WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a series of amicus curiae briefs filed Sept. 17 and 18, parties ranging from the AARP to the federal government told the U.S. Supreme Court that it should reverse a 2017 holding by the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that losses sustained by a defined-benefit pension plan later remedied via contribution from a plan fiduciary are not actionable for lack of standing (James J. Thole, et al. v. U.S. Bank, N.A., et al., No. 17-1712, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals erred in finding that a New Jersey federal judge did not abuse his discretion in disallowing discovery in a protracted legal dispute between a health benefit plan and one of its participants, the U.S. Supreme Court was told recently (Bernard McLaughlin v. National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan, No. 19-190, U.S. Sup.).
NEW YORK — Parties involved in a dispute over The New York Times Co.’s liability for withdrawing from a multiemployer pension plan on Sept. 16 filed a stipulation in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals withdrawing with prejudice their appeals of a district court’s decision regarding the newspaper’s liability (The New York Times Company v. Newspaper and Mail Deliverers’-Publishers’ Pension Fund, et al., No. 18-1140, 2nd Cir.).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California federal court should grant preliminary approval of an $8.5 million class settlement reached in a breach of fiduciary suit alleging that Safeway Inc. mismanaged its 401(k) plan because the settlement is fair and represents a strong achievement for the parties, the plaintiffs maintain in a Sept. 13 motion for preliminary approval of the settlement (Maria Karla Terraza v. Safeway Inc., et al., No. 16-3994, N.D. Calif., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65237).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Direct payments to health care providers do not waive anti-assignment provisions or transform the provider into the type of party that can sue an insurer under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, industry groups tell the U.S. Supreme Court in a Sept. 13 amicus curiae brief opposing review (Louisiana Health Service & Indemnity Co. v. Encompass Office Solutions, Inc., No. 19-196, U.S. Sup.).
CINCINNATI — The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 13 reversed a district court’s ruling in a health insurance coverage dispute after determining that an employer did not violate the Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) because the employee’s reduction in work hours did not constitute a COBRA qualifying event that required the employer to provide her with COBRA notification (Rebecca Morehouse, et al. v. Steak N Shake Inc., No. 18-4186, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 27640).
NEW YORK — Allegations that an insurer improperly denied coverage for out-of-network facility fees for certain providers support certification of a class seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, but not classwide benefit awards, a federal judge in New York held Sept. 11 (The Medical Society of the State of New York, et al. v. UnitedHealth Group Inc., et al., No. 16-5265, S.D. N.Y.).
BOSTON — Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a class of participants in an MIT-sponsored retirement plan suing over alleged excessive fees and failure to monitor appointed fiduciaries filed a notice of settlement and joint motion to stay all pretrial and trial deadlines on Sept. 12 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts just days before the trial was scheduled to start (David B. Tracey, et al. v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, et al., No. 16-11620, D. Mass.).
CINCINNATI — A district court erred in denying a disability claimant’s motion to remand because the amount in controversy did not exceed the federal jurisdictional minimum amount of $75,000, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Sept. 11 in vacating and remanding the district court’s ruling in favor of a disability insurer (Linda Graves v. Standard Insurance Co., No. 18-5449, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 27526).
NEW ORLEANS — A district court erred in finding ambiguous an anti-assignment provision in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan and that Tennessee law making insurers liable to third-party providers necessarily implicates the plan and is preempted, a panel of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Sept. 11 (Dialysis Newco Inc., et al. v. Community Health Systems Group Health Plan, et al., No. 18-40863, 5th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 27418).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Breaches of fiduciary duty that deplete plan assets are actionable regardless of whether they put a plan at imminent risk of default, two petitioners tell the U.S. Supreme Court in a Sept. 11 brief on the merits (James J. Thole, et al. v. U.S. Bank, N.A., et al., No. 17-1712, U.S. Sup.).
HONOLULU — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 11 affirmed a district court’s ruling that two Hawaii statutes that prohibit a health insurer’s subrogation rights are not preempted under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and provide the relevant rule of decision because the statutes do not impermissibly expand the scope of liability under ERISA (Randy Rudel v. Hawaii Management Alliance Association, et al., Nos. 17-17395, 17-17460, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 27371).
SEATTLE — A Washington federal judge on Sept. 10 dismissed an employer’s complaint seeking a finding that its short-term disability (STD) plan is not governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the issue already was decided by the director of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries and cannot be relitigated in federal court (Phillips 66 Co., et al., v. Joel Sacks, et al., No. 19-174, W.D. Wash., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 154155).
NEW YORK — The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 10 affirmed a district court’s award of attorney fees to a disability claimant after determining that the lower court did not err in reducing the hourly rate for the award of attorney fees because the claimant’s counsel failed to show that the requested hourly rates are the prevailing rates for the district in which the law firm is located (Janet Solnin v. Sun Life and Health Insurance Co., et al., No. 18-3042, 2nd Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 27199).
STATESVILLE, N.C. — A North Carolina federal judge on Sept. 5 adopted a magistrate judge’s recommendation to deny a motion to dismiss filed by 401(k) plan defendants accused of removing certain investment funds in favor of funds offered by their investment consultant after determining that the plaintiff sufficiently alleged facts to support a claim for breach of the duties of loyalty and prudence (Benjamin Reetz v. Lowe’s Companies Inc., et al., No. 18-75, W.D. N.C., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151794).
BOSTON — In a Sept. 4 order, a federal judge in Massachusetts rejected claims by a class of participants in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-sponsored retirement plan that the university engaged in prohibited transactions with its recordkeeper (David Tracey, et al. v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, et al., No. 16-11620, D. Mass., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150989).
INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana federal judge on Sept. 4 entered an order of final approval of a $23.65 million class action settlement in a lawsuit filed by 401(k) plan participants who allege that the retirement plan breached its fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by providing plan participants with an imprudent investment fund and by charging plan participants excessive administrative fees and awarded more than $8 million in attorney fees and costs to class counsel (Mary Bell, et al. v. Pension Committee of ATH Holding Company LLC, et al., No. 15-02062, S.D. Ind., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150302).
FORT WORTH, Texas — American Airlines Inc. and its retirement plans fiduciary filed an answer on Sept. 4 to a complaint by plan participants denying claims by participants that they violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by using an outdated mortality table from 1984 to estimate the average lifespan of pension plan participants and requesting dismissal; the answer was filed approximately a month after American Airlines’ motion to dismiss was denied (Olga Martinez Torres, et al. v. American Airlines, Inc., et al., No. 18-983, N.D. Texas).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court should review the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling in favor of a disability insurer on the insurer’s interpretation of the term “regular occupation” to resolve the conflict among circuit courts regarding the proper interpretation of the term, a disability claimant asserts in an Aug. 21 petition for writ of certiorari (Juanita Nichols v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., No. 19-242, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A certified class of insurance agents tells the U.S. Supreme Court in an Aug. 22 petition for certiorari that the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals erred in applying de novo review to district court findings that they were misclassified as independent contractors by an insurer (Walid Jammal, et al., v. American Family Insurance Company, No. 19-248, U.S. Sup.).