Cote v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Settlement

  1. Who does this Website apply to?
  2. What Is This Lawsuit About?
  3. What Is a Class Action?
  4. Who is in the Settlement Class in this Class Action?
  5. Why is There a Settlement?
  6. How Do I Know If I Am Part of the Settlement?
  7. What are the Terms of the Proposed Settlement?
  8. What Steps Will Walmart Take to Ensure that the Same-Sex Spouses of Associates Will Receive Health Insurance Benefits in the Future?
  9. How Can I Receive Compensation Under the Settlement and How Much Compensation Can I Receive?
  10. Can I Challenge Determinations as to My Employment at Walmart and/or Eligibility to Have Received Spousal Health Insurance Benefits from Walmart but for the Limitation on Providing Health Insurance Benefits to Legal Same Sex Spouses?
  11. What Claims Are Released by the Settlement?
  12. Do I Have a Lawyer in this Case?
  13. How Will The Lawyers Be Paid?
  14. What May the Named Plaintiff Receive Under the Settlement?
  15. What Are My Options?
  16. How Do I Remain in the Settlement Class?
  17. Who Should Opt Out of the Class?
  18. How Do I Opt Out of the Class?
  19. How Do I Tell the Court That I Don’t Like the Settlement?
  20. When and Where Will the Court Decide Whether to Approve the Settlement?
  21. Do I Have To Come To The Fairness Hearing?
  22. May I Speak at the Fairness Hearing?
  23. Where Can I Get More Information?
  24. Are the Out-of-Pocket Costs That I'm Seeking Reimbursement For Covered?
  25. What If I'm Not Sure If My Spouse Obtained Coverage Through An HMO Plan During The Settlement Class Period?
  26. I Have Questions About How To Fill Out the Claim Form or I'm Not Sure If I'm Eligible.
  1. Who does this Website apply to?

    If you worked for Walmart or Sam's Club between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2013 in the fifty United States or Puerto Rico, were legally married to a same-sex spouse during that same period, and would have been eligible for spousal Health Insurance Benefits from Walmart or Sam’s Club but for the limitation on providing spousal Health Insurance Benefits to same-sex spouses during that time period, you are a member of the Settlement Class in this lawsuit, which is known as Cote v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Case No. 15-cv-12945-WGY (D. Mass.).

    The purpose of this website is to inform you about (a) this litigation, (b) the certification of a Settlement Class, (c) the terms of the proposed Settlement, and (d) your rights in connection with the proposed Settlement and a hearing to be held before the Court on May 15, 2017 to consider the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the proposed Settlement and related matters. This website also describes the steps necessary to submit a Claim Form to be eligible to receive a payment from the proposed Settlement should the Court approve the proposed Settlement, as well as those steps that must be taken by any Settlement Class Members who wish to be excluded from the Settlement Class.

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  2. What Is This Lawsuit About?

    This lawsuit claims that Walmart discriminated against associates with same-sex spouses based on sex by failing to provide spousal health insurance benefits to the same-sex spouses of associates before January 1, 2014. The Named Plaintiff is seeking damages for herself and other Settlement Class Members who were denied the opportunity to enroll their same-sex spouses in a Walmart-sponsored health insurance plan from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2013 (“the Settlement Class Period”). The Court has not decided the merits of the case. Walmart denies that it did anything wrong and no court has found that Walmart did anything wrong or violated any federal or state law.

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  3. What Is a Class Action?

    In a class action, one or more people called Named Plaintiffs bring a lawsuit on behalf of people who the court finds have similar claims. These people, considered members of the same Class, are called Class Members. In a class action, one court resolves the case for all Class Members, except for those individuals who exclude themselves from the Class.

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  4. Who is in the Settlement Class in this Class Action?

    On December 22, 2016, the court overseeing this lawsuit certified for settlement purposes a Settlement Class of current and former Walmart and Sam’s Club associates who: (1) worked at Walmart or Sam’s Club between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2013; (2) were legally married to a same-sex spouse during that same period; and (3) would have been eligible for spousal Health Insurance Benefits from Walmart or Sam’s Club but for the limitation on providing spousal Health Insurance Benefits to same-sex spouses during that same period.


    To be a Class Member, there is no requirement that you tried to enroll your same-sex spouse in a Walmart-sponsored health insurance plan before January 1, 2014. There is also no requirement that you worked in a state that recognized your same-sex marriage before January 1, 2014—it is sufficient that the state or jurisdiction in which you were married performed or recognized marriages between same-sex couples prior to January 1, 2014.

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  5. Why is There a Settlement?

