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Preview: LexisNexis® Mealey's™ ERISA Legal News

LexisNexis® Mealey's™ ERISA Legal News



Headline ERISA Legal News from LexisNexis®



 



ABB Seeks High Court Review Of Ruling On Calculation Of Losses
WASHINGTON, D.C. - ABB Inc. on Aug. 16 filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court asking for review of an Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that ABB fiduciaries abused their discretion and breached their fiduciary duties in choosing investment options for their 401(k) retirement plans but remanding for recalculation of plan losses, saying that the case raises two questions of critical importance to the establishment and maintenance of employee benefit plans and the imposition of liability on employers under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ABB Inc., et al. v. Ronald C. Tussey, et al., No. 17-265, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2928).



2nd Circuit: Pension Plan Amendment Didn't Violate Anti-Cutback Provision
NEW YORK - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 14 affirmed that an amendment to a pension plan did not violate the anti-cutback provision of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the amendment did not decrease a participant's accrued benefits (Vincent Morrone v. The Pension Fund of Local No. One, I.A.T.S.E., No. 16-723, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 15026).



4th Circuit Panel Says ERISA Plan Properly Recovered Overpayments
RICHMOND, Va. - A Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 14 said that an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan properly recovered certain overpayments because the payments were contrary to the written plan terms since they were not the lump-sum benefit provided under a plan amendment but were erroneously calculated by determining the actuarial equivalent of an annuity commencing at the participants' early retirement date, rather than at the actuarial equivalent of their normal retirement date (Retirement Committee of DAK Americas LLC, et al. v. Mark Stephen Brewer, et al., No. 156-1574, 16-1575, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 15044).



California Federal Judge: Tibble Defendants Breached Their Fiduciary Obligations
LOS ANGELES - Applying instructions from the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in the long-running Tibble v. Edison International case, a California federal judge ruled Aug. 16 that the defendants are liable for breaching their fiduciary obligations by failing to switch from retail-class fund shares to institutional-class fund shares to fulfill their continuing duty to monitor the appropriateness of investments in a 401(k) savings plan (Glenn Tibble, et al. v. Edison International, et al., No. 07-5359, C.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130806).



Magistrate Recommends Breach Of Fiduciary Duty Claims Proceed Against University
BOSTON - A federal magistrate judge in Massachusetts on Aug. 31 recommended denying in part and granting in part a motion to dismiss claims brought against a university and its defined contribution plan alleging breach of fiduciary duty and prohibited transactions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Participants of the plan claimed that actions by the plan's third-party administrator resulted in losses to the participants' retirement savings (David B. Tracey, et al. v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, et al., No. 1:16cv11620, D. Mass.).



New York Federal Judge Cuts Breach Of Loyalty Claims In NYU Lawsuit
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge on Aug. 25 dismissed several claims in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action lawsuit against New York University, saying that the plaintiffs failed to plead sufficient facts to support their claims that the university breached its duty of loyalty by not offering any factual allegations that actions taken by the university benefitted a third party or itself (Dr. Alan Sacerdote, et al. v. New York University, et al., No. 1:16-cv-6284, S.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137115).



7th Circuit Vacates Certification Of Health Plan Participants Suing Insurer
CHICAGO - A trial court that certified a class of participants who filed a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit against a mutual insurance company for allegedly using premiums it obtained through payments made by them for health care coverage to enrich itself failed to address glaring issues, a Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Aug. 31, vacating the order granting class certification and remanding for further proceedings (Susan Priddy, et al. v. Health Care Service Corporation, No. 16-4127, 7th Cir., 2017 US. App. LEXIS 16784).



8th Circuit Panel Affirms Fund Has Right To Part Of Wrongful Death Settlement
ST. LOUIS - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 22 affirmed that a laborers union health and welfare fund had a right to a portion of a settlement attributable to medical expenses, agreeing with a Minnesota federal judge that the fund had a first-priority subrogation interest in that payment (Tim Mackey, et al. v. Terry Lynn Johnson, et al., No. 16-1886, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 16014).



