Subscribe: LexisNexis® Mealey's™ ERISA Legal News
http://feeds.feedburner.com/ErisaLegalNews
Preview: LexisNexis® Mealey's™ ERISA Legal News

LexisNexis® Mealey's™ ERISA Legal News



Headline ERISA Legal News from LexisNexis®



 



$75 Million J.P. Morgan ERISA Settlement Granted Preliminary Approval
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge on Jan. 19 granted preliminary approval of a $75 million cash settlement reached between eight of the 12 class representatives and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPMC) in a lawsuit accusing JPMC of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by mismanaging retirement savings funds (In re J.P. Morgan Stable Value Fund ERISA Litigation, No. 12-2548, S.D. N.Y.).



Judge Finds ERISA Claims Brought On Behalf Of Plan Cannot Be Arbitrated
OAKLAND, Calif. - A California federal judge on Jan. 18 found that a former employee's claims against Charles Schwab & Co. Inc. and numerous related entities and individuals under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act could not be compelled to arbitration because they did not fall within the scope of arbitration provisions in several underlying documents signed by the employee (Michael F. Dorman, et al. v. Charles Schwab & Co. Inc., et al., No. 17-cv-00285, N.D. Calif., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9107).



Federal Judge Reconsiders, Certifies Subclass In Life Insurance Payment Suit
PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania federal judge on Jan. 29 reconsidered a denial of class certification in a lawsuit accusing Prudential Insurance Company of America of breaching its fiduciary duty by creating retained asset accounts in lieu of making one payment to the beneficiaries of life insurance policies and found that the subclass was sufficiently ascertainable and may be certified (Clark R. Huffman, et al. v. The Prudential Insurance Company of America, No. 10-5135, E.D. Pa., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13665).



Plan Participants Failed To Support Breach Of Fiduciary Claims, Appellees Maintain
BOSTON - A district court correctly determined that a 401(k)'s plan participants failed to meet their burden of proving that the plan trustee breached its fiduciary duties by engaging in prohibited transactions, the plan argues in a Jan. 10 brief filed in the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (John Brotherston, et al. v. Putnam Investments LLC, et al., No. 17-1711, 1st Cir.).



Judge Refuses To Dismiss Added Plan Participant's Breach Of Fiduciary Duty Claim
CHICAGO - An Illinois federal judge on Jan. 10 denied the University of Chicago's motion to dismiss a breach of fiduciary duty claim that was brought by a retirement plan participant who was added as a plaintiff in a first amended complaint alleging excessive fees (Winifred J. Daugherty, et al. v. The University of Chicago, No. 17-3736, N.D. Ill.).



Class Plaintiffs Failed To Prove Company Concealed Information On Stock Value
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 9 affirmed a district court's dismissal of a class action complaint alleging that 401(k) plan fiduciaries concealed information regarding the company's stock value after determining that the class plaintiffs failed to support their allegations that the company concealed any information (Mike Laffen et al. v. Hewlett-Packard Company 401(k) Plan et al., No. 15-16360, 9th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 577).



Financial Company To High Court: Appeal Is Poor Vehicle For ERISA Question
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court should deny a petition for writ of certiorari filed by an employee stock ownership plan and trust seeking a decision on whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act shifts the burden of persuasion on causation to the defendant once a plaintiff has shown a prima facie case of loss because the facts of the case don't actually present that question, a financial company argues in its Feb. 5 brief in opposition (The Pioneer Centres Holding Company Stock Ownership Plan, et al. v. Alerus Financial, N.A., No. 17-667, U.S. Sup.).



Retaliation Claims Trimmed In Suit Over Allstate Agent Reorganization
PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania federal judge on Jan. 29 trimmed retaliation claims asserted under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in a consolidated lawsuit over Allstate Insurance Co.'s reorganization that switched employee agents to independent contractors, finding that the retaliation claims that were based on Allstate's counterclaims cannot proceed because the counterclaims were not objectively baseless (Gene R. Romero, et al. v. Allstate Insurance Company, et al., Nos. 01-3894, 01-6764, 03-6872, 15-1049 and 15-3047, E.D. Pa., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14160).



Judge Chops Fee Request For Tribe's $8 Million Win Over Blue Cross For Hidden Fees
BAY CITY, Mich. - A Michigan Indian tribe that won an $8.4 million award for Blue Cross Blue Shield's charging of hidden administrative fees for the tribe's employee benefit program had its request for attorney fees drastically reduced Jan. 17 by a federal judge, who slashed the fees by 75 percent because the tribe won only one of its four causes of action (Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, et al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, No. 1:16-cv-10317, E.D. Mich., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7005).



Solicitor General Invited To Submit Brief In ERISA Benefits Payment Appeal
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 22 issued an order inviting the solicitor general to file a brief expressing the views of the United States in an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court in which the petitioner is requesting that the high court decide under which section of Employee Retirement Income Security Act a claim for breach of fiduciary duty may be filed (Jennifer Strang v. Ford Motor Company General Retirement Plan, et al., No. 17-528, U.S. Sup.).



Plan Participants Appeal Dismissal Of Underperforming Funds Suit, Seek Reversal
PHILADELPHIA - A district court erred in dismissing claims filed by a group of University of Pennsylvania Matching Plan participants and beneficiaries against the University of Pennsylvania and the university's vice president of human resources because the participants alleged facts showing that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties by failing to monitor the plan's fees, the participants argue in a Jan. 19 brief to the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (Jennifer Sweda, et al. v. The University of Pennsylvania, et al., No. 17-3244, 3rd Cir.).



