Justia ERISA Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Jacqueline Fisher v. Aetna Life Insurance Company
Plaintiff argued that the insurance contract between the parties was governed by a document provided on January 9, 2014, instead of February 19, 2014; that she is entitled to a judgment based on the insurance company’s miscalculation of her copay; and that even if the February 19 document controls, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 18022(c)(1) (“ACA”), mandates that the insurance company must apply the individual out-of-pocket limit rather than the family out-of-pocket limit; and that the generic-brand cost differential Plaintiff paid for her name-brand medication should count toward her out-of-pocket limit. Plaintiff filed a breach of contract claim under ERISA, and the district court granted Defendant judgment on the breach of contract claims under ERISA. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgments. The court held that the February document governed the relationship between the parties because Plaintiff was on notice as to its terms. Further, Plaintiff is not entitled to a money judgment for her copay because Defendant agreed to pay Plaintiff the copay differential. The court also found that the ACA does not provide that the annual limitation on cost-sharing applies to all individuals regardless of whether the individual is covered under an individual “self-only” plan or is covered by a plan that is other than self-only for plans effective before 2016. Finally, the court held that the ACA nor the February document required Defendant to apply the brand-generic cost differential costs to Plaintiff’s out-of-pocket limit. View "Jacqueline Fisher v. Aetna Life Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Soto v. Disney Severance Pay Plan
Soto, a former Disney employee, alleged that Disney improperly denied her severance benefits upon her termination for physical illness that rendered her unable to work. Soto, a longtime employee had experienced a severe stroke and other medical problems, which left her unable to work. Disney formally terminated Soto’s employment, paid Soto sick pay, short-term illness benefits, and long-term disability benefits but did not pay her severance benefits. She filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B); (a)(3), alleging that the Plan Administrator improperly determined that she did not experience a qualifying “Layoff” as required for severance benefits.The Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her case. Her complaint does not plausibly allege that the interpretation of “Layoff” and resulting denial of severance benefits to Soto were arbitrary and capricious. The Plan Administrator had reasoned bases, relating to taxation, for its interpretation of “Layoff” and consequent denial of severance benefits. The court noted an IRS regulation that defines an “involuntary” “termination of employment” as one arising from “the independent exercise of the unilateral authority of the [employer] to terminate to [employee’s] services, . . . where the [employee] was willing and able to continue performing services.” View "Soto v. Disney Severance Pay Plan" on Justia Law
NY State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund v. C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc.
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in an action brought by the Fund against C&S Wholesale Grocers under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The court held that the district court did not err in dismissing the Fund's evade-or-avoid liability theory; the district court did not err in dismissing the Fund's common control liability; the district court did not err in finding that C&S was not an employer of the Union employees at the Syracuse warehouse; and successor liability can, as a matter of law, apply to withdrawal liability under ERISA. However, in this case, the district court did not err in granting C&S's motion for summary judgment because C&S did not substantially continue Penn Traffic's relevant business, and therefore was not subject to successor liability. View "NY State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund v. C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc." on Justia Law
Massaro v. Palladino
In this Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA) dispute, the Employer Trustees filed suit alleging that the Union Trustees breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA when they passed, by simple majority, two amendments to the trust agreements governing the Funds (the Trust Agreements). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Employer Trustees and concluded that the Union Trustees had breached their fiduciary duties under Section 404(a)(1)(D), because – under the terms of the Trust Agreements – the amendments were required to be passed by a unanimous vote of the Trustees.Although the Second Circuit agreed with the district court that, under the terms of the trust agreements, the Union Trustees' amendments were required to be passed by a unanimous vote, the court nevertheless concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the Employer Trustees because the Union Trustees were not acting in a fiduciary capacity when they passed those amendments. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment; dismissed the Employer Trustees' cross-appeal and appeals as moot; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Massaro v. Palladino" on Justia Law
Browe v. CTC Corp.
