Justia ERISA Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Public Benefits
Melech v. Life Ins. Co. of North America, et al.
Plaintiff filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., alleging that LINA violated the disability insurance policy's terms and ERISA requirements - in part because LINA ignored the SSA process and the information it generated. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of LINA. Because LINA did not have the evidence presented to the SSA when it denied her last appeal - and in fact could not have had that evidence when it initially denied her claim - the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case with instructions to remand plaintiff's claims to LINA for its consideration of the evidence presented to the SSA.View "Melech v. Life Ins. Co. of North America, et al." on Justia Law
Cerentano v. UMWA Health & Retirement Funds
From 1978 to 2000, Cerentano worked as a coal miner. He was injured in 15 mining incidents and received six separate awards of permanent partial disability, but was able to return to work after each injury. In 2000 Cerentano was wrongfully discharged after a false positive drug test. Months later, he was diagnosed with depression due to his firing and treated for dysthymia and anxiety. Eventually, Cerentano found work as a real estate agent and a vehicle transporter. In 2005, Cerentano’s car was hit, causing more injuries. Cerentano was awarded Social Security disability benefits. He was denied disability pension benefits under the United Mine Workers Pension Trust Plan, based on the trustees’ conclusion that there was no causal link between his mine injuries and the award of Social Security benefits. Cerentano sued under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1332(a)(1)(b). The district court granted summary judgment to the plan. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The trustees should have examined all of the injuries, severe and non‐severe, that the ALJ relied on in finding Cerentano disabled and should have determined which of those injuries were caused by mine accidents and whether, the mine‐related injuries, in combination, comprised “a causal link.”View "Cerentano v. UMWA Health & Retirement Funds" on Justia Law
Lipker v. AK Steel Corp.
Plaintiff is the surviving spouse of a 39-year AK employee, who died in 2008, then receiving a monthly pension benefit of $1,386. Plaintiff applied for the surviving spouse benefit and was advised that she was entitled to$693 (50%), reduced by 50% of her social security widow’s benefit (not yet determined), but not less than $140 per month. SSA first advised AK that plaintiff’s monthly benefit would be $458. Weeks later, SSA indicated that the widow’s benefit would be $1469. AK calculated the $140 benefit. Plaintiff received a statement from SSA indicating her widow’s benefit amount was $485 and plaintiff’s own earnings benefit was $973: a total monthly payment of $1,458. Plaintiff calculated that 50% of the $485 widow’s benefit, subtracted from $693, yielded a monthly benefit of $450.50 under the AK Plan. According to AK, $458 represented only the remainder of the entire widow’s benefit, $1,469, after offset for plaintiff’s own old-age retirement benefit, $1,011. In an action under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1001, the district court awarded judgment to plaintiff. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that AK’s proposed interpretation of the plan language to be truer to its plain meaning when read with reference to the law it expressly refers to. View "Lipker v. AK Steel Corp." on Justia Law
Schultz v. Aviall Inc. Long Term Disability Plan
Plaintiffs brought a putative class action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1001, to recover benefits under long-term disability benefit plans maintained by their former employers. The plans provide for reduction of benefits if the disabled employee also receives benefits under the Social Security Act, as both plaintiffs do. They dispute calculation of the reduction, claiming that the plans do not authorize inclusion in the offset of benefits paid to dependent children. Both plans require offsets for "loss of time disability" benefits. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that children's Social Security disability benefits paid based on a parent's disability are "loss of time disability" benefits under the language of the plans. View "Schultz v. Aviall Inc. Long Term Disability Plan" on Justia Law
Bio-Medical Applications of TN, Inc. v. Cent. States SE & SW Areas Health Plan
Patient, insured by defendant, diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, and received dialysis at plaintiff's center. Three months after diagnosis, she became entitled to Medicare benefits (42 U.S.C. 426-1). Her plan provided that coverage ceased at that time, because of her entitlement to Medicare, but the insurer continued to pay for two months. Under the 1980 Medicare Secondary Payer Act, a group health plan may not take into account that an individual is entitled to Medicare benefits due to end-stage renal disease during the first 30 months (42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(1)(C)(i)), but the insurer terminated coverage. Plaintiff continued to treat and bill. The insurer declared that termination was retroactive and attempted to offset "overpayment" against amounts due on other patients' accounts. The outstanding balance after patient's death was $210,000. Medicare paid less than would have been received from the insurer. The center brought an ERISA claim, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B), and a claim for double damages under the 1980 Act. The district court granted plaintiff summary judgment on its ERISA claim but dismissed the other. The Sixth Circuit affirmed on the ERISA claim and reversed dismissal. A healthcare provider need not previously "demonstrate" a private insurer's responsibility to pay before bringing a lawsuit under the 1980 Act's private cause of action.View "Bio-Medical Applications of TN, Inc. v. Cent. States SE & SW Areas Health Plan" on Justia Law