INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana federal judge on Sept. 14 partially granted a motion to certify a class of representatives in a suit 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 (Mary Bell, et al. v. Pension Committee of ATH Holding Company LLC, et al., No. 1:15-cv-02062, S.D. Ind., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 156927).
CINCINNATI — The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal on Sept. 11 affirmed a district court’s ruling in favor of a retirement benefits plan because the appellant, seeking retirement disability benefits, failed to challenge the district court’s finding that the retirement plan was properly amended to delete a provision stating that a claimant would be considered totally disabled if the Social Security Administration (SSA) declared the claimant disabled (Patsy Saylor v. Appalachian Regional Hospital, No. 17-6266, 6th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25828).
NEW YORK — A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Sept. 14 affirmed a federal judge in New York’s ruling awarding summary judgment to the trustees of a pension fund accused of breaching their fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act suit, finding that the plan’s summary plan description (SPD) clearly explained the amount of benefits a woman was eligible to receive from deceased husband’s plan (Emily DeRogatis v. Board of Trustees of the Welfare Fund of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 15, et al., Nos. 16-977-cv, 16-3549-cv, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 26126).
CHICAGO — After determining that a former loan officer’s commissions were not considered when determining his monthly pension calculation and that commissions were excluded under a defined-benefits plan, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 17 affirmed a district court’s summary judgment ruling for the administrator of the plan (Wessley Gunchick v. Bank of America, N.A., No. 18-1420, 7th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 26192).
CHICAGO — A disability insurer acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it failed to consider the opinions of four doctors in favor of one doctor who determined that a disability claimant was not disabled as a result of radiculopathy, a majority of the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Sept. 14 reversing a district court’s opinion and remanding the claim to the plan administrator (Susan Hennen v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., No. 17-3080, 7th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 26114).
ATLANTA — A Georgia federal judge on Sept. 13 granted a motion to certify a class in a lawsuit alleging that Emory University mismanaged its employee retirement plans by charging excessive fees, using multiple record-keepers to operate their plans and handle administrative services and offering too many high-cost and poorly performing investment options (Geneva Henderson, et al. v. Emory University, et al., No. 1:16-cv-2920, N.D. Ga.).
ST. PAUL, Minn. — As a result of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ mandate vacating the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule, a Minnesota federal judge on Sept. 14 dismissed without prejudice a plaintiff’s suit challenging the rule (Thrivent Financial for Lutherans v. Acosta, et al., No. 0:16-cv-03289, D. Minn.).
PHILADELPHIA — A Pennsylvania federal judge on Aug. 31 granted final approval of a $25 million settlement payment to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), allocated on a pro rata basis among more than 1,200 class members, in a suit alleging that an amendment to the ESOP was a breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Greg Pfeifer, et al. v. Wawa Inc., et al., No. 16-497, E.D. Pa.).
NEW YORK — An insurer’s alleged coverage for skilled nursing and rehabilitation while imposing a blanket exclusion on wilderness therapy adequately pleads a violation of the mental health parity law, a federal judge in New York held Sept. 11 while denying a motion to dismiss an ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claim (William Gallagher, et al. v. Empire Healthcare Assurance Inc., et al., No. 16-9105, S.D. N.Y.).
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A New York federal judge on Sept. 11 dismissed claims for breach of fiduciary duties and equitable disgorgement of ill-gotten gains against company defendants in a putative class action brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act but allowed the remaining claims to proceed (In re M&T Bank Corporation ERISA Litigation, No. 16-375, W.D. N.Y., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 154641).
NEW YORK — Plaintiffs alleging that Columbia University breached its duty of prudence by causing the university’s retirement plans to incur excessive administrative fees and by failing to monitor the plans’ investment options filed a motion on Sept. 7 in New York federal court seeking to certify a class of individuals who were and are participants of Columbia University’s retirement plans and who allegedly sustained losses as a result of the university’s breach of the duty of prudence (Chandra Cates et al v. The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York et al., No. 16-6524, S.D. N.Y.).
NEW YORK — The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 7 affirmed a district court’s ruling that a disability insurer did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in relying on the American Psychiatric Association's definition of mental illness when determining that bipolar disorder is a mental illness and subject to the plan's 24-month cap on disability benefits for a mental illness (Marry Kim v. The Hartford Life Insurance Co., No. 17-2122, 2nd Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25389).
HONOLULU — In an Aug. 29 reply brief, a plaintiff who was injured in a motorcycle crash clarified in a reply brief filed in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that he petitioned the district court to determine what amount of a third-party tort settlement recovery could be recovered by his health insurer under Hawaii law and not that the terms of the health insurer’s plan regarding reimbursement are void (Randy Rudel v. Hawaii Management Alliance Association, et al., Nos. 17-17395, 17-17460, 9th Cir.).
NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 6 reversed and remanded a district court’s sua sponte dismissal of a plaintiff’s claim for reimbursement of medical expenses under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Recovery Act (COBRA) after determining that the district court abused its discretion in ruling that the plaintiff was legally barred from obtaining a penalty award under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act for the employer’s failure to provide the required notice of coverage termination under COBRA (David L. Hager v. DBG Partners Inc., No. 17-11147, 5th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25358).
BOSTON — The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 6 reversed a district court’s denial of a health plan participant’s motions to expand the scope of the administrative record after determining that the health plan should be held to its agreement with the plan participant to expand the scope of the administrative record (Jane Doe v. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Inc., et al., No. 17-2078, 1st Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25347).
SAN FRANCISCO — The majority of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 4 vacated a district court’s ruling that a Nevada law that limits the damages that may be collected from general contractors who are vicariously liable for the debts of Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan members is preempted by ERISA after determining that the law, which has since been repealed, does not conflict with ERISA’s objectives or impermissibly “relate” to ERISA plans (The Board of Trustees of the Glazing Health and Welfare Trust, et al. v. Shannon Chambers, No. 16-15588, 9th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25030).
RICHMOND, Va. — An arbitrator did not err in finding that a business’ accrued rent, owed to the owner of the building — a trust owned by the business’ president — was a bona fide debt for the purposes of withdrawal liability under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Sept. 4 (Board of Trustees, Sheet Metal Workers’ National Pension Fund v. Lane & Roderick, Inc., No. 17-2205, 4th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25044).
NEW YORK — A former Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC employee’s second appeal of a district court’s ruling that his claims for pension and stock benefits were untimely is barred by the law of the case doctrine, a Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled in a Sept. 6 summary order (Benjamin Reches v. Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, No. 17-2874, 2nd Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25263).
RICHMOND, Va. — A Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel in an unpublished per curiam opinion issued Sept. 4 affirmed the denial of accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) benefits under an Employee Retirement Income Security Act employee benefit plan, ruling that the death from a pulmonary embolism was not an accident (Linda Grabowski v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Company, No. 17-2108, 4th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25039).
NEW ORLEANS — A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Sept. 4 affirmed a federal judge in Texas’ decision to dismiss a former Whole Foods Market Inc. employee’s Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuit, finding that the plaintiff was unable to show that the company’s executives breached any fiduciary duties when allegedly artificially inflating the company’s stock price during a widespread overpricing scheme, finding that there was no alternative available to help the company’s 401(k) plan (Thomas Martone v. Walter E. Robb, et al., No. 17-50702, 5th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25052).