Justia ERISA Opinion Summaries
Jody Rose v. PSA Airlines, Inc.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s Section 502(a)(1)(B) allows a beneficiary to “recover benefits due to him under the terms of his plan.” And ERISA’s Section 502(a)(3) allows a beneficiary to sue for “other appropriate equitable relief.” This case requires us to answer when—and under what conditions—a plaintiff may seek monetary relief under one of those provisions. Plaintiff’s son had a rare heart condition. He died at the age of twenty-seven, awaiting a heart transplant, which Plaintiff says that Defendants—who administered her son’s employer-based health benefits program—wrongfully denied. So she sued on behalf of his estate, seeking monetary relief under both Section 502(a)(1)(B) and 502(a)(3). The district court dismissed both claims. As to Plaintiff’s (a)(1)(B) claim, the court held that money was not one of the “benefits” that her son was owed “under the terms of his plan.” And, as to her (a)(3) claim, the court held that her requested monetary relief was too similar to money damages and was thus not “equitable.” The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part. The court explained that the district court correctly held that money was not one of the “benefits” that Plaintiff’s son was “due” “under the terms of his plan.” So it was right to dismiss her (a)(1)(B) claim. However, the court explained that it must vacate its complete dismissal of Plaintiff’s (a)(3) claim. While the district court correctly noted that compensatory, “make-whole” monetary relief is unavailable under Section 502(a)(3), it did not consider whether Plaintiff plausibly alleged facts that would support relief “typically” available in equity. View "Jody Rose v. PSA Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Jody Rose v. PSA Airlines, Inc.
Plaintiff’s son had a rare heart condition. He died at the age of twenty-seven, awaiting a heart transplant, which Rose says that Defendants—who administered her son’s employer-based health benefits program—wrongfully denied. So she sued on behalf of his estate, seeking monetary relief under both Section 502(a)(1)(B) and Section 502(a)(3). The district court dismissed both claims. As to Plaintiff’s (a)(1)(B) claim, the court held that money was not one of the “benefits” that her son was owed “under the terms of his plan.” And, as to her (a)(3) claim, the court held that her requested monetary relief was too similar to money damages and was thus not “equitable.” The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part. The court explained that the district court correctly held that money was not one of the “benefits” that Plaintiff’s son was “due” “under the terms of his plan.” So it was right to dismiss her (a)(1)(B) claim. But the court explained that it must vacate its complete dismissal of Plaintiff’s (a)(3) claim. The court explained that while the district court correctly noted that compensatory, “make-whole” monetary relief is unavailable under Section 502(a)(3), it did not consider whether Plaintiff plausibly alleged facts that would support relief “typically” available in equity. The court thus remanded for the district court to decide in the first instance whether Plaintiff can properly allege such a theory based on a Defendant’s unjust enrichment, including whether an unjust gain can be followed to “specifically identified funds that remain in Defendant’s possession” or to “traceable items that the defendant purchased with the funds.” View "Jody Rose v. PSA Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Matney, et al. v. Barrick Gold of North America, et al.
