Justia ERISA Opinion Summaries

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This appeal concerned a dispute between employees represented by a Union and their successor employer. The parties agreed to arbitrate this dispute regarding change in the terms of pension provision in a collective bargaining agreement. The district court refused to compel arbitration on the grounds that ERISA preempted the Union’s claims, and this, in turn, presented an issue of arbitrability properly decided by a judge, not an arbitrator. The First Circuit vacated the order of the district court and remanded with instructions to grant the Union’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that the issue of ERISA preemption in this case was not an issue of arbitrability but, rather, one that was squarely for the arbitrator to decide. View "Prime Healthcare Services - Landmark LLC v. United Nurses & Allied Professionals, Local 5067" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, Sears, alleging misrepresentation, constructive fraud, and infliction of emotional distress. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that Sears improperly administered life insurance benefits. The district court dismissed the complaint. Sonoco Prods. Co. v. Physicians Health Plan, Inc. held that section 502(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1132(a), preempts a state law claim when: the plaintiff has standing, the claim must fail under the scope of an ERISA provision that can enforce via section 502(a), and the claim must not be capable of resolution without an interpretation of the contract governed by federal law. Because plaintiff's claims meets all three prongs of the Sonoco test, the court concluded that ERISA completely preempts his claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Prince v. Sears Holdings Corp." on Justia Law

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In 1993, Vendura was hired by TRW Inc. and became a participant in the TRW Salaried Pension Plan. In 2002, Northrop Grumman Corp. acquired TRW and renamed the company (herein referred to as NGSMC). After NGSMC attempted to terminate Vendura’s employment Vendura challenged the attempt, and Vendura and NGSMSC signed a settlement agreement providing that Vendura would remain an employee of NGSMSC under certain conditions. In 2013, Vendura filed a claim for pension benefits to the Administrative Committee for the NGSMSC Plan, arguing that he was entitled to twenty years of benefit service under the settlement agreement. The Administrative Committee informed Vendura that he was eligible for a pension reflecting only twelve years of service. Vendura filed an eight-count complaint against Defendants, claiming, inter alia, a violation of ERISA. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. At issue on appeal concerned the number of “years of benefit service” that should be credited to Vendura in calculating his pension benefits under his pension plan. The First Circuit granted summary judgment to Defendants, holding that the Administrative Committee properly calculated Vendura’s pension benefits. View "Vendura v. Boxer" on Justia Law

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PCMA filed suit seeking a declaration that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., expressly preempts section 510B.8 of the Iowa Code. Iowa Code 510B.8 regulates how pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) establish generic drug pricing, and requires that certain disclosures on their drug pricing methodology be made to their network pharmacies as well as to Iowa’s insurance commissioner. The court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for entry of judgment for PCMA on the issue of express preemption, concluding that section 1144(a) of ERISA expressly preempts section 510B.8 because section 510B.8 applies to only those PBMs who administer prescription drug benefits for plans subject to ERISA regulation, and specifically exempts certain ERISA plans from its application. View "Pharmaceutical Care Management v. Gerhart" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Henry married in 1987 and divorced in 1993. The Divorce Judgment granted Plaintiff one-half of the pension benefits Henry had accrued during the marriage, with full rights of survivorship. Henry was forbidden from choosing a payment option that would deprive Plaintiff of these benefits. Henry worked for Chrysler from 1965 to 1992, and began receiving retirement benefits in 1994, under a “Lifetime Annuity Without Surviving Spouse” option, in violation of the Judgment. Plaintiff’s attorney submitted the Judgment to the Plan administrator, who stated that the Judgment lacked information required by 29 U.S.C. 1056(d)(3)(C) to qualify as a “qualified domestic relations order,” so it could not override ERISA’s anti-alienation provision. Plaintiff did not contact the Plan again until after Henry had died in 2007. The Plan denied her benefits request, noting “the participant does not have a remaining benefit to be assigned.” For six years, Plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to have the Plan qualify the Judgment. The Plan noted that changing the type of benefit was impermissible under plan the rules. In 2014, plaintiff obtained a nunc pro tunc order, correcting the Judgment. The Plan again denied benefits. Plaintiff filed suit under ERISA. The district court granted Plaintiff summary judgment, reasoning that, to the extent Plaintiff’s claim was based on the 2014, denial of benefits based on the Nunc Pro Tunc Order, it was timely and that the Order relates back to 1993. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the claim untimely. View "Patterson v. Chrysler Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, filed suit against Evercore under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1109(a), 1132(a)(2)-(3). Plaintiff is a former J.C. Penney employee and investor in a J.C. Penney employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) managed by Evercore. Plaintiff claims that Evercore breached its fiduciary duties of prudence and loyalty when it failed to take preventative action as the value of J.C. Penney common stock tumbled between 2012 and 2013, thereby causing significant losses. Applying Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer, the court concluded that plaintiff's complaint was properly dismissed because she failed to allege additional allegations of "special circumstances." In this case plaintiff failed to allege that the market on which J.C. Penney stock traded was inefficient. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Coburn v. Evercore Trust Company, N.A." on Justia Law