5th Circuit Upholds Ruling For RadioShack In Stock Investment ERISA Suit
NEW ORLEANS - RadioShack Corp. employees who participated in its 401(k) plan failed to show that RadioShack's board of directors and 401(k) plan administrative committee breached their fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by allowing plan participants to invest in RadioShack stock while the company was headed to bankruptcy, a Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Feb. 6, upholding a trial court's ruling for RadioShack (Manoj P. Singh v. RadioShack Corporation, et al., Jeffrey Snyder v. RadioShack Corporation, et al., William A. Gerhart, et al. v. RadioShack Corporation, et al., No. 16-11587, 5th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 2904).



7th Circuit: Stonework Company No Longer Has To Contribute To Multiemployer Fund
CHICAGO - A stonework company that transferred away from using union members and started employing more highly skilled setters and finishers did not owe a multiemployer pension fund a withdrawal liability, a Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Jan. 8, finding that the fund waived its statutory-interpretation argument when it failed to raise it during arbitration (Laborers' Pension Fund, et al. v. W.R. Weis Company, Inc., Nos. 16-2079 and 16-2944, 7th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 447).



4th Circuit Vacates Arbitral Award For Penske In Withdrawal Liability Case
RICHMOND, Va. - After determining that an arbitrator applied the wrong burden in determining whether a principle purpose of a company's sale of stock was to avoid the withdrawal liability, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 10 vacated a court's order to enforce the award (Penske Logistics LLC, et al. v. Freight Drivers and Helpers Local Union No. 557 Pension Fund, et al., No. 16-2115, 4th Cir.).



Plan Says High Court Should Deny Review In Coordination- Of-Benefits Dispute
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The high court should refuse to review an Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel's ruling that an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan can bring a declaratory judgment claim to enforce the plan's coordination-of-benefits provision against a blanket insurer because the decision does not conflict with any other federal or state court opinion, a health plan argues in a Jan. 16 opposition to a petition for writ of certiorari filed in the U.S. Supreme Court (First Agency Inc., et al. v. Dakotas and Western Minnesota Electrical Industry Health and Welfare Fund, No. 17-863, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 183; Dakotas and Western Minnesota Electrical Industry Health and Welfare Fund v. First Agency, Inc., et al., No. 17-1008, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 202).



Majority: Court Did Not Err In Using ERISA's 'Unique' Abuse Of Discretion Standard
SAN FRANCISCO - A majority of a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Jan. 9 affirmed a lower federal court's summary judgment ruling in favor of Blue Shield of California in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuit challenging the denial of a claim for medical benefits, finding the court did not err in applying ERISA's "unique" abuse of discretion standard (Krysten C. v. Blue Shield of California, No. 16-16958, 9th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 584).



Judge Finds Vague ERISA Claims Don't Put Insurer On Notice Of Claims
ATLANTA - A hospital's general references to Employee Retirement Income Security Act plans is not sufficiently specific to put a health care insurer on notice of the claims against it, and requiring at least a summary of the number of plans in question would not hamper judicial efficiency, a federal judge in Georgia held Jan. 30 in dismissing the case (Polk Medical Center Inc. v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Inc., et al., No. 17-3692, N.D. Ga., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14461).



Health Plan Interpretation Plausible, ERISA Claims Fail, Insurer Argues
SAN FRANCISCO - To prevail on their claims, plaintiffs must show that an insurer's interpretation of plan documents was implausible, a standard a class action challenging guidelines governing mental health and substance abuse coverage cannot meet, an insurer tells a federal judge in California in a Jan. 23 post-trial brief (David and Natasha Wit, et al. v. United Behavioral Health, No. 14-02346, Gary Alexander, et al. v. United Behavioral Health, No. 14-5337, N.D. Calif.).



Class, Health Insurer Reach $7M Settlement Over Mental Health Coverage
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Health insurer Blue Shield of California and a class of people who claim that the company improperly denied coverage for mental health services reached a $7 million agreement resolving the case on Jan. 15 (Charles Des Roches, et al. v. California Physicians' Service, et al., No. 16-2848, N.D. Calif.).



Judge: California Law Bars Discretionary Clause In ERISA Health Insurance Case
SAN FRANCISCO - De novo review applies to an insurer's denial of coverage for mental health treatments under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the California Insurance Code treats health insurance as a form of disability insurance and bars discretionary clauses, a federal judge in the state held Jan. 31 (Mahlon D., et al. v. Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co., No. 16-7230, N.D. Calif., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16332).



New York Federal Judge Dismisses Class Claims Over PBM's Pricing, Allows Amendment
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge on Jan. 5 dismissed Employee Retirement Income Security Act and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act class claims against the largest pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) and a health insurance provider over prescription pricing, but gave the plaintiffs 21 days to file a third amended complaint (In re Express Scripts/Anthem ERISA Litigation, No. 16-3399, S.D. N.Y., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3081).



Amended Complaint Fails To Show 401(k) Plan Fees Were Unjustified, Judge Says
LOS ANGELES - A California federal judge on Jan. 24 dismissed a 401(k) plan participant's amended complaint, agreeing with the plan defendants' argument that the amended complaint fails to show that alleged excessive fees charged by the plan defendants were unjustified (D'Ann M. Patterson, et al. v. The Capital Group Companies Inc., et al., No. 17-4399, C.D. Calif.).



Judge Dismisses Some Claims In ERISA Class Action Against Vanderbilt University
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Tennessee federal judge on Jan. 5 granted in part and denied in part Vanderbilt University's motion to dismiss a putative class action lawsuit accusing it of mismanaging its employee retirement plans in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Loren L. Cassell, et al. v. Vanderbilt University, et al., No. 16-02086, M.D. Tenn., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2364).