DOL Secretary Files Amicus Brief Supporting Woman Denied Hospitalization Coverage
NEW ORLEANS - The U.S. secretary of Labor on Aug. 16 filed an amicus curiae brief in the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in support of a woman with a long history of mental illness who was denied coverage for partial hospitalization for mental health treatment, saying that the circuit should overturn Pierre v. Conn. Gen. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am. and hold that de novo review applies to both a plan administrator's factual findings and interpretations of plan language and that an abuse-of-discretion standard is applied to both only if the plan grants discretionary authority to the administrator to decide claims (Ariana M. v. Humana Health Plans of Texas, No. 16-20174, 5th Cir.).



11th Circuit Vacates Ruling Relating To Labs' Claims Over Self-Funded Plans
ATLANTA - An 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 14 vacated a Florida federal judge's dismissal of laboratory companies' claims relating to self-funded health care plans, saying that the contractual question of whether an assignment of benefits covers self-funded plans is best addressed by the trial court after the benefit of discovery (BioHealth Medical Laboratory Inc., et al. v. Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, et al., No. 16-101978, 11th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 15010).



2nd Circuit Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Lawsuit On Statute Of Limitations Grounds
BOSTON - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 22 affirmed a Connecticut federal judge's dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a participant in a health care benefit plan covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act who did not promptly receive requested documents pertaining to her plan because the complaint was filed outside Connecticut's one-year statute of limitations to recover civil forfeitures (Jennifer L. Brown v. Rawlings Financial Services, LLC, et al., No. 16-3748, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 15934).



5th Circuit Says Dismissal Sanction In ERISA Case Outside Judge's Discretion
NEW ORLEANS - A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 10 ruled that a Texas federal judge's dismissal sanction in a case involving a self-funded employee benefits plan falls well outside of the bounds of her broad discretion in adjudicating discovery matters because it is not evident that a medical service provider refused to comply with two discovery orders, much less did so willfully or in bath faith (Oprex Surgery [Baytown], L.P. v. Sonic Automotive Employee Welfare Benefit Plan, No. 16-20734, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 14811).



Judge Largely Allows ACA Lactation Insurance Coverage Suit To Proceed
SAN FRANCISCO - To the extent an insurer covers lactation services required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), allegations that it makes finding or using those providers impossible support a class action, a federal judge in California held Aug. 15 in largely denying a motion to dismiss (Rachel Condry, et al. v. UnitedHealth Group Inc., et al., No. 17-183, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130089).



Doctor, Medical Practice Do Not Have Standing To Assert Claims Against Patient's Plan
NEW YORK - The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 6 affirmed a district court's ruling that a doctor and a medical practice do not have standing to assert claims against a patient's health care plan because the patient did not assign his or her rights to the doctor and the medical practice (Professional Orthopaedic Associates PA, et al. v. 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund, No. 16-4220, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 17167).



Judge Allows Portions Of ACA Lactation Coverage Suit To Proceed
DES MOINES, Iowa - A pair of women may continue with their class action lawsuit claiming that their insurer violated the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) by charging for lactation consultation services, but nothing in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act requires insurers to list such providers separately, and the sex discrimination claims fail as well, a federal judge in Iowa held Sept. 6 (Jillian York, et al. v. Wellmark Inc., et al., No. 16-627, S.D. Iowa).



Judge: EEOC Employee Wellness Program Disclosure Rule Lacks Support
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission simply co-opted existing standards in concluding that a 30 percent incentive for disclosing certain protected information to employee health programs was not coercive rather than considering the impact the rule would have in different settings, a federal judge in the District of Columbia held Aug. 22 in remanding the rule for further consideration (AARP v. United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, No. 16-2113, D. D.C.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 180612).



Walgreens, CVS Hit With Class Suits Alleging Generic Drug Overpricing
CHICAGO - Two groups of consumers, both represented by Hagens Berman, filed two separate class complaints, one in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island on Aug. 7 and the second in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Aug. 9, accusing CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., respectively, of fraudulently driving up the cost of generic drugs (Megan Schultz, et al. v. CVS Health Corporation, No. 17-359, D. R.I., David Grabstald, et al. v. Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., No. 17-5789, N.D. Ill.).



