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Mealey's ERISA

  • February 14, 2019

    9th Circuit Denies Rehearing In Abuse Of Discretion Disability Benefits Dispute

    SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 12 denied a long-term disability (LTD) plan administrator’s motion to reconsider its decision that the plan administrator abused its discretion in denying LTD benefits under the plan’s any-occupation standard because the plan administrator failed to properly consider restrictions placed on the claimant's ability to stand (Jennifer Kott v. Agilent Technologies Inc. Disability Plan, No. 17-16584, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 4235).

  • February 13, 2019

    Breach Of Fiduciary Duty Claim Stands As It Relates To Deficient Process Allegations

    OAKLAND, Calif. — A California federal judge on Feb. 8 partially denied a defense motion to dismiss in a suit alleging that the defendants mismanaged an employee pension benefit plan after determining that the plaintiff sufficiently alleged a breach of fiduciary duty claim based on a theory that the defendants used a deficient process when selecting a replacement investment option for the plan (Michael F. Dorman, et al. v. The Charles Schwab Corp., et al., No. 17-285, N.D. Calif.).

  • February 11, 2019

    Federal Judge Preliminarily Approves Settlement In Duke Retirement Plan Suit

    GREENSBORO, N.C. — A North Carolina federal judge on Feb. 7 granted a motion for preliminary approval of a $10.6 million class action settlement in a suit filed by participants in Duke University’s 403(b) retirement plan after concluding that the settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate (David Clark, et al. v. Duke University, et al., No. 16-1044; Kathi Lucas, et al. v. Duke University, et al., No. 18-722, M.D. N.C.).

  • February 11, 2019

    11th Circuit Upholds Ruling Finding Woman’s Claim For Future Benefits Premature

    ATLANTA — A woman’s request for a declaration from her life insurance company that she is entitled to future total disability benefits under a policy governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act was properly dismissed by a federal judge in Florida, an 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Feb. 8, holding that there is no ripe claim without an adverse determination by the insurer (Theresa Peer v. Life Liberty Assurance Co., No. 18-13173, 11th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3956).

  • February 8, 2019

    Disability Insurer Must Consider Actual Duties Of Claimant’s Own Occupation

    PHILADELPHIA — A disability insurer was required to consider the actual duties of a claimant’s occupation rather than the duties of the occupation as performed in the national economy because the plan clearly defined the term “own occupation” as the work the claimant was performing immediately before the onset of the disability, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Feb. 7 in affirming a district court’s opinion (Christopher Patterson v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 17-3566, 3rd  Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3902).

  • February 8, 2019

    Panel Allows State Law Claims, Says Claims Do Not Relate To ERISA Plan

    SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal on Feb. 6 reversed a district court’s dismissal of state law claims alleged against health insurance companies that allegedly made misrepresentations about monthly premiums after determining that the state law claims are not preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the alleged misrepresentations were made before the issuance of the health plans and, therefore, do not relate to an ERISA plan (The Depot Inc., et al. v. Caring for Montanans Inc., et al., No. 17-35597, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3671).

  • February 7, 2019

    Plan Participants Ask 7th Circuit To Reverse Dismissal Of Fiduciary Breach Claims

    CHICAGO — Plan participants in a Jan. 14 brief ask the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court’s dismissal of their lawsuit against Northwestern University Retirement Plan and the university itself for alleged violations of fiduciary duty, contending that other federal circuit courts have recognized their allegations as fiduciary breaches pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Laura L. Divane, et al. v. Northwestern University, et al., No. 18-2569, 7th Cir.).

  • February 6, 2019

    Texas Federal Judge Dismisses Second Amended Complaint In ERISA Suit Against Exxon

    HOUSTON — A Texas federal judge on Feb. 4 granted Exxon Mobil Corp.’s motion to dismiss a second amended class action complaint asserting that the company and its officers failed to prudently manage a defined contribution benefit plan’s assets pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the plaintiffs failed to show that corrective disclosures would have benefitted rather than harmed the plan (Bobby D. Fentress, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al., No. 16-3484, S.D. Texas, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16934).

  • February 6, 2019

    Class Supplements Request For Approval Of ERISA Settlement

    GREENSBORO, N.C. — In a Feb. 1 supplemental brief, participants in the Duke University 403(b) retirement plan defended their proposed $10.6 million settlement with the school as “fundamentally fair and adequate” (David Clark, et al. v. Duke University, et al., No. 16-1044; Kathi Lucas, et al. v. Duke University, et al., No. 18-722, M.D. N.C.).

  • February 6, 2019

    2nd Circuit Refuses To Stay Duty-Of-Prudence Dispute For Supreme Court Review

    NEW YORK — The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 4 denied a motion by fiduciaries of an IBM employee stock option plan (ESOP) to stay its mandate that employees plausibly asserted a duty-of-prudence claim against them under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act pending their filing of a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court (Larry W. Jander, et al. v. Retirement Plans Committee of IBM, et al., No. 17-3518, 2nd Cir.).