Plaintiffs filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) against a defunct photo‐finishing company and its former CEO, alleging various violations and breaches of fiduciary duties with respect to a deferred compensation plan.The Second Circuit held that the district court correctly denied defendants' invocation of ERISA's three-year statute of limitations for fiduciary claims because defendants failed to prove that all plaintiffs had knowledge of the breaches more than three years prior to the commencement of this suit; defendants waived any reliance on ERISA's six‐year statute of repose by failing to assert it any time prior to their reply brief before the court; the Plan is not exempt from ERISA's funding, fiduciary, and vesting requirements because it was not offered to a qualitatively select group of employees; the district court's decision to limit damages on plaintiffs' fiduciary claims to the Plan's projected balance as of 2004 was error, and damages must be recalculated; the district court erred in failing to assess the scope of CTC's liability, if any, for the claims asserted against it; the CEO is liable for the entire amount of the restoration award, because liability under ERISA is joint and several; although the district court's conclusion that Plaintiff Launderville is liable in contribution is supported by sufficient evidence, that liability is to the CEO, not to the Plan; there is no basis to impose liability on Launderville for her failure to comply with ERISA's reporting requirements; the district court's entry of judgment for defendants on plaintiffs' wrongful denial of benefits claims was error; the district court's order that the restoration award be distributed on a per capita basis to Plan participants risks violating those participants' vested rights and is, in any case, inconsistent with ERISA; and defendants' evidentiary challenge is meritless. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Browe v. CTC Corp." on Justia Law
Sacerdote v. New York University
Plaintiffs, participants of retirement plans administered by NYU and NYU School of Medicine, filed suit against NYU in its capacity as the fiduciary of plaintiffs' retirement plans, alleging breaches of NYU's fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).The Second Circuit vacated in part, concluding that the district court erred in dismissing the share-class claim because it was adequately pled and dismissal was not harmless. The court also vacated the denial of leave to amend and denial of the prejudiced post-trial motions because the district court erred in denying the motion to amend the complaint to add individual Committee members as defendants, an error that later prejudiced two of plaintiffs' post-trial motions.However, the court affirmed the judgment against plaintiffs regarding claims that they were entitled to a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment; the use of written declarations for all direct testimony violated the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and denied them a fair trial; the district court's trial findings in NYU's favor on the recordkeeper-consolidation claim and the investment-retention claim were clearly erroneous; and Judge Forrest should have been disqualified from presiding over this case. View "Sacerdote v. New York University" on Justia Law
Division 1181 Amalgamated Transit Union v. New York City Department of Education
The Second Circuit held that the district court did not err in dismissing the Fund's amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) with prejudice where the Fund failed to plausibly state a claim for delinquent contributions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The court adopted in full the district court's reasoning. Specifically, the court held that the Fund failed to plausibly allege that the contractors had obligations to contribute to the Fund, as would be required for a delinquent contribution claim under ERISA; neither the contracts for school bus services nor the Fund's governing documents required the contractors to make the contributions demanded; and the Employee Protection Provision did not constitute either an ERISA pension plan or a collectively bargained agreement. Finally, the court agreed with the district court that the Fund failed to plausibly allege that defendants are liable under ERISA as fiduciaries or by participating in prohibited transactions. View "Division 1181 Amalgamated Transit Union v. New York City Department of Education" on Justia Law
Mayer v. Ringler Associates Inc. and Af.
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment sustaining the final determination of Hartford Life with respect to plaintiff's disability benefits under the terms of the long term disability plan.The court held that California Insurance Code 10110.6(a) applies only to the claims of California residents. It does not apply to plaintiff because he was a New York resident at all relevant times. The court also held that "full and fair review" under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act's (ERISA) claims-procedure regulations does not require the claims administrator to produce documents developed or considered during the appeal from the initial determination while the claim is still under review and before a final benefits determination. Therefore, plaintiff cannot establish that Hartford Life did not provide his claim a full and fair review. In this case, the district court correctly reviewed Hartford Life's determination under the arbitrary-and-capricious standard and correctly concluded that the final determination was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence in the record. View "Mayer v. Ringler Associates Inc. and Af." on Justia Law
Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. v. BioHealth Laboratories, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed suit against several laboratory testing companies, alleging that the companies violated federal and Connecticut law by submitting fraudulent or overstated claims for medical services purportedly provided to plaintiffs' plan members. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice after concluding that plaintiffs' claims are time-barred by Connecticut’s three-year statute of limitations applicable to tort claims.The Second Circuit found, under Connecticut law, that plaintiffs' equitable claims, which include their federal claims, are subject to no statute of limitations and are instead governed only by the doctrine of laches. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's decision in part. However, the court nonetheless affirmed the district court's dismissal of the state law claims, and specifically reject plaintiffs' argument that the limitations period applicable to those claims was tolled during the pendency of a prior action between the parties. The court explained that, although plaintiffs note that several sister circuits have tolled limitations periods applicable to compulsory counterclaims as a matter of federal law, the legal claims at issue here are all brought under state law, subject only to state law tolling rules, and provide no relief for plaintiffs. View "Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. v. BioHealth Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law
American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund v. Neshoma Orchestra and Singers, Inc.
The Fund brought this action to collect $1.1 million in withdrawal liability under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). At issue was whether arbitration was properly initiated by Neshoma in response to the suit and whether Neshoma's third-party claim against its union was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).The Second Circuit held that the parties were bound by the Fund rules, which required Neshoma to initiate arbitration with the AAA by filing a formal request before the statutory deadline, and Neshoma failed to do so. The court also held that the district court did not err in dismissing Neshoma's third-party complaint against the Union on the pleadings as preempted by the NLRA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund v. Neshoma Orchestra and Singers, Inc." on Justia Law