Pennsylvania Federal Judge Says 401(k) Lawsuit Cannot Proceed As Class Action
PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania federal judge on Aug. 7 ruled in an issue of first impression for the Third Circuit that a 401(k) plan participant's lawsuit against a company, its retirement plan and its administrators may not proceed as a class action because the plaintiff has failed to allege that he is an adequate representative of other plan participants (Jason Mendenhall v. Out of Site Infrastructure, Inc., et al., No. 2:14-4996, E.D. Pa., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124341).



Retiree Seeks Rehearing En Banc In ERISA Forum-Selection Dispute
CHICAGO - On Aug. 25, less than a month after a split Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel denied a petition for writ of mandamus asking it to transfer an Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuit back to Pennsylvania federal court, the petitioner, a retiree who alleges that his health benefits were improperly terminated, filed a petition seeking a rehearing en banc (In re: George W. Mathias, No. 16-3808, 7th Cir.).



Court: ACA Lifetime Benefit Cap Provision Doesn't Cover ERISA Retiree Plan
PASADENA, Calif. - The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s ban on lifetime benefit maximums does not apply to retiree plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, but the plan documents are sufficiently confusing to state a cause of action, a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Sept. 8 (Gary King, et al. v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, et al., No. 15-55880, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 17387).



Ascension Health Agrees To Cover $29.5M To Settle Wheaton Plan Suits
CHICAGO - The plaintiffs suing Wheaton Franciscan Services Inc. and Ascension Health, the company that acquired Wheaton's health care subsidiaries in southeast Wisconsin and became the sponsor of the Wheaton Franciscan Retirement Plan, on Sept. 1 moved in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for preliminary approval of a $29.5 million settlement to end claims that the defendants denied ERISA protections by improperly claiming that the plan qualifies as a "church plan" (In Re Wheaton Franciscan ERISA Litigation, No. 16-04232, N.D. Ill.).



Appeals Panel Says ERISA Preempts California Law Barring Discretionary Clauses
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 15 vacated and remanded a district court's ruling that a de novo standard of review rather than an abuse of discretion standard of review should be applied in a disability benefits dispute because the Employee Retirement Income Security Act preempts the application of California's insurance law, which prohibits the use of discretionary clauses (Yvette Williby v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 15-56394, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 15213).



7th Circuit Panel Affirms Woman's Illinois State Law Claims Preempted By ERISA
CHICAGO - A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 10 affirmed that a woman's Illinois state law wage claim is completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because she could have brought her claim under ERISA and because her claims did not implicate a legal duty independent of ERISA (Heather Studer v. Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital, No. 16-3728, 7th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 14800).



6th Circuit Correctly Found Disability Claims Preempted By ERISA, Respondent Says
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court should deny a petition for writ of certiorari because the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals correctly determined that a former marketing director's claims for coverage against a medical review company are completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and because there is no split in authority regarding whether medical licensing claims are completely preempted by ERISA (James Hackney v. Allmed Healthcare Management Inc., No. 17-102, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 3012).



Respondent Files Response, Argues Negligence Claim Is Preempted By ERISA
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals correctly followed the U.S. Supreme Court's analysis for complete preemption when it determined that a negligence claim is completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a disability claims reviewer argues in its Aug. 11 response to the disability claimant's petition for writ of certiorari filed in the high court (Samantha Milby v. MCMC LLC, No. 16-1409, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2883).



11th Circuit Says Disability Plan's Pre-Existing Condition Provision Does Not Apply
ATLANTA - The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 31 reversed and remanded a district's court ruling after determining that a disability insurer's denial of benefits based on the plan's pre-existing condition provision was not reasonable because there is no evidence that the claimant's healthy pregnancy caused or contributed to a stroke suffered by the claimant six months after her child was born (Julissa Bradshaw v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., No. 16-11125, 11th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 16779).



Disability Plan Failed To Consider Reliable Evidence, 9th Circuit Panel Says
SAN FRANCISCO - A district court erred in finding that a disability plan administrator did not abuse its discretion in terminating a claimant's benefits because the plan failed to consider reliable evidence in support of the plan participant's claim, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Sept. 6 in reversing and remanding the lower court's ruling in favor of the plan (Sonia Cruz-Baca v. Edison International Long Term Disability Plan, No. 15-56921, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 17214).