    The Court did not decide in favor of Plaintiff or in favor of Walmart. Instead, both sides agreed to the proposed Settlement to avoid a court trial and to provide compensation to the Settlement Class Members. The Named Plaintiff and the attorneys appointed to represent the Settlement Class believe that the proposed Settlement is in the best interests of the Settlement Class Members and is fair, reasonable, and adequate.

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  6. How Do I Know If I Am Part of the Settlement?

    If you are a member of the Settlement Class described in FAQ 4, above, you are part of the proposed Settlement.


    If you did not receive a copy of the Notice of Settlement directly (for example, if you learned about the Settlement through an advertisement or by word of mouth), you may still qualify as a Class Member if you meet the Class definition, and you may still file a Claim Form like other potential Class Members. If you aren’t sure about your status, then you can contact the Claims Administrator at the address identified in FAQ 19. You can also contact Class Counsel, whose contact information is listed below.

    Peter Romer-Friedman

    Juno Turner

    Outten & Golden LLP

    685 Third Avenue, 25th Floor

    New York, NY 10017

    1-877-468-8836

    walmartLGBTcase@outtengolden.com

    Gary Buseck

    Allison Wright

    GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders

    30 Winter Street, STE 800

    Boston, MA 02108

    1-617-426-1350 

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  7. What are the Terms of the Proposed Settlement?

    The proposed Settlement requires Walmart to pay $7.5 million to compensate Settlement Class Members, as well as to pay the attorneys’ fees and expenses of Class Counsel, a service award to the Named Plaintiff, and the cost of having the Claims Administrator provide notice to the Class Members and undertake other duties to administer the Settlement. In addition, under the proposed Settlement Walmart will commit to continuing to treat same-sex and opposite-sex spouses or couples equally in the provision of health insurance benefits so long as to do so is consistent with applicable law. As of January 1, 2014, Walmart began making available the same health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of its associates that it offered to opposite sex-spouses.

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  8. What Steps Will Walmart Take to Ensure that the Same-Sex Spouses of Associates Will Receive Health Insurance Benefits in the Future?

    Since January 1, 2014, Walmart has offered the same spousal health insurance benefits to associates in the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico with same-sex spouses as it does to associates in the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico with opposite-sex spouses. Under the proposed Settlement, Walmart will commit to continuing to treat same-sex and opposite-sex spouses equally in the provision of health insurance benefits, so long as to do so is consistent with applicable law.

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  9. How Can I Receive Compensation Under the Settlement and How Much Compensation Can I Receive?

    To receive compensation under the proposed Settlement, you must file a Claim Form no later than March 20, 2017. You must file either:

    (A) a Long Form Claim to establish or demonstrate (i) out-of-pocket health care costs that your same-sex spouse incurred during the Settlement Class Period when your spouse did not have health insurance, and/or (ii) the cost of purchasing a health insurance policy for your same-sex spouse during the Settlement Class Period; or

    (B) a Short Form Claim, through which you will receive a proportionate share of the Settlement Fund (based on the number of months you would have been eligible for spousal health insurance benefits during the Settlement Class Period) based on the amounts remaining after determination of the payment to be made to Class Members who file Long Form Claims, as well as payments and the amounts to be paid for attorneys’ fees and costs, a service award for the Named Plaintiff, and the costs of administering the Settlement.

    You must choose whether to file a Long Form Claim or a Short Form Claim, and may not file both types of Claims. In order for your Long Form Claim to be approved, you will have to provide information and documents to demonstrate the out-of-pocket costs your same-sex spouse incurred or the cost of purchasing a health insurance policy for your same-sex spouse. If, however, the payment you would be entitled to receive for an approved Long Form Claim would be less than the payment for filing a Short Form Claim, your Long Form Claim will be automatically converted into a Short Form Claim. The Class Members who file Long Form Claims may not collectively receive more than $3.5 million of the $7.5 million Settlement Fund. This cap on the Long Form Claim payments will ensure that Class Members who file Short Form Claims will receive meaningful monetary relief under the proposed Settlement.

    Long Form Claims:

    If you file a Long Form Claim, you must file the Long Form Claim by March 20, 2017, but you may provide any documentation to support your Long Form Claim by April 18, 2017.