9th Circuit Won't Review Class Certification In Suit Over Mutual Fund Fees
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, in a Jan. 24 one-page order, denied a petition for permission to appeal a grant of class certification in a lawsuit for a former employee accusing his employer and its retirement plan investment committee of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by charging 401(k) plan participants excessive fees, rejecting the employer's claim that the employee signed away the right to sue in a severance agreement (Marlon H. Cryer, et al. v. Franklin Resources, Inc., et al., No. 17-80213, 9th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1842).



USC, Plan Participants Debate Ruling On Motion To Compel Arbitration In 9th Circuit
SAN FRANCISCO - The University of Southern California (USC) recently asked the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse a lower federal court's denial of its motion to compel arbitration in a putative class action alleging that its 403(b) retirement plans charged excessive fees, challenging the lower court's finding that plan participants can bring claims of breach of fiduciary duties to court (Allen L. Munro, et al. v. University of Southern California, et al., No. 17-55550, 9th Cir.).



3 Subclasses Certified In ERISA Suit Over Oracle Plan Fees, Investments
DENVER - A Colorado federal judge on Jan. 30 denied certification of the plaintiffs' proposed class in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuit accusing Oracle Corp. of making imprudent investments and allowing the collection of excessive fees related to its 401(k) plan but granted certification of more narrow subclasses related to the imprudent investment claims (Deborah Troudt, et al. v. Oracle Corporation, et al., No. 16-175, D. Colo., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15151).



Federal Judge Says Class Certification Will Be Granted In Retirement Plan Dispute
NEW YORK - Noting that the parties involved in a suit alleging that New York University (NYU) breached its duty of prudence under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in its administration and management of its retirement plan may benefit from an early indication of class certification, a New York federal judge on Feb. 7 entered an order stating that the court intended to grant the plaintiffs' order for class certification (Dr. Alan Sacerdote, et al. v. New York University, et al., No. 1:16-cv-6284, S.D. N.Y.).



Arbitration Award In Favor Of Retirees Affirmed; Coverage Must Be Reinstated
DETROIT - In two opinions issued Jan. 16, a Michigan federal judge affirmed an arbitration award entered in favor of retirees who alleged that the termination of their health care benefits was a breach of a collective bargaining agreement (TRW Automotive U.S. LLC v. International Union et al., No. 13-12160, E.D. Mich., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6468; International Union et al., v. TRW Automotive U.S. LLC, No. 11-14630, E.D. Mich., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6483).



Honeywell Will Appeal Temporary Injunction In Early Retirement Benefits Dispute
MINNEAPOLIS - Honeywell filed a notice of appeal on Jan. 31 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, the same day a district court judge issued an amended opinion granting a motion for preliminary injunction filed by a class of retirees seeking to stop the termination of their health care benefits (Augustine Pacheco, et al. v. Honeywell International Inc., No. 17-5048, D. Minn., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15699).



U.S. Supreme Court Denies Cert In ERISA Forum-Selection Appeal
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 16 denied a petition for writ of certiorari filed by a retiree seeking reinstatement of terminated health benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (George W. Mathias v. United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, et al., No. 17-740, U.S. Sup.).



Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Suit Alleging Fiduciaries Did Not Protect ESOP From Harm
CINCINNATI - The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 8 affirmed a lower federal court's dismissal of a putative class action alleging that the fiduciaries of a publically traded company's stock ownership plan breached their duties by failing to protect the plan from harm caused by the artificial inflation of the company's stock price due to fraud and misrepresentation (Todd Graham, et al v. v. Richard Fearon, et al., No. 17-3407, 6th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 407).



Participant To High Court: Foot Locker Concealed Pension Plan Changes
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Changes by Foot Locker Inc. and Foot Locker Retirement Plan (collectively, Foot Locker) to a pension plan were concealed from employees, and a trial court did not err when it found that the misconduct constituted equitable fraud and violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a plan participant argues in his opposition brief filed Jan. 10 in the U.S. Supreme Court (Foot Locker, Inc., et al. v. Geoffrey Osberg, et al., No. 17-690, U.S. Sup.).



3rd Circuit Vacates Dismissal, Remands ERISA Claim For Review Of Exhaustion
PHILADELPHIA - The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 8 reversed a district court's dismissal of a union carpenter's claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in relation to his pension and remanded the case for review of whether he exhausted his administrative remedies (Frederick Stampone v. Matthew Walker, et al., No. 17-2660, 3rd Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 440).



Judge Allows Claims To Proceed In Class Action Over Coverage For Treatment Facility
NEWARK, N.J. - A New Jersey federal judge on Jan. 30 refused to dismiss two counts in a claimant's class action lawsuit seeking benefits under an Employee Retirement Income Security Act health plan for her stay at an out-of-network residential psychiatric treatment facility, rejecting the defendants' argument that the two counts are "merely improper attempts to repackage her claim for benefits" (E.S., by and through her parents and guardians, To.S. and Ti.S., individually, on behalf of similarly situated individuals v. Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. Benefits Administration Committee, et al., No. 17-03351, D. N.J.).



Disability Claimant Failed To Exhaust Administrative Remedies, 6th Circuit Says
CINCINNATI - A claim alleging that a disability insurer violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when it offset a plan participant's disability benefits was properly dismissed because the claim arose under the disability plan and the claimant was required to administratively exhaust the plan's remedies or plead futility, neither of which the claimant did, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Jan. 23 (Oliver H. Barber III, et al. v. Lincoln National Life Insurance Co., No. 17-5588, 6th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1560).



Disability Insurer Must Reimburse Claimant For Amount Of Offset Benefits
MISSOULA, Mont. - A Montana federal judge on Jan. 30 reinstated a disability claimant's long-term disability benefits and ordered the disability insurer to reimburse the claimant for the amount offset by the insurer after determining that a settlement received by the claimant was not subject to offset because the settlement was not for the same disability for which the claimant was receiving disability benefits (Dawn Rustad-Link v. Providence Health and Services, et al., No. 16-136, D. Mont., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14928).