District Court Correctly Found Disability Claimant Is Owed Benefits, Panel Says
CINCINNATI - The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 28 affirmed a district court's reinstatement of a disability claimant's long-term disability (LTD) benefits after determining that the lower court did not err in finding that the claimant submitted sufficient medical evidence supporting his inability to work (Mohamed Ahmed Mokbel-Aljahmi v. United Omaha Life Insurance Co., No. 16-2616, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 16587).



6th Circuit Panel Affirms Total Permanent Disability Benefit Was Discontinued
CINCINNATI - A Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 22 affirmed a Michigan federal judge's ruling that a participant was not entitled to additional benefits under Chrysler Corp.'s accident insurance plan because the total permanent disability benefit was discontinued by the plan before the participant's July 2008 car crash that left him unable to work (John Butler v. FCA US, LLC, No. 16-2726, 6th Cir.).



10th Circuit Panel: Denial Of Jurisdictional Discovery Was Abuse Of Discretion
DENVER - A 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 16 reversed and remanded a case in which a Kansas federal judge dismissed a pension fund's complaint against two corporations under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act for withdrawal liability because both corporations were domiciled in the Republic of Ireland, saying the judge abused his discretion in not allowing jurisdictional discovery (GCIU-Employer Retirement Fund, et al. v. Coleridge Fine Arts, et al., No. 16-33007, 10th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 15683).



8th Circuit Panel Affirms Right To Collect Fringe Benefits Contributions
ST. LOUIS - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 29 affirmed a Minnesota federal judge's decision that a trades service association has a right to collect fringe benefit contributions due under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), saying that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act permits a fiduciary of a plan, like the association, to bring a civil action to enforce the obligation arising under a plan or a collectively bargained agreement (Twin City Pipe Trades Service Association, Inc. v. Wenner Quality Services, Inc., No. 16-1791, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 16468).



Former Administrator Cannot Sue As Individual Under ERISA, 7th Circuit Affirms
CHICAGO - The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 5 affirmed a lower federal court's dismissal of a former pension plan administrator's claim under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because he is suing as a private individual and not a fiduciary, but vacated the dismissal of his state law claim against the chairman of the pension plan's administration committee, finding that the lower court erred in declining to exercise jurisdiction over the tort claim (Roberto Trujillo v. American Bar Association, et al., No. 16-3612, 7th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 17116).



DOL Proposes Extension Of Transition Rule Period For Fiduciary Rule Exemptions
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration on Aug. 31 published in the Federal Register a proposed 18-month extension from Jan. 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019, of the special transition period for the fiduciary rule's Best Interest Contract Exemption and the Principal Transactions Exemption and certain amendments to Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24.



Minnesota Federal Judge Dismisses ERISA, Securities Claims Against Target Corp.
MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota federal judge on July 31 granted Target Corp.'s motion to dismiss an Employee Retirement Income Security Act action and a securities action against it, finding that the ERISA claims failed to plausibly allege that the defendants breached their duty of prudence, duty of loyalty and duty to monitor plan investment committee members and that the plaintiffs failed to show that the defendants' statements were false or misleading when made, as required by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (In re: Target Corp. Securities Litigation, No. 16-1315; In re: Target Corp. ERISA Litigation, No. 16-2400, D. Minn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120055).



Tribe Wins $8.4 Million Judgment Against Blue Cross For Hidden Plan Fees
BAY CITY, Mich. - A health care plan administrator owes a Michigan Indian tribe more than $8.4 million for violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by charging hidden administrative fees for the tribe's employee benefit program but is not liable for any alleged damages related to the tribe's separate health care plan for all of its members, even though some are also employees, a federal judge held July 14 (Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, et al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, No. 1:16-cv-10317, E.D. Mich., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109366).



Labor Department Seeks Stay Of Thrivent Litigation Over BIC Exemption
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in a July 14 letter asked a Minnesota federal judge to stay litigation over its new "best interest contract" prohibited exemption (BIC exemption), saying that it is currently reviewing its rulemaking pursuant to President Donald J. Trump's directive (Thrivent Financial for Lutherans v. R. Alexander Acosta, et al., No. 0:16-cv-03289, D. Minn.).



