SAN FRANCISCO — In a Nov. 13 unpublished decision, a panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals left intact a California federal judge’s decision that placed a lien on the personal individual retirement account (IRA) of an appellant accused of breaching her fiduciary duty to her brother’s Living Trust (Metropolitan Life Insurance Company v. Araceli Maloney, Nos. 18-55785, 18-55989 and 18-56174, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 33857).
SANTA ANA, Calif. — An insurer’s lawsuit accusing a number of substance abuse treatment centers of common-law fraud, violation of California’ unfair competition law (UCL) and other claims can proceed in state court, a federal judge in California ruled Nov. 13, holding that the plaintiff company’s claims are not preempted by the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (Health Net Life Insurance Co. v. Morningside Recovery LLC, et al., No. 19-cv-1342, C.D. Calif., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 197937).
NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 8 affirmed two decisions by a district court after determining that the lower court did not err in entering judgment for a health insurer that denied 106 days of an insured’s partial hospitalization treatment and did not err in denying the insured’s request for attorney fees (Ariana M. v. Humana Health Plan of Texas, Incorporated, No. 18-20700, 5th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 33707).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a Nov. 12 respondent’s merits brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Bank N.A. characterizes as “abstract” a putative class action in which U.S. Bank is accused of breaching its fiduciary duty to participants in a defined-benefit retirement plan (James J. Thole, et al. v. U.S. Bank, N.A., et al., No. 17-1712, U.S. Sup.).
NEW YORK — A former professional basketball player who sued more than 16 years after receiving his final retirement payment under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act seeking pension benefits he claimed he was still owed filed his action 10 years too late, a Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Nov. 12 in a summary order (Zaid Abdul-Aziz, et al. v. National Basketball Association, Players’ Pension Plan, No. 19-782, 2nd Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 33652).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Bermuda reinsurer in a Nov. 7 motion asks a District of Columbia federal court to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction a lawsuit filed by trustees of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) pension plan over alleged violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act from failing to make $934 million in withdrawal liability payments (Michael H. Holland, et al. v. Cardem Insurance Company Ltd., No. 19-02362, D. D.C.).
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — In a Nov. 8 holding, a federal judge in New York vacated his September dismissal of allegations that PepsiCo Inc. violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and instead granted a purported plaintiff class leave to file an amended complaint (William DuBuske, et al. v. PepsiCo Inc., et al., No. 18-cv-11618, S.D. N.Y., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 194730).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct. 28 affirmed a district court’s ruling in favor of retirement plan defendants, agreeing with the lower court’s conclusion that the retirement plan at issue clearly does not include a guaranteed death benefit (Susan K. Black, et al. v. Greater Bay Bancorp Executive Supplemental Compensation Benefits Plan, et al., Nos. 18-15296, 18-15730, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 32262).
SAN FRANCISCO — A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Nov. 7 denied a petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc, leaving in place an Aug. 20 decision in which it found that its 1984 ruling in Amaro v. Continental Can Co., which held that claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act were not arbitrable, “is no longer good law” and then issued a memorandum disposition compelling arbitration in the dispute (Michael Dorman, et al. v. Charles Schwab Corp., et al., No. 18-15281, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 33375).
BOSTON — In an electronic order issued Nov. 7, a Massachusetts federal judge denied retirement plan defendants' motion to bifurcate a trial in a suit filed by plaintiffs who allege that the defendant plan fiduciaries mismanaged the plaintiffs’ retirement savings plan after determining that an advisory jury will preserve the plaintiffs’ rights despite the fact that a jury trial does not attach to the plaintiffs’ claims, which could result in an equitable surcharge rather than legal damages (Kevin Moitoso, et al. v. FMR LLC, et al., No. 18-12122, D. Mass.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — MBI Energy Services on Oct. 30 waived its right to respond to a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by a member and beneficiary of MBI’s self-funded employee benefit plan seeking review of a ruling that the terms of the plan contained in the summary plan description (SPD) permitted the plan to seek reimbursement of health benefits paid to a member for injuries caused by another after that party’s insurer settled because the ruling is not consistent with precedent previously established by the high court (Robert Hoch v. MBI Energy Services, No. 19-444, U.S. Sup.).
ATLANTA — A disability insurer’s denial of a long-term disability claim for substance abuse was not arbitrary and capricious because the medical evidence supports the insurer’s finding that the pre-existing condition exclusion applied as a bar to benefits, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Nov. 7 (Anthony J. Ferrizzi v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., No. 18-11803, 11th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 33350).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a Nov. 6 respondent brief, a retirement plan accused of breaching its duty of prudence tells the U.S. Supreme Court that it should deny certiorari in a dispute in which a plan participant requests that his petition be held pending the outcome of a different, recently argued case (Alexander Y. Usenko v. MEMC LLC et al., No. 19-460, U.S. Sup.).
SAN ANTONIO — In an Oct. 28 order, a federal magistrate judge in Texas referred to an arbitrator the question of whether any claim in a plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit is excluded from an arbitration agreement governing her 401(k) plan (Sonia Torres v. Greystar Management Services L.P., No. 19-510, W.D. Texas).
CINCINNATI — The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 5 reversed and remanded a district court’s dismissal of a pension plan participant’s claim for prejudgment interest and statutory penalties after determining that the lower court failed to properly analyze the extent of the plan participant’s injury caused by not receiving the full benefits to which he was entitled and misconstrued the participant’s argument regarding his entitlement to statutory penalties (Bernard Mulder v. Local 75, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Pension Fund, No. 18-2002, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 33015).
HARTFORD, Conn. — Emphasis by a defendant insurer on an insured’s acute symptoms rather than on “the effective and otherwise medically necessary treatment of” her underlying eating disorder ran afoul of the terms of an employee welfare benefit plan, a Connecticut federal judge concluded Nov. 5 (S.B. v. Oxford Health Insurance Inc., No. 17-1485, D. Conn., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191803).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Arguments by participants in an employee stock option plan (ESOP) who have accused plan fiduciaries of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s duty of prudence by continuing to invest funds despite insider knowledge that the stock price was artificially inflated fail as “ESOP fiduciaries do not have a fiduciary obligation to use information gained in the corporate capacity or to use the regular corporate channels of disclosure for the benefit of plan participants,” Paul D. Clement of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington told the U.S. Supreme Court Nov. 6, arguing on behalf of the fiduciaries (Retirement Plans Committee of IBM, et al. v. Larry W. Jander, et al., No. 18-1165, U.S. Sup.).
CHICAGO — A health plan participant claims in an Oct. 31 class action complaint filed in Illinois federal court that a plan administrator breached its fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by using clinical coverage guidelines, provided by a company with which the plan administrator contracted, that are designed to result in the denial of claims for residential mental health treatment (Pamela Smith, et al. v. Health Care Service Corp., et al., No. 19-7162, N.D. Ill.).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California federal judge on Oct. 28 denied a motion for preliminary approval of a settlement in a class action suit alleging that retirement plan defendants failed to comply with funding, reporting, disclosure and fiduciary requirements under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act after determining that the arrangement regarding the payment of attorney fees to the plaintiffs’ counsel renders the settlement unreasonable (Starla Rollins, et al. v. Dignity Health, et al., No. 13-1450, N.D. Calif.).
CINCINNATI — In an Oct. 31 holding, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with a Tennessee federal judge’s determination that a plaintiff fired for violating his former company’s “core values” failed to prove that the stated rationale for the termination was mere pretext for discrimination (James Williams v. Graphic Packaging International Inc., No. 18-5485, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 32572).