Panel Remands Disability Claim After Finding Questions Of Fact Exist Regarding Denial
PHILADELPHIA - The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 24 determined that a district court properly applied an abuse-of-discretion standard of review in a disability benefits dispute but remanded the suit after determining that questions of facts exist regarding the disability insurer's decision not to conduct an independent medical evaluation and disregard of the claimant's fatigue and pain complaints (Renee Killebrew v. The Prudential Insurance Company of America, No. 17-2137, 3rd Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1672).



District Court Erred By Reducing Attorney Fees, 1st Circuit Panel Determines
BOSTON - The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 18 affirmed a district court's ruling that a disability claimant is entitled to disability benefits but vacated the lower court's calculation of attorney fees and prejudgment interest awarded to the claimant after determining that the court's downward adjustment in the attorney fee award was not appropriate (Diahann L. Gross v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, Nos. 16-2002, 16-1958, 1st Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1190).



ERISA Does Not Preempt Illinois Slayer Statute, 7th Circuit Affirms
CHICAGO - The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 29 affirmed a lower federal court's finding that the Illinois slayer statute bars a claimant who was found not guilty of murdering her husband by reason of insanity from recovering from her husband's pension benefits (Laborers' Pension Fund, et al. v. Anka V. Miscevic, No. 17-2022, 7th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 2178).



Judge Refuses To Reconsider Ruling On Whipsaw Claims Against Pricewaterhouse Coopers
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge on Jan. 22 refused to reconsider a July 24 ruling that granted PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP's (PwC) motion for judgment on the pleadings in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action, reaffirming that the plaintiffs failed to establish that they are entitled to relief under ERISA for their whipsaw claims (Timothy Laurent, et al. v. Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP, et al., No. 06-2280, S.D. N.Y., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8995).



Judge Rejects 'Incontestability Claim' In ERISA Dispute Over Life Insurance
OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma federal judge on Feb. 2 denied a surviving spouse's motion for summary adjudication on the issue of whether a life insurance policy's "Incontestability Clause" applied to permit him to receive an additional life insurance benefit under his deceased wife's employee-sponsored policy (Greg Smith v. Standard Insurance Company, et al., No. 15-1126, W.D. Okla., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17426).



D.C. Appeals Panel Says Class Counsel Is Not Entitled To Additional Payment
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 30 affirmed a district court's finding that class counsel are not entitled to additional fees for locating pension beneficiaries in conjunction with a class action settlement because the terms of the settlement agreement are not ambiguous and clearly provided a 10-year payment period for class counsel (Mary E. Collins, et al. v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., et al., Nos. 16-5310, 16-5318, D.C. Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 2282).



8th Circuit Finds ConAgra's Decision To Deny Severance Benefits Claim Supported
ST. LOUIS - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Jan. 5 affirmed a district court's decision in favor of a food company that denied severance benefits under a plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, finding that the evidence showed that an employee did not have good reason to self-terminate his employment (James Boyd v. ConAgra Foods Inc., Nos. 16-1763, 16-3443, 8th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 261).



To Fee, Or Not To Fee. That Is The Question: In Certain Cases, Arbitrating ERISA Benefits Cases May Enable Plan Fiduciaries To Avoid Paying Plaintiffs' Attorney's Fees
By Ian S. Linker In-house counsel managing benefits litigation governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA") consider many factors in assessing risk and the value of a case. One of the primary factors counsel consider is the likely impact of ERISA's fee-shifting provision. But what if an ERISA plan fiduciary could avoid paying attorney's fees to a plan participant or beneficiary when he or she is awarded benefits? A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit may provide a strategic option. There, the court recognized that arbitrating benefit disputes, instead of litigating them, may enable fiduciaries to avoid paying fees.



Insurer Argues 8th Circuit Erred In Finding ERISA Plan Can File Claim Against Insurer
WASHINGTON, D.C. - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel erred in ruling that an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan can bring a declaratory judgment claim to enforce the plan's coordination of benefits provision against a blanket insurer in a dispute over whether the plan or the insurer had to provide primary coverage for medical expenses incurred by an injured student athlete, the insurer argues in a Dec. 13 petition for writ of certiorari filed in the U.S. Supreme Court (First Agency, Inc., et al. v. Dakotas and Western Minnesota Electrical Industry Health and Welfare Fund, No. 17-863, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 4976).



Panel Reverses Ruling In ERISA Dispute Over Alleged Overpayments Made To Hospital
NEW ORLEANS - The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 19 held that a lower court erred in granting judgment in favor of a physician-owned hospital in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act dispute with a managed health care company, finding that the lower court failed to apply the required abuse of discretion analysis (Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., et al. v. Humble Surgical Hospital LLC, No. 16-20398, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25588).



Dave & Buster's $7.4M ERISA Settlement Denied By New York Federal Judge
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge, in an order filed Dec. 1, declined preliminary approval of a class settlement worth up to $7,425,000 offered by Dave & Buster's Inc. to end claims that the nationwide restaurant/entertainment chain violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by reducing the hours of its work force in 2013 to avoid the costs associated with providing health insurance to its full-time employees in compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (Maria De Lourdes Parra Marin v. Dave & Buster's, Inc., et al., No. 15-3608, S.D. N.Y.).



Panel Says Plan Participant Could Recover Premiums If There Was A Plan Violation
ST. LOUIS - The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 6 reversed and remanded a district court's dismissal of a health care plan participant's claim seeking to recover premiums paid under the plan after determining that a restitutionary claim for premiums under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act may be available if there was a violation of the plan's terms (CeCelia Catherine Ibson v. United Healthcare Services Inc., No. 16-3260, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 24608).



