WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) granted government agencies “virtually unbridled discretion” over what constitutes preventive care, including the power to issue exemptions for religious and moral objectors to the law’s contraceptive mandate, the U.S. Supreme Court said July 8 in a 7-2 opinion, reversing the Third Circuit and dissolving a nationwide injunction (Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, et al., Donald J. Trump, et al. v. Pennsylvania, Nos. 19-431, 19-454, U.S. Sup.).
BOSTON — A group of participants in a Fidelity Investment employee savings plan say in a July 2 unopposed motion for preliminary approval of a class action settlement that they have reached a fair and reasonable agreement with Fidelity that creates a $28.5 million settlement fund and institutes plan monitoring and recordkeeping procedures (Kevin Moitoso, et al. v. FMR LLC, et al., No. 18-12122, D. Mass.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled June 26 that a California federal court must clarify the roles two Anthem entities played in denying benefits under an ERISA-governed plan to an 8-year-old boy suffering from a neuropsychiatric disorder, saying that without that clarification, the correct standard of review for the coverage denial was unknown (Ryan E. v. Entertainment Industry Flex Plan, No. 19-55131, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20261).
FORT WORTH, Texas — Following a Texas federal judge’s July 1 denial of plaintiffs’ motion for class certification in a suit alleging that American Airlines Inc. and its pension administration committee breached their fiduciary duties by mismanaging the company’s 401(k) plan, the defendants moved for summary judgment on July 3, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to allege facts in support of their contention that the plan fiduciaries mismanaged the plan (Salvadora Ortiz and Thomas Scott, et al. v. American Airlines Inc., et al., No. 16-151, N.D. Texas).
NEW YORK — A pension fund’s calculation of an employee’s benefits was “arbitrary and capricious” because there was no supervisor exclusion in the plan and the employee was covered, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled June 30, affirming summary judgment in favor of the employee (John Latronica v. Local 1430 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Pension Fund, et al., No. 19-2978, 2nd Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20757).
SAN FRANCISCO — In a June 30 summary disposition, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found that a California federal judge erred in dismissing with prejudice allegations that Blue Cross of California improperly denied benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when it drastically underpaid a claim by an insured (California Spine and Neurosurgery Institute v. Blue Cross of California, No. 19-15192, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20533).
FORT WORTH, Texas — American Airlines Inc. and a group of participants in American Airlines defined benefit retirement plans told a Texas federal court on July 1 that they have reached an agreement to settle a dispute over the mortality table used to calculate retirement benefits (Olga Martinez Torres, et al. v. American Airlines, Inc., et al., No. 18-983, N.D. Texas).
NEW ORLEANS — A woman who won a “procedural” victory in a federal appeal over an insurer’s partial denial of coverage for hospitalization to treat an eating disorder will have to score a win on the merits of her claim before she seeks an attorney fee award for the cost of that appeal, a panel of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled June 29 (Katherine P. v. Humana Health Plan, Inc., No. 19-50276, 5th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20404).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 23 affirmed a lower court’s summary judgment that a pair of online driving schools failed to show that third-party administrators of the schools’ retirement plans were acting as fiduciaries under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when their advice allegedly led to the an overfunding of the plans (Cheap Easy Online Traffic School, et al., v. Peter L. Huntting & Co., et al., Nos. 19-55055 and 19-55653, Cheap Easy Online Traffic School, et al. v. SMI Pensions, et al., No. 19-55654, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 19630).
ST. LOUIS — The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 1 affirmed a district court’s ruling that a disability plan’s decision to deny a claimant’s long-term disability (LTD) benefits was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence (Harry DaPron v. Spire Inc. Retirement Plans Committee, No. 19-2166, 8th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20520).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court should review a Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision in which it affirmed dismissal of retirement plan participants’ amended complaint alleging fiduciary breach allegations against Northwestern University under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the circuit courts of appeals are divided on the requirements necessary to plead a violation of ERISA’s duty of prudence based on excessive fees, the plan participants maintain in a June 19 petition for writ of certiorari (April Hughes, et al. v. Northwestern University, et al., No. 19-1401, U.S. Sup.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The father of a young woman suffering from mental health problems filed a June 22 complaint in a California federal court alleging that United Behavioral Health and UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co. violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in refusing to pay for residential treatment in favor of “non-existent” partial hospitalization that had moved online in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic (Roger Brown v. United Behavioral Health, et al., No. 3:20-cv-04129, N.D. Calif.).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California federal court applied the wrong legal standard in denying attorney fees to a woman who successfully challenged an insurance company over long-term disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the majority of a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel said June 25, adding that the lower court should have asked whether there were any special circumstances that would make the fee award unjust (Debra Herrman v. Lifemap Assurance Co., No. 19-35182, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 19947).
ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 26 affirmed a lower court’s approval of a denial of benefits from a Delta Air Lines Inc. retirement plan administrator to a woman whose late ex-husband named his sister, and not his ex-wife, as his beneficiary under the ERISA-governed plan (Wanda Crowder v. Delta Air Lines Inc., et al., No. 19-12342, 11th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20004).
SAN FRANCISCO — The California-mandated auto-enrollment retirement savings program known as CalSavers makes improper references and connections to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and fails to fall within government exceptions, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) argues in a June 19 amicus curiae brief to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, et al. v. California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program, et al., No. 20-15591, 9th Cir.).
SALT LAKE CITY — A magistrate judge did not err in granting discovery into Parity Act and Employee Retirement Income Security Act document production issues in a residential treatment case, a federal judge in Utah said June 26 (Jane Doe v. Intermountain Healthcare Inc., et al., No. 18-00807, D. Utah, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112772).
PHILADELPHIA — A group of retired union workers cannot go forward with claims that their former employer violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by changing their medical plan, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in a June 19 nonprecedential opinion determining that the workers’ collective bargaining agreement did not give them a right to unalterable lifetime medical benefits (Neil Blankenship, et al. v. Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc., et al., No. 19-3374, 3rd Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 19186).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia federal magistrate judge recommended June 22 that trustees of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) pension plan proceed with jurisdictional discovery against a Bermuda reinsurance and insurance company over alleged violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act regarding the failure to make $934 million in withdrawal liability payments (Michael H. Holland, et al. v. Cardem Insurance Company Ltd., No. 19-02362, D. D.C.).
NEW YORK — The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York should decertify a class of plaintiffs suing over the alleged mismanagement of a Columbia University retirement plan, trustees of the school argued June 15, citing a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court over standing for claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Chandra Cates, et al. v. Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, No. 16-6524, S.D. N.Y.).
NEW YORK — In an insider information case on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, a Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on June 22 issued a decision reinstating an earlier ruling that participants in a stock option plan for IBM employees had plausibly alleged that plan fiduciaries breached their duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by failing to disclose alleged corporate fraud (Larry W. Jander, et al. v. Retirement Plans Committee of IBM, et al., No. 17-3518, 2nd Cir.).