Mealey's ERISA

  • December 13, 2019

    Insured Settled Claims Over Financial Conflict Of Interest In Denial Of ERISA Benefits

    BOSTON — A federal judge in Massachusetts said Dec. 12 that an insured settled his allegations that two insurers who are parties to an administration agreement and a reinsurance agreement engaged in a financial conflict of interest with regard to the denial of his long-term disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Gary D. Powers v. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 19-11335, D. Mass.).

  • December 12, 2019

    Disability Plan’s Appeal Dismissed; Order Was Not Appealable, Panel Says

    CINCINNATI — The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 11 dismissed a disability plan’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction after determining that the district court’s ruling was not a final decision because the merits of the disability claim have yet to be resolved (Sherry Laake v. Benefits Committee, Western & Southern Financial Group Company Flexible Benefits Plan, et al., No. 19-3233, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 36634).

  • December 12, 2019

    Panel Says Parties Must Proceed With Grievance Procedure In ERISA Plan Dispute

    CINCINNATI — The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 10 affirmed a district court’s order that parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) must proceed with the grievance and arbitration procedure outlined in the CBA to resolve a dispute over the implementation of pension and welfare trust fund plans that comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Local 1982, International Longshoremen's Association v. Midwest Terminals of Toledo International Inc., No. 19-3319, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 36502).

  • December 11, 2019

    Lipedema Sufferer’s Liposuction Coverage Claims Proceed, Judge Says

    SAN FRANCISCO — A woman adequately alleges that her insurer denies coverage for liposuction treatments for lipedema, despite covering surgeries needed to reduce pain and improve functionality in other settings, a federal judge in California said in declining to dismiss her case Dec. 10 (Michala Kazda v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 19-2512, N.D. Calif.).

  • December 11, 2019

    Plan Did Not Abuse Discretion In Terminating Disability Benefits, Panel Says

    SAN FRANCISCO — A district court did not err in applying an abuse-of-discretion standard of  review in a disability suit because the plan administrator’s conduct did not rise to the level of requiring a de novo review of the plan’s denial of benefits, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Dec. 10 in affirming the lower court’s finding that the plan did not abuse its discretion in terminating the disability claimant’s benefits (Olga Gorbacheva v. Abbott Laboratories Extended Disability Plan, et al., Nos. 18-15400, 18-16178, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 36542).

  • December 11, 2019

    2nd Circuit Correctly Applied High Court Precedent, Retirement Plan Defendants Say

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court should refuse review of a Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision affirming the dismissal of a breach of fiduciary duty and loyalty lawsuit brought against SunEdison Inc.’s board of directors and investment committee by former employees who participated in the company’s defined contribution retirement plan because the Second Circuit correctly applied precedent set by the high court, the defendants maintain in a Dec. 6 respondent brief (Eric O’Day, et al. v Ahmad Chatila, et al., No. 19-595, U.S. Sup.).

  • December 10, 2019

    U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Insurance Agents’ ERISA Employment Status Appeal

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 9 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act, case filed by a certified class of insurance agents who were seeking to challenge the standard of review applied by the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to findings that the agents were misclassified as independent contractors by an insurer (Walid Jammal, et al. v. American Family Insurance Company, No. 19-248, U.S. Sup.).

  • December 10, 2019

    Panel Affirms Rejection Of Fiduciary Breach Claim Against Aetna

    ST. LOUIS — The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 6 found that an appellant’s failure to administratively exhaust her breach of fiduciary claim against Aetna Life Insurance Co. is fatal to her subsequent action against the insurer under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Lisa Jones v. Aerna Life Insurance Company, et al., No. 18-1851, 8th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 36267).

  • December 10, 2019

    U.S. High Court Denies Petition In ERISA Dispute Over Stock Offering

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 9 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by a employee accusing his former employer of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by continuing to offer stock of the employer’s former parent company as a retirement investment option (Alexander Y. Usenko v. MEMC LLC, et al., No. 19-460, U.S. Sup.).

  • December 10, 2019

    5th Circuit Affirms Ruling That Disability Insurer Did Not Abuse Its Discretion

    NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 6 affirmed a district court’s ruling that a disability insurer did not abuse its discretion in finding that a claimant was not disabled from performing the duties of her own occupation as an attorney because the objective medical evidence clearly supports the insurer’s finding (Anne Wittmann v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America, No. 19-30254, 5th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 36311).