Judge Finds Laboratory Lacks Standing To Pursue ERISA Claims, Dismisses Case
RALEIGH, N.C. - After finding that a laboratory failed to show that it received a valid assignment of benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a North Carolina federal judge on Dec. 7 dismissed its claims against a group of insurers in relation to allegedly unpaid amounts for services rendered (AvuTox LLC v. Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 5:17-CV-250, E.D. N.C., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 201296).



Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Asserting Treatment Of Eating Disorder Was Wrongfully Denied
OAKLAND, Calif. - A California federal judge on Dec. 4 dismissed with leave to amend a woman's lawsuit alleging that a health insurer wrongfully denied her request for continued residential treatment for an eating disorder and wrongfully relied on its "medical necessity" eating disorder guidelines, finding that it is unclear from the first amended complaint what, if any, retrospective relief she seeks (Aurora Bailey v. Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Co., No. 16-04439, N.D. Calif.).



Anti-Assignment Provision Bars Medical Provider's Claim For Benefits, Panel Says
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 18 affirmed a district court's ruling that a medical provider does not have the authority to seek medical benefits on behalf of the medical plan's beneficiaries and participants because the plan at issue includes an anti-assignment provision barring the assignment of plan benefits (Brand Tarzana Surgical Institute Inc. v. International Longshore and Warehouse Union-Pacific Maritime Association Welfare Plan, No. 16-55503, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25531).



4th Circuit Says Health Fund Must Pay Excess Assets To New Employee Fund
RICHMOND, Va. - The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 3 affirmed a district court's judgment that a health fund was required to pay excess assets to a new employee welfare trust fund because the payment of the excess funds was required by the contract at issue and not by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, as the district court determined (Greenbrier Hotel Corp., et al. v. Unite Here Health, et al., Nos. 16-2116, 17-1720, 4th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 105).



New Jersey Federal Judge Transfers ERISA Dispute To Florida Federal Court
NEWARK, N.J. - A New Jersey federal judge on Jan. 2 refused to dismiss a health care provider's lawsuit against the administrator of a plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act but granted the administrator's motion to transfer the venue to a Florida federal court (Progressive Spine & Orthopaedics, LLC v. Paychex Business Solutions, LLC, No. 17-05321, D. N.J., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 967).



Tribe Loses Reconsideration Bid For ERISA Claims Against Blue Cross Blue Shield
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - A Native American tribe lost its bid to pursue claims that its health care plan administrator violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by failing to charge the tribe Medicare-like rates for contracted services at a hospital, when a Michigan federal judge affirmed Dec. 27 that the statute of limitations bars the claims (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, et al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan v. Munson Medical Center, No. 5:14-cv-11349, E.D. Mich., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 211418).



Judge Dismisses ERISA, RICO Claims In Pharmacy Benefit Case Against Insurer
ST. PAUL, Minn. - A class action alleging that an insurer improperly profited when medications cost less than the insured's copay fails to support claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or state law, a federal judge in Minnesota held Dec. 19 in dismissing more than a dozen such claims (In re: UnitedHealth Group PBM Litigation, No. 16-3352, D. Minn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 208328).



Employer Asks High Court To Find Lifetime Benefits Ruling Misinterpreted Tackett
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals misinterpreted the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in M & G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett, 135 S. Ct. 926 (2015), and recreated a conflict among the circuits when it held that the health care benefits for a class of retirees vested for life, an employer tells the U.S. Supreme Court in its Dec. 1 reply brief in support of its petition for writ of certiorari (CNH Industrial N.V., et al. v. Jack Reese, et al., No. 17-515, U.S. Sup.).



4 Class Representatives Object To J.P. Morgan ERISA $75M Settlement
NEW YORK - Four class representatives in a New York federal lawsuit accusing J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPMC) of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by mismanaging retirement savings funds filed an objection on Dec. 7 to a proposed $75 million cash settlement reached between eight of the class representatives and JPMC, arguing that the amount the class will actually receive is far less than the total class damages (In re J.P. Morgan Stable Value Fund ERISA Litigation, No. 12-2548, S.D. N.Y.).



5th Circuit: Top Hat Plan Participants Forfeited Rights With New Employment
NEW ORLEANS - Two participants in a retirement plan for top employees forfeited their rights to collect benefits after accepting new employment with a competitor within three years of retiring, a Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Jan. 4 (Earl E. Owen, et al. v. Western & Southern Life Insurance Company, et al., No. 16-31174, 5th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 210).



U.S. Supreme Court Denies Stay In ERISA Forum-Selection Appeals
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Dec. 8, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay request filed by a retiree seeking reinstatement terminated health benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the employer being sued waived its right to respond to the retiree's petition for writ of certiorari (George W. Mathias v. United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, et al., No. 17-740, U.S. Sup.).



9th Circuit Affirms Plan Abused Discretion In Denying Benefits In ERISA Suit
SEATTLE - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 18 affirmed a lower federal court's finding that an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan administrator abused its discretion in denying early retirement benefits (ERB) to a claimant (Peter Evan Dresel v. Pension Plan of the Pacific Northwest Laboratories, et al., Nos. 15-35643 and 15-35652, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25522).



6th Circuit: Construction Company Owes Fund No Withdrawal Liability
CINCINNATI - A construction company that terminated its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with an ironworkers union, ending its contributions to a multiemployer pension plan, did not owe withdrawal liability under the Mutiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act (MPPAA) when it later used other workers for some tasks it previously had ironworkers perform as the work was assigned through an agreement incorporated into the CBA, a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Dec. 13 (Stevens Engineers & Constructors, Inc. v. Local 17 Iron Workers Pension Fund, et al., No. 16-4098/4099, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25134).



