Justia ERISA Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., and state law, alleging that defendant had retaliated against him after he raised complaints protected by those statutes. The district court granted summary judgment to defendant on the federal law claims and dismissed the state law claims without prejudice. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to make a prima facie case of retaliation under ERISA. Likewise, plaintiff failed to make a prima facie case of retaliation under the FLSA. At any rate, plaintiff failed to show a causal connection between his complaint about holiday meal time and his termination six months later. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Shrable v. Eaton Corp." on Justia Law

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Defendant Goding was a beneficiary of an Employee Retirement Insurance Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., Plan administered by Drury. Goding sustained injuries in a slip and fall accident and received benefits from the Drury-administered Plan, as well as compensation through the settlement of a civil suit related to those injuries. Pursuant to a subrogation provision in the ERISA Plan, Drury attempted to secure reimbursement from Goding for the benefits it paid but was unable to do so after Goding declared bankruptcy. Drury then attempted to obtain that reimbursement from the firm that represented Goding. The court affirmed the district court's finding that Drury could not obtain such reimbursement because the firm had not agreed to the Plan's subrogation provision and consequently was not contractually bound by it; Drury could not maintain a suit against the firm in equity and could not bring a state cause of action for conversion against the firm; and the firm should be awarded attorneys' fees for successful defense of a subsequent motion. View "Treasurer, Trustees of Drury Ind. v. Goding, et al." on Justia Law

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Eloise Walker, mother of the decedent, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Pamela Wright-Dallas, the named beneficiary under the decedent's benefits plans. Walker argued that the district court erred because it made a ruling without first reviewing the entire administrative record, and in the alternative, the district court erred by applying the wrong standard of review. The court found no plain error and rejected Walker's claim that the district considered an inadequate record; the district court properly applied the abuse-of-discretion standard; and a heightened standard of review was not warranted. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Trustees of the Local No. 1, et al. v. Walker" on Justia Law

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The United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers International Union and Local 997 appealed the district court judgment after a five-day bench trial declaring that Whirlpool Corporation may unilaterally modify the health care benefits it provided to retired hourly workers previously employed at the Newton, Iowa manufacturing facilities of Whirlpool's now-dissolved subsidiary, Maytag Corporation. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly found that a case or controversy existed when Whirlpool filed its declaratory judgment action; and (2) the retirees did not have a vested right to the previously granted health benefits under ERISA, as the benefits were provided in a collectively bargained agreement that had no express vesting provision. View "Maytag Corp. v. Int'l Union" on Justia Law

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Aetna Life Insurance Company, as the plan administrator, determined Sharon Wade was no longer disabled and stopped paying long-term disability benefits from Wade's former employer's welfare benefit plan. Wade sought judicial review of Aetna's decision by filing a civil action under ERISA. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Aetna, concluding that Aetna did not abuse its discretion in terminating Wade's benefits because substantial evidence supported the decision. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court (1) applied the appropriate standard of review; (2) gave appropriate weight to the Social Security Administration's grant of long-term disability benefits to Wade; and (3) did not abuse its discretion by determining substantial evidence supported Aetna's termination of benefits. View "Wade v. Aetna Life Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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LINA appealed the district court's ruling that LINA abused its discretion in denying death benefits to Dawn McClelland based upon her husband's life insurance policy. LINA also appealed the district court's award of attorney's fees. The court found that LINA committed an abuse of discretion in denying benefits because its interpretation was contrary to the language of the plan that it would cover "loss of life" based upon an "accident" and because substantial evidence did not support its decision. The court also found that the total fee awarded should be $85,000 and remanded to the district court to enter an award in that amount. The prejudgment interest award was affirmed. View "McClelland v. Life Ins. Co. of North America" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was denied long-term disability benefits by Standard, he sought review of Standard's determination under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Standard and held that there was substantial evidence supporting Standard's denial of benefits. The court also held that a conflict of interest alone was not determinative where there existed substantial evidence on the record supporting the denial of benefits. View "Hankins v. Standard Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Northwest and the Pilots Association filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that their post-bankruptcy retirement benefit plan (MP3) complied with the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001-1461. Appellants (older Pilots) counterclaimed arguing that the MP3 retirement benefit plan violated ERISA, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, and several state laws prohibiting age discrimination. Under the MP3, the contributions of all of the pilots were based on their protected final average earnings, which could not be calculated without the use of age. However, that did not mean that the older Pilots' contributions have been reduced because of their age. There were several factors in the MP3 that could reduce an older pilots' projected final average earnings. While promotions and pay increases were correlated with age, they were analytically distinct and therefore not reductions in contributions because of age. Service ration and the frozen Pension Plan offset also both contributed to potential differences in contribution. Finally, the court rejected older Pilots' argument that the district court improperly disregarded the declaration of their expert witness. Therefore, the court held that the MP3 did not reduce the older Pilots' benefits because of age and therefore affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Northwest Airlines, Inc., et al. v. Phillips, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing her claims against her former employer for defamation; breach of a unilateral contract to pay a performance bonus; failure to timely pay wages after discharge in violation of Minn. Stat. 181.13(a); age discrimination; and interference with her rights to employee benefits in violation of section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1140, and the court's denial of her motion to continue the summary judgment proceedings. The court agreed with the district court that the employer was entitled to the qualified privilege as a matter of law for plaintiff's defamation claims. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the breach of contract and unpaid wages claims because all the employer's documents clearly stated that the awarding of bonuses was discretionary. The court further held that the district court properly granted summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's age discrimination claim where plaintiff failed to show that either of her replacements were "sufficiently younger" or that there was a material question of fact regarding pretext; the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of employee benefit plan interference under section 510 of ERISA; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying her motion for continuance. View "Chambers v. The Travelers Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant appealed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment in favor of Standard Insurance in this Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., benefits case. The court held that the Plan administrator did not abuse its considerable discretion in this case where substantial evidence supported the administrator's decision. View "Carrow v. Standard Ins. Co." on Justia Law