  • December 10, 2019

    Federal Judge Grants Final Approval Of Settlement In ERISA Class Action Suit

    BOSTON — A Massachusetts federal judge on Dec. 5 approved a $6.8 million class action settlement in a suit alleging that a retirement plan was mismanaged after finding that the settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate to the class members (Melissa Velazquez, et al. v. Massachusetts Financial Services Co., d/b/a MFS Investment Management, et al., No. 17-11249, D. Mass.).

  • December 09, 2019

    Failure To Establish Successor Liability Dooms Claims Over Lost Banked Sick Time

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Individual employees and their union suing a gas company for allegedly eliminating their sick time banked under previous collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) and age bias in violation of Tennessee law have not stated claims against the named defendant due to their failure to establish a basis for successor liability or veil piercing, a federal judge in Tennessee ruled Nov. 26 (Darrell Pridy, et al. v. Duke Energy Corporation, No. 19-468, M.D. Tenn., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 205188).

  • December 09, 2019

    7th Circuit Finds Pension Agreement Provided Vested Lifetime Benefits For Retirees

    CHICAGO — A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel Dec. 2 granted an employer’s motion for extension of time to file a petition for rehearing, a motion filed less than a week after the appellate panel affirmed a district court’s permanent injunction ordering the continuation of health insurance benefits for retirees and their families, finding that a 2002 agreement “unambiguously provided retirees vested lifetime health-care benefits” (Harold Stone, et al. v. Signode Industrial Group LLC, et al., No. 19-1601, 7th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 34501).

  • December 09, 2019

    Settlement Reached As Trial Was About To Start In Imprudent Investments Suit

    DENVER — The parties in a lawsuit in a Colorado federal court accusing Oracle Co. of making imprudent investments related to its 401(k) plan announced, as the trial was set to commence on Dec. 3, that a preliminary settlement has been reached (Deborah Troudt, et al. v. Oracle Corporation, et al., No. 16-175, D. Colo.).

  • December 09, 2019

    PepsiCo, Pension Plan Participants Agree To Dismiss ERISA Lawsuit

    WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Both sides of a lawsuit in which pension plan participants sued PepsiCo Inc. under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act filed a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice on Nov. 22 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (William DuBuske, et al. v. PepsiCo Inc., et al., No. 18-cv-11618, S.D. N.Y.).

  • December 09, 2019

    Plaintiffs Say Class Certification Is Proper In Wawa Fiduciary Breach Suit

    PHILADELPHIA — A district court properly granted a motion for class certification in a breach of fiduciary suit against Wawa Inc. because the plaintiffs, who allege that Wawa breached its fiduciary duty by amending its employee stock ownership plan, satisfied the commonality and typicality requirements necessary for class certification, the plaintiffs say in a Dec. 4 appellee brief filed in the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (John J. Cunningham, et al. v. Wawa Inc., No. 19-2930, 3rd Cir.).

  • December 06, 2019

    Illinois Appeals Court Remands ERISA Preemption Findings

    OTTAWA, Ill. — In a Dec. 2 ruling, the Third District Illinois Appellate Court reversed and remanded dismissal of allegations that a construction company violated a state wage law when it failed to pay workers certain fringe benefits (People of the State of Illinois v. Lion Construction LLC, No. 3-18-0080, Ill. App., 3rd Dist., 2019 IL App [3d] 180080).

  • December 06, 2019

    Government Says High Court Should Review 8th Circuit’s ERISA Preemption Ruling

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court should review the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act preempts an Arkansas law regulating drug reimbursement rates for pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) because the ruling was incorrect and contrary to Supreme Court precedent, the U.S. government says in a Dec. 4 amicus curiae brief  (Leslie Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, No. 18-540, U.S. Sup.).

  • December 05, 2019

    Panel Publishes Opinion Affirming Finding That Plan Amendment Violates Plan Terms

    SEATTLE — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 3 granted a request to publish a prior memorandum opinion affirming a district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action based on its finding that  an amendment to the pension plan violates the plain terms of the plan regarding employer contributions received on behalf of electricians who travel within the electrical construction industry (Richard Lehman, et al. v. Warner Nelson, et al., No. 18-35321, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 35871).

  • December 04, 2019

    U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments On ERISA ‘Actual Knowledge’ Standard

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Plan disclosures sent to a plan participant more than three years before that participant filed suit alleging imprudent investment allocations provided actual knowledge under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals erred when it reversed a trial court’s summary judgment ruling for the plan fiduciaries, the attorney representing those fiduciaries argued Dec. 4 before the U.S. Supreme Court (Intel Corporation Investment Policy Committee, et al. v. Christopher M. Sulyma, No. 18-1116, U.S. Sup.).