Chamber, Others Tell High Court That Error Into The Void Creates No ERISA Claim
WASHINGTON, D.C. - An erroneous statement by a pension plan sponsor that resulted in no injury to any plan participant is not actionable under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and its litigation in federal court is not allowed under Article III, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, the American Benefits Council and the Retail Litigation Center Inc. argue in an amicus curiae brief filed Dec. 11 in the U.S. Supreme Court (Foot Locker, Inc., et al. v. Geoffrey Osberg, et al., No. 17-690, U.S. Sup.).



Federal Judge Approves 12 Percent Interest For Late Pension Fund Repayments
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A pension fund and its board of trustees showed that their claim to 12 percent interest on late withdrawal liability payments and liquidated damages equal to the interest on the unpaid contributions are fair, a Tennessee federal judge ruled Dec. 29, granting the fund and board's motion for partial summary judgment (PACE Industry Union Management Pension Fund, et al. v. O.E. Clark Paper Box Co., No. 3-15-0163, M.D. Tenn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 213239).



Federal Judge Approves Revised Class Action Settlement In Pension Plan ERISA Suit
SAN FRANCISCO - A California federal judge on Dec. 28 approved a revised settlement as "fair, reasonable, and adequate" in a class action lawsuit alleging that an amendment to a pension plan is illegal under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because it was not enacted in accordance with ERISA's provisions (Juan M. Reyes, et al. v. Bakery & Confectionery Union & Indus. Int'l Pension Fund, No. 14-05596, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 212816).



High Court Will Not Review Representational Standing Ruling In Pension Case
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 8 declined to review a Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that a defined-benefit pension plan participant has representational standing to sue brokers who manage funds on behalf of the plan for breach of fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Convergex Group LLC, et al. v. Landol Fletcher, No. 17-343, U.S. Sup.).



5th Circuit Says 1-Year Statute Of Limitations Bars Disability Claimant's Suit
NEW ORLEANS - The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 14 affirmed a district court's ruling that a disability claimant's suit is barred under Louisiana's applicable one-year statute of limitations because the suit was not filed within a year after the claimant requested plan documents from the plan administrator (Todd M. Babin v. Quality Energy Services Inc., No. 17-30059, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25275).



Termination Of Disability Benefits Was Arbitrary, Capricious, Panel Says
DENVER - A district court did not err in reversing a disability insurer's termination of a claimant's long-term disability (LTD) benefits because the insurer failed to address whether the claimant was capable of working on a full-time basis, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Jan. 2 (Carl Van Steen v. Life Insurance Company of North America, Nos. 16-1405, 16-1421, 10th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 17).



Termination Of Disability Benefits Was Reasonable Under Any-Occupation Standard
CINCINNATI - A disability insurer's termination of long-term disability (LTD) benefits was not arbitrary and capricious because the insurer's decision to terminate benefits under the plan's any-occupation standard is supported by substantial medical evidence and was based on a deliberate reasoning process, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Jan. 2 (Bari Kemper v. Life Insurance Company of North America, et al., No. 16-6507, 6th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 55).



Disability Insurer Erred In Finding Claimant Could Work In Own Occupation, Judge Says
LOS ANGELES - A California federal judge on Dec. 21 determined that a disability insurer erred in denying a claim for long-term disability benefits under the plan's own-occupation standard because the description of the claimant's position as an assistant news editor in the Department of Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles is outdated and does not accurately describe the duties of the claimant's position (Kenneth Popovich v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 15-9791, C.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 210427).



Change For Disability Plans' Claims Procedures To Be Effective April 1
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on Jan. 5 announced that a final rule amending the claims procedure requirements for employee disability benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act will go into effect on April 1.



Plaintiffs Seek Approval Of $25M Class Action Settlement In ERISA Suit Against Wawa
PHILADELPHIA - Class action plaintiffs that accused their former employer Wawa Inc. of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act moved Dec. 29 for preliminary approval of a $25 million settlement to resolve claims arising out of a 2015 Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) amendment (Greg Pfeifer v. Wawa, Inc., et al., No. 16-497, E.D. Pa.).



10th Circuit: Church Healing Ministry's Retirement Plan Is A Church Plan
DENVER - A 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Dec. 19 upheld a trial court's ruling that Catholic Health Initiatives' (CHI) retirement plan is a "church plan" that qualifies as exempt under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Janeen Medina, et al. v. Catholic Health Initiatives, et al., No. 16-1005, 10th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25563).



United States Files Memo In ERISA Dispute Supporting Church Plan Exemption
ST. LOUIS - The United States as a movant filed a memorandum in support of the constitutionality of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act suit church plan exemption in a lawsuit in a Missouri federal court that challenges Mercy Health and related entities' decision to define their pension plan as a church plan (Sally Sanzone, et al. v. Mercy Health, et al., No. 16-923, E.D. Mo.).



Illinois Federal Judge Dismisses All State Law Claims In 'Church Plans' Class Suit
CHICAGO - Plaintiffs' attempt to bring alternative claims under state law in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class suit that alleges that two defined-benefits plans were improperly classified as "church plans" creates an "absolute conflict," an Illinois federal judge ruled Dec. 5 dismissing the five state law claims (Sheilar Smith, et al. v. OSF Healthcare System, et al., No. 16-467, S.D. Ill., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 199805).



6th Circuit Appeals Panel Says City Ordinance Is Not Preempted By ERISA
CINCINNATI - An ordinance outlining the city of Cincinnati's requirements for the award of construction contracts for water works jobs is not subject to preemption by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the city was acting as a proprietor rather than a regulator, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Jan. 4 in reversing a district court's ruling (Allied Construction Industries v. City of Cincinnati, Nos. 2016-4248, 2016-4249, 6th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 214).