  • February 6, 2019

    1st Circuit Affirms Finding Of No Fraud On Court In Pension Plan Benefit Dispute

    BOSTON — The  First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 25 affirmed a district court’s ruling that the defendants named in a dispute over the termination of a pension plan did not commit any “fraud on the court” that would warrant overturning the lower court’s 2009 ruling that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear the suit because the pension plan was a church plan and exempt from the requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Olga Torres, et al. v. Bella Vista Hospital Inc., et al., No. 16-2316, 1st Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 2574).

  • February 5, 2019

    5th Circuit Partly Reverses Ruling In Coverage Dispute Over Weight Loss Surgery

    NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 31 found that a health plan administrator did not abuse its discretion in the first or second internal appeal of its denial of full coverage for a health plan beneficiary’s gastric bypass surgery, a follow-up surgery and care required after she experienced complications, reversing a lower court in part (Karen A. Rittinger v. Health Alliance Life Insurance Company, et al., No. 17-20646, 5th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3201).

  • February 5, 2019

    5th Circuit Partly Reverses Ruling In Coverage Dispute Over Weight Loss Surgery

    NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 31 found that a health plan administrator did not abuse its discretion in the first or second internal appeal of its denial of full coverage for a health plan beneficiary’s gastric bypass surgery, a follow-up surgery and care required after she experienced complications, reversing a lower court in part (Karen A. Rittinger v. Health Alliance Life Insurance Company, et al., No. 17-20646, 5th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3201).

  • February 1, 2019

    Additional Briefing Requested On Adequacy Of Proposed Settlement With Duke University

    GREENSBORO, N.C. — A North Carolina federal judge on Jan. 29 requested that participants in Duke University’s retirement plan supplement their motion for preliminary approval of a $10.6 million settlement it reached with the university in two class actions alleging excessive fees and imprudent investment funds in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to further address the adequacy of the proposed settlement (David Clark, et al. v. Duke University, et al., No. 16-1044, and Kathi Lucas, et al. v. Duke University, et al., No. 18-722, M.D. N.C.).

  • January 31, 2019

    Split 6th Circuit: Agents Were Properly Classified As Independent Contractors

    CINCINNATI — American Family Insurance Co. and its affiliates properly classified its agents as independent contractors, a split Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Jan. 29, reversing a trial court ruling in favor of the agents on claims that they had been misclassified and deprived of rights and protections provided under various laws, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Walid Jammal, et al. v. American Family Insurance Company, et al., No. 17-4125, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 2905).

  • January 31, 2019

    Split 6th Circuit: Agents Were Properly Classified As Independent Contractors

    CINCINNATI — American Family Insurance Co. and its affiliates properly classified its agents as independent contractors, a split Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Jan. 29, reversing a trial court ruling in favor of the agents on claims that they had been misclassified and deprived of rights and protections provided under various laws, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Walid Jammal, et al. v. American Family Insurance Company, et al., No. 17-4125, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 2905).

  • January 31, 2019

    Defenses Waived Under ERISA On Fund’s Notice Of Withdrawal Liability

    CHICAGO — A pension fund’s notice of withdrawal liability to a construction company and related entities did not violate their due process, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Jan. 29, finding that defendants received notice and were given a chance to arbitrate but failed to do so, resulting, by operation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, in a waiver of all defenses to withdrawal liability (Trustees of the Suburban Teamsters of Northern Illinois Pension Fund v. The E Co., et al., No. 18-2273, 7th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 2933).

  • January 29, 2019

    Fiduciaries Move To Stay Duty-Of-Prudence Dispute To Seek Supreme Court Review

    NEW YORK — Fiduciaries of an IBM employee stock option plan (ESOP) on Jan. 24 moved to stay the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ mandate that employees plausibly asserted a duty-of-prudence claim against them under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act pending their filing of a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court (Larry W. Jander, et al. v. Retirement Plans Committee of IBM, et al., No. 17-3518, 2nd Cir.).

  • January 28, 2019

    After Bench Trial, Missouri Federal Judge Rejects ERISA Claims

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In Jan. 23 findings of fact and conclusions of law, a Missouri federal judge found that allegations by two plaintiffs that retirement plan administrators and sponsors breached their fiduciary duties by, among other things, engaging in equitable disgorgement of ill-gotten profits were not proven at a September 2018 bench trial (Steve Wildman, et al. v. American Century Services LLC, et al., No. 4:16-cv-00737, W.D. Mo., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10672).

  • January 28, 2019

    2nd Circuit Declines To Disturb Administrator’s Interpretation Of Retirement Plan

    NEW YORK — The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 24 said that although appellants’ interpretation of a retirement plan is more reasonable, under the standard of review it must apply, the administrator's interpretation of the plan must be affirmed in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act dispute over the denial of early retirement benefits (Kathy Joy Kirkendall, et al. v. Halliburton, Inc., No. 17-3487, 2nd Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 2280).