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As a nurse at the University of Louisville Hospital, Milby was covered by a long-term disability insurance policy. In 2011, Milby sought and received disability benefits for 17 months. During a subsequent eligibility review, the plan engaged MCMC, a third-party reviewer. MCMC opined that the “opinions of [Milby’s treating physicians] are not supported by the available medical documentation” and that she could perform sustained full-time work without restrictions as of 2/22/2013. Neither MCMC nor its agent was licensed to practice medicine in Kentucky. The plan terminated Milby’s benefits effective February 2013. Milby’s suit against her disability insurance provider remains pending. She also filed suit alleging negligence per se against MCMC for practicing medicine in Kentucky without appropriate licenses. MCMC removed the case to federal court, claiming complete preemption under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The trial court denied Milby’s motion for remand to state court and dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The state-law claim fits in the category of claims that are completely preempted by ERISA: it is in essence about the denial of benefits under an ERISA plan and the defendant does not owe an independent duty to the plaintiff because the defendants were not practicing medicine under the specified Kentucky law. View "Milby v. MCMC, LLC" on Justia Law

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Fleet Owners Fund is a multi-employer “welfare benefit plan” under the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001, and a “group health plan” under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), 26 U.S.C. 5000A. Superior Dairy contracted with Fleet for employee medical insurance; the Participation Agreement incorporated by reference a 2002 Agreement. In a purported class action, Superior and its employee alleged that, before entering into the Agreement, it received assurances from Fleet Owners and plan trustees, that the plan would comply in all respects with federal law, including ERISA and the ACA. Plaintiffs claim that, notwithstanding the ACA’s statutory requirement that all group health plans eliminate per-participant and per-beneficiary pecuniary caps for both annual and lifetime benefits, the plan maintains such restrictions and that Superior purchased supplemental health insurance benefits to fully cover its employees. Fleet argued that the plan is exempt from such requirements as a “grandfathered” plan. The district court dismissed the seven-count complaint. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring claims under ERISA and ACA, having failed to allege concrete injury, and did not allege specific false statements. View "Soehnlen v. Fleet Owners Insurance Fund" on Justia Law

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Pension funds regulated by the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act, part of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), sued to collect shortfalls in contributions for 2003-2008 from System Parking, under four collective bargaining agreements with the union. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a judgment of $2,000,000, after concluding that it had authority to change the name on the judgment. The funds’ complaint and the judgment named, as defendant, the “L&R Group of Companies,” which is not a recognized business entity, organization, partnership, or trust; Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(a) states that suits must be conducted in the name of the real parties in interest. Rule 17(b) says that only persons or entities with the capacity to sue or be sued may be litigants. A “description” is not a juridical entity. System Parking’s assets were acquired by an entity not named in the complaint or served with process, so a motion to dismiss would have been granted, had the parties or the court been “paying attention.” With respect to the merits, the court upheld a finding that the employer’s audit was unreliable, having been prepared in-house, by a person without relevant experience, rather than by an independent accounting firm and being based on “murky” assumptions. View "Teamsters Local Union No. 727 v. L&R Group of Companies" on Justia Law

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Plan beneficiaries (Plaintiffs) filed claims against their employer and its benefits plan administrator (collectively, Defendants) alleging breach of fiduciary duty in the selection and retention of certain mutual funds for a benefit plan governed by ERISA. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs' claims regarding the selection of mutual funds in 1999 were time-barred under the six-year limit of 29 U.S.C. 1113(1). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals, holding that federal law imposes on fiduciaries an ongoing duty to monitor investments even absent a change in circumstances. On remand, the Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s decisions regarding funds added to the ERISA plan before 2001, holding (1) Plaintiffs did not forfeit the ongoing-duty-to-monitor argument either in the district court or on appeal; (2) only a “breach of violation” need occur within the six-year statutory period, and the initial investment need not be made within the statutory period; and (3) the duty of prudence required Defendants to reevaluate investments periodically and to take into account their power to obtain favorable investment products. Remanded. View "Tibble v. Edison International" on Justia Law