Court Grants Final Approval of New Jersey Chiropractor Class Action Settlement

A New Jersey federal judge has granted final approval of a $33 million settlement in a nearly five-year old class action concerning payments by New Jersey’s largest insurer to New Jersey chiropractors.

Under the settlement, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey will pay $33 million to fund payments to New Jersey chiropractors related to the denial of submitted claims for certain services, and will also pay attorneys’ fees and costs related to the settlement. In his October 17 opinion in DeMaria et al. v. Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc., Judge William Martini, found the settlement to be “in all respects, fair, just, reasonable and adequate to the Class,” and said that the fact that there were no objections to the settlement by the more than 9,500 class members “strongly favors approval.”

The lawsuit was brought by Zuckerman Spaeder and Buttaci Leardi & Werner, LLC on behalf of chiropractors who were denied reimbursement for health benefits by Horizon. The case centered on Horizon’s “bundling” of claims, an industry practice which the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance (“DOBI”) halted in 2011.

The court also praised the work of plaintiffs’ counsel, saying that the class “has been represented by highly qualified counsel” and cited “the considerable risks that counsel faced in taking on this litigation, and the sophisticated legal work required to achieve success.”

The Association of New Jersey Chiropractors, which initiated the earlier DOBI proceeding, had earlier released a statement calling the settlement a “victory for chiropractors,” and “thank[ed] class action counsel for their diligence and excellent legal work in prosecuting this class action on behalf of New Jersey Chiropractors for the past five years.”

Leading Zuckerman Spaeder’s efforts were attorneys D. Brian Hufford, Jason Cowart, and William Meyer who have led a multi-prong effort to hold insurance companies accountable for the internal rules and procedures that drive so many decisions affecting patient health and provider reimbursements. This work has led to precedent-setting wins for health providers and two of the largest settlements of ERISA benefit class actions in history. Their work on behalf of mental health patients has gained high-profile support, including from the Department of Labor and former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

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Kalie Walrath
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