. Class Counsel are being paid separately out of settlement funds, and their fees will not affect the amount of money available for your claim or anybody else’s claims.

You may of course also contact your own attorney at your own expense, who may in turn communicate directly with Class Counsel as appropriate. 

Please do not call the Judge about this case. Neither the Judge, nor the Clerk of Court, will be able to give you advice about this case.  

Furthermore, the Defendants’ attorneys do not represent you, and they cannot give you legal advice.