    The Parties have agreed to allocate up to $3.5 million of the Class Settlement Amount to payment of Long Form Claims. If you file a Long Form Claim, you may receive a payment that is 1.0 times the amount of (i) the out-of-pocket health care costs that your same-sex spouse incurred during the Settlement Class Period when she or he did not have health insurance, and/or (ii) the cost of purchasing a health insurance policy for your same-sex spouse during the Settlement Class Period. If the total amount of approved Long Form Claims exceeds $3.5 million, the amount of each payment to Settlement Class Members who submitted approved Long Form Claims will be reduced proportional to their requested share of the overall eligible costs of approved Long Form Claims. You cannot receive payments for out-of-pocket health care costs and the cost of purchasing a health insurance policy in the same month during the Settlement Class Period, but you may receive payments for these different types of costs in different months during the Settlement Class Period. If the out-of-pocket health care costs that you identify are $60,000 or greater during the Settlement Class Period when your spouse did not have health insurance, you will be eligible to receive a total payment that is 2.5 times the amount of the out-of-pocket costs that you identify through your Long Form Claim and supporting documentation.

    If you file a Long Form Claim and identify out-of-pocket health care costs, you must (1) demonstrate to the Claims Administrator that your same-sex spouse was charged out-of-pocket health care costs during the Settlement Class Period when she or he did not have health insurance, including by submitting documents, declaration(s) from you and/or another person with knowledge of those charges, or statements about the charges; and (2) affirm that the out-of-pocket health care costs you have identified were not forgiven by the medical provider.

    If you file a Long Form Claim and identify the cost of purchasing a health insurance policy for your same-sex spouse, you must demonstrate to the Claims Administrator that you or your same-sex spouse actually paid for the cost of purchasing a health insurance policy for your same-sex spouse, including by submitting documents, declarations or statements about such payments.

    For all Long Form Claims, you must also identify basic information about yourself that will establish your membership in the Class. That basic information includes: (1) your dates and locations of employment at Walmart or Sam’s Club during the Settlement Class Period; and (2) the dates that you were legally married to a same-sex spouse during the Settlement Class Period.

    Short Form Claims:

    If you file a Short Form Claim, you must file the Short Form Claim by March 20, 2017.

    If you file a Short Form Claim, you will receive a pro rata share of the Settlement Funds (based on the number of months you would have been eligible for spousal health insurance benefits) remaining after payments are made to Class Members who file Long Form Claims, as well as payments for attorneys’ fees and costs, a service award for the Named Plaintiff, and the costs of administering the Settlement. The maximum payment that you can receive by submitting a Short Form Claim is $5,000 per year of the Settlement Class Period or $15,000 overall for the three-year Settlement Class Period.

    If you file a Short Form Claim, you do not need to provide any documents, declarations, or statements about out-of-pocket health care costs or the costs of purchasing a health insurance policy for your same-sex spouse. Instead, in the Short Form Claim you will identify basic information about yourself that will establish your membership in the Class and that will entitle you to receive a pro rata share of a portion of the Settlement Funds. That basic information includes: (1) your dates and locations of employment at Walmart or Sam’s Club during the Settlement Class Period; and (2) the dates that you were legally married to a same-sex spouse during the Settlement Class Period.

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  10. Can I Challenge Determinations as to My Employment at Walmart and/or Eligibility to Have Received Spousal Health Insurance Benefits from Walmart but for the Limitation on Providing Health Insurance Benefits to Legal Same Sex Spouses?

    Yes. If you disagree with the determination as to your employment dates or eligibility to have received spousal Health Insurance Benefits from Walmart during the Settlement Class Period, you can challenge that determination by writing to the Claims Administrator and describing how the determination is inaccurate and what the correct information is. If you have documents to support your challenge, you should provide the Claims Administrator with copies of those documents to support your challenge. If the Claims Administrator or Walmart disagrees with your challenge, a neutral third party agreed upon by the parties will review and decide your challenge. Any challenge that you file must be submitted to the Claims Administrator no later than April 18, 2017 or 14 days after you receive the determination as to your dates of employment or eligibility to have received spousal Health Insurance Benefits from Walmart during the Settlement Class Period, whichever is later. The neutral’s decision to reject in whole or in part your challenge to Walmart’s personnel information shall be final and not subject to appeal or any other review.

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  11. What Claims Are Released by the Settlement?

    If the Court grants final approval of the Settlement, then all Settlement Class Members who do not opt out of the settlement, as well as each of their legally married same-sex spouses, will give up (or “release”) their right to sue Walmart regarding its failure to provide health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of associates prior to January 1, 2014. This release includes, but is not limited to, claims for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d), and the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B § 4. Settlement Class Members and their legally married same-sex spouses give up these rights whether or not they choose to file a Claim. Unless you opt out of the lawsuit, you and your same-sex spouse will be covered by the Release, even if you do not submit a Long Form Claim or a Short Form Claim. The full details of the Release are contained in the Settlement Agreement between the parties.

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  12. Do I Have a Lawyer in this Case?

