The host of the canceled HIMSS20 conference is paying $ 2.8 million to resolve a lawsuit filed by HatchMed and other exhibitors who complained about not receiving a refund at the time the show was canceled.
In the class action lawsuit, companies alleged that the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) allegedly committed a “cash grab” by canceling the industry fair and pocketing the fair fees.
HIMSS canceled the March 2020 global health conference just days before its scheduled start due to concerns about COVID-19.
The organizers of HIMSS went to great lengths on social media and from attendees to keep the conference going amid the shadow of pandemic fears. Others were frustrated that HIMSS had canceled the conference so late.
At the time, HIMSS did not initially announce any refunds, which aroused great anger among exhibitors and registrants. Participants and exhibitors complained about a lack of communication from the HIMSS organizers and a lack of reimbursement options.
HIMSS then adjusted its guidelines and announced in April that it would provide partial credits for the HIMSS21 and HIMSS22 events.
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In June 2020, HatchMed Corp., a small company that sells medical equipment, beds, and stretchers, and several other companies that were paying fees to attend the 2020 show, filed a class action lawsuit.
HatchMed and other exhibitors allege that HIMSS used COVID-19 as a “transparent opportunity to steal money” and unilaterally held exhibitors’ money “without foundation,” according to the lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois .
HIMSS disclaims all liability and misconduct in the legal disputes.
In a statement, Karen Groppe, Senior Director of Strategic Communications at HIMSS, confirmed the settlement agreement.
“Documents reflecting the negotiating resolution have been submitted to the court for preliminary approval and HIMSS looks forward to closing the matter. As this is still an active legal case, HIMSS currently has no additional comment,” she said in the statement.
In the lawsuit, HatchMed said it paid more than $ 11,000 in November 2019 to reserve space to display its products during the 2020 conference. Other companies that wanted to take part in the five-day fair have signed similar contracts.
The HIMSS conference usually attracts 1,300 exhibitors per year, depending on the suit.
HIMSS20 was scheduled to begin on March 9, and organizers announced on March 5 that the show would be canceled after the World Health Organization (WHO) and others declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
“Unlike other industry-wide trade shows, however, HIMSS chose to use its cancellation as an unauthorized money robbery because it was unilaterally determined to keep the money paid by its exhibitors,” claimed HatchMed.
This decision violated the contracts that HIMSS had concluded with HatchMed and at least 100 other exhibitors, depending on the lawsuit.
During a remote hearing, US District Judge Martha Pacold said the parties had put forward an “extensive” and “thorough” argument in favor of granting preliminary approval of the deal, Law360 reported. HatchMed attorney Peyton Healey of Hedrick Kring PLLC told Law360 Friday that he and his client were “very excited” to receive approval.
“We believe we got a good result for the class that really gives them a significant advantage that will come in handy at the end of the day,” said Healey, reported Law360.
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According to the settlement request, process class members have two options: they can apply a credit of 50% of their HIMSS20 exhibitor fees to HIMSS21 and an additional 10% for HIMSS22, or receive a 20% cash refund of the HIMSS20 fees along with a 30% credit of these fees for HIMSS21 and 10% for HIMSS22
The cash refund will be made from a HIMSS-provided cash fund of $ 2.8 million.
HatchMed is represented by Peyton Healey from Hedrick Kring PLLC and Nicholas Peters and Nicole Little from Fitch Even Tabin & Flannery.
HIMSS is represented by Nicholas Peters and Nicole Little from Fitch Even Tabin & Flannery.
HIMSS21 has been postponed to August 9-13 in Las Vegas and will include both a face-to-face event and an online component.
Registration for the 2021 event is now open.
Almost 10,000 top hotel rooms have been reserved in Las Vegas for the August dates, according to HIMSS. The HIMSS21 exhibitor list shows that 417 companies have committed to be on the exhibition space.