State Law Claims Do Not Escape ERISA Preemption, 5th Circuit Affirms
NEW ORLEANS - The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 4 affirmed a lower court's ruling that a claimant's state law claims against a life insurer are preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, finding that ERISA's savings clause does not permit state law claims seeking recovery of ERISA benefits to escape preemption (Katheryn Swenson v. United of Omaha Life Insurance Co., No. 17-30374, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 24465).



Insurer Violated Plan Terms By Creating Retained Asset Accounts, Federal Judge Says
PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania federal judge on Dec. 6 determined that the beneficiaries of employer-sponsored Prudential Insurance Company of America life insurance policies are entitled to summary judgment on their breach of fiduciary claim because Prudential ignored its obligations under the plan by creating retained asset accounts in lieu of making one payment to the beneficiaries and in doing so, generated a profit for itself rather than for the beneficiaries (Clark R. Huffman, et al. v. The Prudential Insurance Company of America, No. 2:10-cv-05135, E.D. Pa., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 201440).



2nd Circuit Allows Chamber Of Commerce To File Amicus Curiae Brief In ERISA Dispute
NEW YORK - The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 19 granted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's motion to file an amicus curiae brief in a putative class action alleging that fiduciaries mismanaged a matched savings plan in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and denied the fiduciaries' request for leave to appeal a lower court's order that granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification (Ramon Moreno, et al. v. Deutsche Bank Americas Holding Corp., et al., No. 17-2911, 2nd Cir.).



Additional Briefing Ordered On Damages Related To Mapping Of 401(k) Plan Assets
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A Missouri federal judge on Dec. 12 ordered parties involved in a dispute over the management of a 401(k) plan to file supplemental briefing on the issue of damages related to the mapping of assets, noting that the correct losses for breaching the duty of loyalty cannot be measured by determining what the losses would have been if a "loyal fiduciary" mapped the assets into a different fund because such a measure does not restore the plan to the position that it would have occupied if the plan did not breach of the duty of loyalty (Ronald C. Tussey, et al. v. ABB Inc. et al., No. 06-4305, W.D. Mo., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 203969).



6th Circuit Panel Says Beneficiary Failed To Prove Any Breach Occurred
CINCINNATI - A district court did not err in dismissing a plaintiff beneficiary's breach of fiduciary claim against a life insurance plan administrator because the plaintiff failed to show that the alleged breach of fiduciary duty caused any loss to the plan, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Dec. 13 (Frances M. Wolf v. Causley Trucking Inc., et al., No. 17-1683, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25142).



$14M Class Action Settlement Preliminarily Approved By Federal Magistrate Judge
SAN JOSE, Calif. - A California federal magistrate judge on Dec. 22 entered an order preliminarily approving a $14 million class action settlement in a suit in which participants of Fujitsu Technology and Business of America Inc.'s 401(k) plan alleged that the plan breached its fiduciary duty by charging excessive fees and by mismanaging the company's defined contribution retirement plan (Jerry Johnson, et al. v. Fujitsu Technology and Business of America Inc., et al., No. 16-3698, N.D. Calif.).



Colorado Federal Judge Tosses Claims Against Fund Operator In ERISA Class Suit
DENVER - A retirement plan participant suing a fund operator for various violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act failed to show on the first two claims that the defendant was a fiduciary and failed to meet the required heightened showing that the operator was a party in interest (John Teets v. Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company, No. 14-2330, D. Colo.).



Ford Asks High Court To Deny Petition In ERISA Benefits Payment Dispute
WASHINGTON, D.C. - There is no reason for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider an appeal allegedly challenging a ruling by the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals "that an ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] claimant is barred from alleging a claim for breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA section 502(a)(3) whenever that claimant has the opportunity to allege a claim for benefits under ERISA section 502(a)(1)(B)" because the actual ruling was that the fiduciary reach claim failed as a matter of law because there was no injury separate from the denial of benefits, Ford Motor Co. and Ford Motor Company General Retirement Plan argue in a Dec. 11 opposition brief (Jennifer Strang v. Ford Motor Company General Retirement Plan, et al., No. 17-528, U.S. Sup.).



Judge Allows Breach Of The Duty Of Prudence Against Aon To Proceed In ERISA Suit
SAN FRANCISCO - A California federal judge on Dec. 11 held that a participant in her employer's 401(k) retirement plan has stated a claim for breach of a fiduciary duty of prudence against Aon Hewitt Investment Consulting Inc., denying Aon's motion to dismiss in part (Maria Karla Terraza v. Safeway Inc., et al., No. 16-03994, N.D. Calif.).



U.S. High Court Denies Rehearing In ERISA Life Insurance Suit
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 8 denied a widow's petition for rehearing of its denial of her petition for writ of certiorari seeking to have it reverse a determination that she was not entitled to the proceeds of a life insurance policy issued to her husband by his former employer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (Kimberly D. Hendrix v. Wal-Mart Stores, Incorporated, et al., No. 17-488, U.S. Sup.).



Daughter Is Lawful Beneficiary Of Life Insurance Policy, 6th Circuit Affirms
CINCINNATI - The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 13 affirmed a lower court's finding that a divorce decree suffices as a qualified domestic relations order that "clearly specifies" a decedent's daughter as the beneficiary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S. Code Section 1056(d)(3)(C), 29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(C) (Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada v. Richard E. Jackson, et al., No. 17-3120, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25135).



3rd Circuit Affirms Finding That Employer Satisfied Disclosure Requirements
PHILADELPHIA - The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 21 found no error in a district court's conclusion that an employer satisfied its disclosure obligations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in response to a plan participant's requests for documents pertaining to the company's 401(k) plan (Derrick Askew v. R.L. Reppert Inc., et al., Nos. 16-3924, 16-3943, 3rd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 26092).