    The Court has appointed the law firms of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Outten & Golden LLP, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, and Arnold & Porter LLP to represent you and the other Class Members. Together, the lawyers are called Class Counsel. Unless you elect to exclude yourself from the Settlement, you will continue to be represented by Class Counsel in connection with the implementation of the Settlement throughout the duration of the terms of the Settlement at no cost to you. Although it is not necessary, you may, if you wish to do so, retain your own attorney at your own expense.

    You may find out more information about Class Counsel by visiting their websites:

    http://www.glad.org
    http://www.outtengolden.com
    http://www.washlaw.org.com
    http://www.apks.com

    If you have questions about the proposed Settlement, you can get free legal help by contacting Class Counsel:

    Peter Romer-Friedman

    Juno Turner

    Outten & Golden LLP

    685 Third Avenue, 25th Floor

    New York, NY 10017

    1-877-468-8836

    walmartLGBTcase@outtengolden.com

    Gary Buseck
    Allison Wright
    GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
    30 Winter Street, STE 800
    Boston, MA 02108

    1-617-426-1350

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  13. How Will The Lawyers Be Paid?

    Class Counsel will ask the Court for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs, to be paid from the $7.5 million Class Settlement Amount. Class Counsel will request that the Court approve attorneys’ fees that will be no greater than 25% of the Class Settlement Amount. The fees will pay Class Counsel for investigating the facts, litigating the case, and negotiating and implementing the settlement. Class Counsel will also ask the Court to approve the reimbursement of their out-of-pocket costs. The Court may award less than these requested amounts to Class Counsel. The Court will examine the request of Class Counsel at the Fairness Hearing, as well as any objections to that request, and determine the amount of fees and costs to award.

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  14. What May the Named Plaintiff Receive Under the Settlement?

    The Named Plaintiff may receive a payment like any other Settlement Class Member by filing a Long Form Claim or a Short Form Claim. In addition, Class Counsel will ask the Court to award a service payment of $25,000 to be paid from the Class Settlement Amount to the Named Plaintiff. The proposed Service Award would recognize the service the Named Plaintiff provided here, including her participation in the prosecution and settlement of this case.

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  15. What Are My Options?

    After reviewing the terms of the proposed Settlement set forth in this Website, you have three options. You must decide at this stage whether you want to: (1) remain a Settlement Class Member and retain an opportunity to participate in the Settlement by filing a Long Form Claim or a Short Form Claim; (2) opt out and exclude yourself from participating in the settlement; or (3) object to the proposed Settlement.

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  16. How Do I Remain in the Settlement Class?

    If you do not request to be excluded, you will remain a part of the Settlement Class. The Court will hold the Final Approval Hearing (called a Fairness Hearing) and you, as a Settlement Class Member, will be represented by Class Counsel at no cost to you. To be eligible to receive a payment under the Settlement, you must complete the Long Form Claim or the Short Form Claim available on this website and return it to the Claims Administrator postmarked by no later than March 20, 2017.

    Whether or not you submit a Claim Form, unless you opt out, all Released Claims (described above and defined in the Settlement) that you may have will be barred by this Settlement. Unless you opt out, you remain eligible to object, whether or not you submit a Claim Form.

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  17. Who Should Opt Out of the Class?

    If (1) you want to keep the right to sue or continue to sue Walmart regarding the non-provision of health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of associates prior to January 1, 2014, or (2) you do not want to be bound by the Settlement of this lawsuit, then you should take steps to exclude yourself from the Settlement. This is called “opting out” of the Settlement. Walmart will retain the right to assert any and all defenses to the claims of persons who opt out of this Settlement.

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  18. How Do I Opt Out of the Class?

    To opt out of the Settlement, you must mail a written, signed statement that you are opting out of the Settlement to the Claims Administrator at the address below:

    Cote v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Claims Administrator

    P.O. Box 43415

    Providence, RI 02940-3415

    To be effective, the opt out statement must (1) contain the words “I wish to be excluded from the Settlement Class in the Walmart LGBT Health Benefits Settlement”; (2) contain the your name, address, location at which you worked at Walmart, the period of time in which you worked at Walmart, the date of your legal marriage to a same-sex spouse, and the last four digits of your social security number, and (3) be signed and dated. To be effective, this opt out statement must be mailed via First Class United States Mail, postage prepaid, to the Claims Administrator, and must be postmarked on or before March 20, 2017.

    Please note that if you submit a timely and valid request for exclusion you will have no right to object to the Settlement in Court and will no longer be represented by Class Counsel.

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  19. How Do I Tell the Court That I Don’t Like the Settlement?