Appellants Cole Matney and Paul Watts (together, "Matney") participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan (the Plan). They brought a putative class action suit against Appellees, Barrick Gold of North America, Inc. (Barrick Gold), Barrick Gold’s Board of Directors (Board), and the Barrick U.S. Subsidiaries Benefits Committee (Committee)—for breach of fiduciary duty and failure to monitor fiduciaries under sections 409 and 502 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Matney alleged the Committee breached the fiduciary duty of prudence by offering high-cost funds and charging high fees. He claimed Barrick Gold and the Board were responsible for failing to monitor the Committee’s actions. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice, concluding the first amended complaint did not plausibly allege any breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA. Finding no reversible error in this dismissal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Matney, et al. v. Barrick Gold of North America, et al." on Justia Law
Scanlon v. Life Insurance Co. of North America
Scanlon went on leave from his job as a Systems Administrator at McKesson. He requested accommodations to return to work; McKesson temporarily granted some, but not all, of them. Scanlon did not return to work but sought long-term disability insurance benefits under a McKesson group policy underwritten, insured, and administered by LINA. To meet the definition of “disabled” under the policy, an employee must be unable to perform the “material duties” of the employee’s regular occupation and earn 80% or more of the employee’s indexed earnings from working in the employee’s regular occupation. LINA denied Scanlon’s request and denied two administrative appeals after Scanlon supplied VA examination reports and letters and two residual functional capacity evaluations. LINA's medical examiners concluded that Scanlon was not entitled to benefitsIn a suit under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1132, the district court found that Scanlon, a veteran, suffered from myriad chronic orthopedic and sleep disorders that cause him pain and impact his daily life but found Scanlon ineligible for benefits, concluding Scanlon did not show that he cannot perform the material duties of his job. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The district court clearly erred when it failed to consider Scanlon’s inability to sit at his desk for eight hours a day as required by his occupation and his inability to perform the cognitive requirements of his job during regular work hours and in its treatment of certain medical records Scanlon provided. View "Scanlon v. Life Insurance Co. of North America" on Justia Law
DAVID WIT, ET AL V. UNITED BEHAVIORAL HEALTH
United Behavioral Health (“UBH”) appeals from the district court’s judgment finding it liable to classes of Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. Section 1001 et seq. (“ERISA”) Plaintiffs under 29 U.S.C. Sections 1132(a)(1)(B) and (a)(3), as well as several pre- and posttrial orders, including class certification, summary judgment, and a remedies order. UBH contends on appeal that Plaintiffs lack Article III standing and that the district court erred at class certification and trial in several respect. The Ninth Circuit reversed in part. The panel held that Plaintiffs had Article III standing to bring their claims. Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a concrete injury as to their fiduciary duty claim because UBH’s alleged violation presented a material risk of harm to plaintiffs’ interest in their contractual benefits. Plaintiffs also alleged a concrete injury as to the denial of benefits claim. Further, plaintiffs alleged a particularized injury as to both claims because UBH’s Level of Care Guidelines and Coverage Determination Guidelines for making medical necessity or coverage determinations materially affected each Plaintiff. And Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries were “fairly traceable” to UBH’s conduct. The panel held that the district court did not err in certifying the three classes to pursue the fiduciary duty claim, but the panel reversed the district court’s certification of the denial of benefits classes. The panel held that, on the merits, the district court erred to the extent it determined that the ERISA plans required the Guidelines to be coextensive with generally accepted standards of care. View "DAVID WIT, ET AL V. UNITED BEHAVIORAL HEALTH" on Justia Law
Pharmaceutical Care v. Mulready, et al.
In 2019, the Oklahoma legislature unanimously passed the Patient’s Right to Pharmacy Choice Act. In response to the Act’s passage, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), a trade association representing PBMs, sued to invalidate the Act, alleging that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), and Medicare Part D, preempted the Act. The district court ruled that ERISA did not preempt the Act but that Medicare Part D preempted six of the thirteen challenged provisions. PCMA appealed the court’s ERISA ruling on four provisions of the Act and the court’s Medicare Part D ruling on one provision. After its review, the Tenth Circuit determined ERISA and Medicare Part D preempted the four challenged provisions, and therefore reversed. View "Pharmaceutical Care v. Mulready, et al." on Justia Law
P., et al. v. United Healthcare Insurance, et al.
