Justia ERISA Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Coastline JX Holdings LLC v. Bennett
In December 2019, Coastline JX Holdings LLC (Coastline), assignee of a judgment creditor’s interest in a money judgment entered against Stephen Bennett, served on Seamount Financial Group, Inc. (Seamount) a notice of levy on Bennett’s assets in an individual retirement account and a profit-sharing plan. After the trial court ordered Seamount to liquidate Bennett’s interest in both assets and turn them over to the levying officer to be delivered to Coastline, Bennett moved for reconsideration of the trial court’s order under California Code of Civil Procedure section 1008. In his motion, Bennett first argued to the trial court that the profit-sharing plan was protected from levy because it qualified as a plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). He also filed a motion to tax costs. The trial court denied Bennett’s motion, but informed the parties that, under its inherent authority, it would reconsider its prior order regarding the distribution of the profit-sharing plan only (not the individual retirement account) because the court previously had not considered the implications of it being an ERISA-compliant plan. After a hearing on the court’s own motion, the court reversed its prior decision and concluded the profit-sharing plan was exempt from levy due to preemption by ERISA. The court ordered Coastline to reimburse the profit-sharing plan any funds it had received under the court’s prior order. The trial court also denied Bennett’s motion to tax costs and the request for attorney fees that was included in his supplemental briefing. Coastline and Bennett each appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order and rejected each of the parties’ arguments on appeal. View "Coastline JX Holdings LLC v. Bennett" on Justia Law
Nowicki v. Contra Costa County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n
The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of CCCERA following the denial of plaintiff's fourth amended petition for writ of mandate (petition) filed under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085. Plaintiff alleged that CCCERA and its governing Board improperly reduced his retirement benefits retroactively, pursuant to Government Code section 31539.The court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion by deciding to reduce plaintiff's retirement allowance. The court explained that, in light of legislative history and the law in existence at the time of plaintiff's retirement, the Board's determination that plaintiff caused his pension to be improperly increased at the time of retirement, pursuant to subdivision (a)(2) of section 31539, was not in conformity with the spirit of the law and did not subserve substantial justice. In this case, although the court recognized plaintiff's pre-retirement efforts to increase his compensation earnable in the period before his retirement, which allowed him to maximize his pension and epitomized the act of pension spiking which led to the subsequent enactment of the California Public Employees' Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA), the court cannot sanction the Board's legally unsupported use of section 31539 to penalize plaintiff for conduct that—while now prohibited under the PEPRA—was expressly permitted at the time of his retirement. View "Nowicki v. Contra Costa County Employees' Retirement Ass'n" on Justia Law
Port Medical Wellness, Inc. v. Connecticut General Life Insurance Co.
State law causes of action seeking to recover unpaid benefits under a welfare benefit plan regulated under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., are generally conflict preempted. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action filed by Port Medical seeking payments for health care services provided to persons eligible for benefits under the Plan. The court held that Port Medical's claims for breach of implied-in-fact contract, intentional misrepresentation and quantum meruit—each of which sought payment for services covered under the Plan—were conflict preempted under section 514 of ERISA. The court held that Port Medical's two remaining claims for unfair competition and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage were not preempted because they were predicated on the theory that the Plan and Connecticut General conspired to force Port Medical out of business in order to benefit a competitor, rather than strictly on a claim for benefits under the Plan. The court held, nonetheless, that Port Medical failed to demonstrate there was a dispute of material fact with respect to those claims. View "Port Medical Wellness, Inc. v. Connecticut General Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law