Asset Management Firm Will Pay $12M To Settle 401(k) Class Complaint
SANTA ANA, Calif. - The defendants in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class complaint alleging mismanagement of a 401(k) plan that resulted in "outrageously high" expenses for plan participants have agreed to pay $12 million into a common fund and provide an independent consultant to review the investment opinions in the plan along with other prospective relief, according to a motion for preliminary settlement approval filed Dec. 26 in a California federal court (Aleksandr Urakhchin, et al. v. Allianz Asset Management, L.P., et al., No. 15-1614, C.D. Calif.).



5th Circuit: No Attorney Fees For Insurer After Dismissal Of ERISA Claims
NEW ORLEANS - The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 2 ruled that an insurer was properly denied attorney fees it was seeking from a medical provider in a lawsuit alleging unpaid and underpaid reimbursement requests because the district court has "broad discretion" in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act case and there was no abuse of discretion (Victory Medical Center Houston, Limited Partnership v. CareFirst of Maryland, Incorporated, No. 15-10053, 5th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 170).



Disabled Retiree Asks U.S. High Court To Review ERISA Forum-Selection Dispute
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A retiree seeking reinstatement of his terminated health benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and asking the U.S. Supreme Court to decide a forum-selection dispute is not likely to have his petition for writ of certiorari granted and so no stay should be issued pausing the district court proceedings, the retiree's former employer, Caterpillar Inc., argues in its opposition to application to stay filed Nov. 29 in the U.S. Supreme Court (George W. Mathias v. United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, et al., No. 17-740, U.S. Sup.).



U.S. Supreme Court Won't Hear Class's Lifetime Health Benefits Appeal
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 27 denied a petition for writ of certiorari filed by retirees representing a class of approximately 2,900 individuals and seeking to reverse a decision by the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which held that a series of collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) did not provide retired employees of an employer and its predecessors with a vested right to lifetime health care benefits (Robert Cole, et al. v. Meritor, Inc., et al., No. 17-413, U.S. Sup.).



Washington Federal Judge: Exclusion Of Treatments May Violate Mental Health Act
SEATTLE - A Washington federal judge on Nov. 28 denied a motion to dismiss filed by health plan defendants after determining that the health plan may have violated the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 by excluding coverage for two specific types of treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because the plan does not exclude all types of treatments for those diagnosed with ASD (D.T., et al. v. NECA/IBEW Family Medical Care Plan, et al., No. 17-00004, W.D. Wash., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 195186).



Claim Seeking Coverage For Air Ambulance Transport Remanded To Plan Administrator
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A California federal judge on Nov. 16 remanded an insured's claim seeking coverage for almost $500,000 incurred for the transport of her daughter from a hospital in Mexico to a hospital in Seattle by air ambulance because the plan administrator did not consider all of the available information before denying the claim on the basis that the air transport was not for an emergency (Aviation West Charters LLC, d/b/a Angel Medflight v. UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co., No. 16-436, E.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 190114).



U.S. High Court Won't Review Claims That 'Oral Screening' Process Violates ERISA
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 27 denied a petition for writ of certiorari filed by a pro se petitioner who claims that the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals' "oral screening" process for handling pro se and other appeals breaches the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Sally Gillette v. The Wilson Sonsini Group Welfare Benefit Plan, et al., No. 17-559, U.S. Sup.).



North Dakota Federal Judge Denies Preliminary Injunction In Suit Over New PBM Laws
FARGO, N.D. - A North Dakota federal judge on Nov. 7 denied a motion for a preliminary injunction brought by a trade association representing pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) seeking to halt two new state laws regulating the categorization of prescription drugs and requiring PBMs to make certain disclosures, finding that the trade association failed to show that the two laws implicitly reference or have a connection with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Pharmaceutical Care Management Association v. Mylynn Tufte, et al., No. 17-141, D. N.D.).



District Court Correctly Found Attorney Fees Not Permitted Under Fee-Shifting Rule
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 27 affirmed that a health plan participant who filed suit against the plan is not entitled to attorney fees because the parties submitted their dispute to arbitration, which is not considered an action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act's fee-shifting rule (Francisco Ponce De Leon v. International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union-Pacific Maritime Association Welfare Plan, No. 16-55364, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 23918).



ERISA Document Claims Against Alleged Plan Administrator May Proceed, Judge Says
ORLANDO, Fla. - Accepting a plaintiff's allegations as true, his claim that an insurer was his health care plan administrator and failed to produce documents related to the denial of coverage for his liver transplant adequately supports his Employee Retirement Income Security Act claim, a federal judge in Florida held Nov. 7 (Mark Atherley v. United Healthcare of Florida Inc., No. 17-332, M.D. Fla., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 184189).



D.C. Circuit Appeal Of Fiduciary Rule Waits On 5th Circuit Ruling
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Nov. 14 issued an order holding in abeyance an appeal by the National Association for Fixed Annuities (NAFA) challenging the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) fiduciary rule, pending a decision by the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in an appeal by the Chamber of Commerce (National Association for Fixed Annuities v. United States Department of Labor, et al., No. 16-1035, D.C. Cir.).



Preliminary Injunction And Stay Granted In BIC Exemption Suit
ST. PAUL, Minn. - A Minnesota federal judge on Nov. 3 granted a plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction and the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) motion to stay in a lawsuit over the DOL's new "best interest contract" prohibited exemption (BIC exemption) (Thrivent Financial for Lutherans v. R. Alexander Acosta, et al., No. 0:16-cv-03289, D. Minn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182657).



DOL Extends Transition Period For Fiduciary Rule Exemptions
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced on Nov. 27 an 18-month extension of the special transition period for the Fiduciary Rule's Best Interest Contract Exemption and the Principal Transactions Exemption as well as the applicability of certain amendments to Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24.