Plaintiffs David P. and his daughter L.P. sought to recover health care benefits under a medical plan David P. obtained through his employer. The district court awarded Plaintiffs benefits, determining that the manner in which Defendants processed Plaintiffs’ claims for coverage violated ERISA. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed: Defendants’ deficient claims processing circumvented the dialogue ERISA mandates between plan participants claiming benefits and the plan administrators processing those benefits claims. The Court disagreed, however, with the district court as to the appropriate remedy for the violations of ERISA’s claims-processing requirements at issue here. "Rather than outright granting Plaintiffs their claimed benefits, we conclude, instead, that Plaintiffs’ claims for benefits should be remanded to Defendants for proper consideration." The case was remanded to the district court with directions to remand Plaintiffs’ benefits claims to Defendants. View "P., et al. v. United Healthcare Insurance, et al." on Justia Law
ROBERT BUGIELSKI, ET AL V. AT&T SERVICES, INC., ET AL
Plaintiffs brought this class action against the Plan’s administrator, AT&T Services, Inc., and the committee responsible for some of the Plan’s investment-related duties, the AT&T Benefit Plan Investment Committee (collectively, “AT&T”). Plaintiffs alleged that AT&T failed to investigate and evaluate all the compensation that the Plan’s recordkeeper, Fidelity Workplace Services, received from mutual funds through BrokerageLink, Fidelity’s brokerage account platform, and from Financial Engines Advisors, L.L.C. Plaintiffs alleged that (1) AT&T’s failure to consider this compensation rendered its contract with Fidelity a “prohibited transaction” under ERISA Section 406, (2) AT&T breached its fiduciary duty of prudence by failing to consider this compensation, and (3) AT&T breached its duty of candor by failing to disclose this compensation to the Department of Labor. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The panel reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the prohibited transaction claim. Relying on the statutory text, regulatory text, and the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration’s explanation for a regulatory amendment, the panel held that the broad scope of Section 406 encompasses arm’s-length transactions. The panel held that the broad scope of § 406 encompasses arm’s-length transactions. Disagreeing with other circuits, the panel concluded that AT&T, by amending its contract with Fidelity to incorporate the services of BrokerageLink and Financial Engines, caused the Plan to engage in a prohibited transaction. The panel remanded for the district court to consider whether AT&T met the requirements for an exemption from the prohibited transaction bar. View "ROBERT BUGIELSKI, ET AL V. AT&T SERVICES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
Patterson v. United Healthcare Insurance Co.
United provided Patterson's medical insurance under a plan subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1101. Patterson received a summary plan description, an ERISA-mandated synopsis of important plan terms but was not given a plan document with all of a plan’s governing language. The summary said that if a beneficiary recovered from a third party for an insured incident, the plan had a right to reimbursement. Patterson was injured in a traffic accident. United covered his medical expenses and notified Patterson it would invoke the reimbursement right. Patterson sued the other driver in state court and joined the plan, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no reimbursement right. United’s lawyers claimed that no plan document existed. Patterson recovered and settled with the plan for $25,000. Months later, Patterson’s wife suffered injuries in another traffic accident. United paid her medical expenses. Patterson’s wife sued the driver in state court. She obtained a declaratory judgment after the plan's lawyers produced a plan document, stating that it took precedence over the summary and not including a reimbursement right.Patterson then filed a purported class action under ERISA, seeking the return of the $25,000. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. Patterson had standing to sue only on his own behalf but has cognizable claims for breach of fiduciary duty and engagement in prohibited transactions. View "Patterson v. United Healthcare Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Kairys v. Southern Pines Trucking, Inc
The owner and CEO of Southern Pines (Pat) recruited Kairys as Vice President of Sales to grow the company’s cryogenic trucking services. Soon after he started the job, Kairys required hip replacement surgery. Kairys had surgery and missed seven days of work. Southern was self-insured. Kairys’s surgery caused its health insurance costs to rise markedly. According to Kairys, after he returned to work, Pat’s brother (the VP) told him to “lay low” because Pat was upset. Four months later, Pat fired Kairys, claiming that Southern had “maxed out” its sales potential in cryogenic trucking. Weeks later, Souther hired a part-time worker in a hybrid role that included work that had been done by Kairys.Kairys sued, alleging discrimination and retaliation, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001, and state laws. A jury rejected Kairys’s ADA and ADEA claims and returned an advisory verdict for Southern on the ERISA claim.The district court independently considered the ERISA claim and found that Kairys had proved retaliation for using ERISA-protected benefits and interfered with his right to future benefits. The court awarded Kairys $67,500 in front pay and $111, 981.79 in attorney fees. The Third Circuit affirmed. The judgment for Kairys on the ERISA claim was not inconsistent with the jury’s verdict on the other claims and was supported by sufficient evidence. View "Kairys v. Southern Pines Trucking, Inc" on Justia Law