    The Court must assess the overall fairness and reasonableness of the Settlement to the Class. If you are a Class Member, then you can object to the Settlement if you don’t like any part of it, and the Court will consider your views. However, to speak at the hearing or have your objection to the Settlement considered by the Court, you must submit a written objection to the Settlement prior to the Final Approval Hearing that includes a detailed description of the basis of the objection. To be considered, the written objection document must be postmarked or otherwise submitted to the Claims Administrator and/or the Court with copies to counsel for the parties via First-Class United States Mail, postage prepaid on or before March 20, 2017. The written objection must include all reasons for the objection and any reasons not included in the statement will not be considered. The written objection must also include your name, address, email(s), and telephone number(s) and also must (1) contain the words “I object to the Walmart LGBT Health Benefits Settlement,” (2) include the date of marriage to a same-sex spouse, the period of time in which you worked at Walmart, at what location(s) you worked at Walmart, and the last four digits of your Social Security Number, and (3) be signed and dated. If you wish to appear at the Fairness Hearing, your objection must contain the words “I intend to speak at the Fairness Hearing.”

    If you submit an Opt-Out Statement, you may not also submit objections to the Settlement. The addresses are:

    Claims Administrator:


    Cote v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

    Claims Administrator

    P.O. Box 43415

    Providence, RI 02940-3415

    Class Counsel:


    Juno Turner

    Outten & Golden LLP

    685 Third Avenue, 25th Floor

    New York, NY 10017

    Defense Counsel:


    Naomi G. Beer

    Greenberg Traurig, LLP

    1200 17th Street, Suite 2400

    Denver, CO 80202

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  20. When and Where Will the Court Decide Whether to Approve the Settlement?

    The Court will hold a Final Approval Hearing (called a Fairness Hearing) at 2:00 p.m. on May 15, 2017, in the courtroom of the Honorable William Young in John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse, 1 Courthouse Way, Boston, MA 02210.


    At this hearing, the Court will determine whether the proposed Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. If there are any objections, then the Court will consider them. The Court will also consider whether the motion of Class Counsel for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs should be approved, and whether, in accordance with the Settlement, a final order and judgment should be entered bringing the litigation to a conclusion.

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  21. Do I Have To Come To The Fairness Hearing?

    No. Class Counsel and Walmart’s counsel will answer questions that the Judge may have. If you send an objection, then you don’t have to come to Court to talk about it. As long as you mailed your written objection on time, the Court will consider it.

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  22. May I Speak at the Fairness Hearing?

    You may speak at the Fairness Hearing only if you have filed an objection, as outlined in FAQ 19, and if your objection includes the words “I intend to appear at the Fairness Hearing.” You may appear either in person or through a lawyer hired at your own expense. You may withdraw your objections at any time. You may not present an objection at the Fairness Hearing based on a reason not stated in your written objections.

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  23. Where Can I Get More Information?

    This Website summarizes the proposed Settlement. More details are in the Settlement Agreement. You can get a copy of the Settlement Agreement at this case web site, or by contacting the Claims Administrator or Class Counsel. If you have further questions or are still not sure whether you are included, you can get free help by calling the Claims Administrator at 1-877-241-7543, or by calling or writing to Class Counsel at the contact numbers/addresses listed in FAQ 12.

    Again, the important deadlines are:

    Last Day To Submit A Long Form Claim or a Short Form Claim: March 20, 2017
    Last Day To Submit Documentation to Support a Long Form Claim: April 18, 2017
    Last Day To “Opt-Out” Of The Settlement Class: March 20, 2017
    Last Day To Object To The Settlement: March 20, 2017
    Final Approval Hearing: May 15, 2017

    PLEASE DO NOT CALL OR CONTACT THE COURT, THE OFFICE OF THE CLERK OF COURT, OR WALMART WITH QUESTIONS REGARDING THE NOTICE.


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  24. Are the Out-of-Pocket Costs That I'm Seeking Reimbursement For Covered?

    Please refer to the appropriate handbook in the Health Benefits Covered by the Settlement tab. 

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  25. What If I'm Not Sure If My Spouse Obtained Coverage Through An HMO Plan During The Settlement Class Period?

    You may call the Claims Administrator at 1-877-241-7543. 

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  26. I Have Questions About How To Fill Out the Claim Form or I'm Not Sure If I'm Eligible.

    You may contact the Claims Administrator to submit your inquiry. Their contact information is as follows:

    Cote v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Claims Administrator
    P.O. Box 43415
    Providence, RI 02940-3415
    Tel: 1-877-241-7543
    Fax: 1-877-839-2878
    Email: WalmartSameSexSpouseBenefitsSettlement@kccllc.com

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