8th Circuit Panel Says ERISA Plan Can Bring Claim Against Blanket Insurer
ST. LOUIS - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 3 ruled 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 (Dakotas and Western Minnesota Electrical Industry Health and Welfare Fund v. First Agency, Inc., et al., Nos. 16-1846, 16-3319, 16-3375, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 14233).



9th Circuit Panel Says Summary Plan Description Covers Reimbursement Provisions
PASADENA, Calif. - A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 1 vacated a California federal judge's grant of summary judgment in favor of health plan participants, saying the judge erred in enjoining the plan and its board of directors from enforcing summary plan description provisions regarding reimbursement of benefits previously paid upon a plan participant's receipt of a third-party recovery (Danielle Mull, et al. v. Motion Picture Industry Health Plan, et al., No. 15-56246, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13949).



En Banc 5th Circuit Will Consider Standard Of Review For ERISA Benefits Denial
NEW ORLEANS - The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 10 agreed to rehear en banc a case involving the proper standard of judicial review of a denial of benefits under a health plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Ariana M. v. Humana Health Plan of Texas Inc., No. 16-20174, 5th Cir.).



Judge Dismisses Tribe's ERISA Claims Against Blue Cross Blue Shield
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - A Native American tribe cannot pursue claims that its health care plan administrator violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by failing to charge the tribe Medicare-like rates for contracted services at a hospital because the tribe waited too long to sue, a Michigan federal judge held July 21 (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 113759).



Judge: Insurer's Denial Of Coverage For Wilderness Programs Permissible
MIAMI - An insurer's exclusion of wilderness treatment programs is not a blanket bar, but is based on the frequent failure of those facilities to meet certain general coverage criteria, and thus does not violate federal law by treating mental health coverage differently from more general treatments, a federal judge in Florida held July 20 in dismissing ERISA claims (Steven Welp, et al. v. Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 17-80237, S.D. Fla.).



6th Circuit Affirms $314,000 Grant Of Additional Benefits In Life Insurance Case
CINCINNATI - A Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 18 affirmed a Michigan federal judge's ruling granting $314,000 in additional life insurance benefits in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act breach of fiduciary duty case alleging that a fiduciary made material representations regarding a woman's coverage level, saying that the defendant failed to rebut the plaintiff's claims (Donald Van Loo, et al. v. Cajun Operating Company, No. 16-1980, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13081).



4th Circuit Panel Affirms Policy's Suicide Exclusion Is Valid And Enforceable
NORFOLK, Va. - A Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 6 affirmed denial of a Navy widow's claim for supplemental life insurance benefits, saying an Arkansas federal judge did not commit reversible error because the life insurer's plan interpretation was reasonable and the plan contained a valid suicide exclusion (Jennifer Mullen Collins v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America, No. 16-1636, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12060).



Split 6th Circuit Panel Affirms Denial Of Man's ERISA Benefit Claims
CINCINNATI - A split Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 19 affirmed a Michigan federal judge's ruling that a retirement board did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in denying a man's Employee Retirement Income Security Act benefit claims, agreeing that the man's initial 16.2 years of Dow Chemical Co. service should not be used to calculate his pension benefits (Robert Johnston v. Dow Employees' Pension Plan, et al., No. 16-2246, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13196).



Federal Judge Grants PricewaterhouseCoopers Judgment On Plaintiffs' Whipsaw Claims
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge on July 24 granted PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP's (PwC) motion for judgment on the pleadings in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action, saying 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-cv-2280, S.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115067).



9th Circuit Panel Remands ERISA Class Action Over Hourly Contributions
SEATTLE - A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 14 affirmed in part and reversed in part a Washington federal judge's judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action, saying that an issue regarding hourly contributions to a pension plan had not been fully litigated (Richard Lehman, et al., v. Warner Nelson, et al., Nos. 15-35414, 15-35457, 15-35696, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12619).



DOL Files Amicus Brief Supporting Plaintiff Seeking Reformation Of Plan Document
CINCINNATI - The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on July 28 filed an amicus curiae brief in the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in support of a plaintiff seeking reformation of a plan document, saying that a Michigan federal judge erred when he granted the plan summary judgment on the reformation claim because the plaintiff failed to establish that the plan had an intent to deceive (Randy D. Pearce v. Chrysler Group LLC Pension Plan, No. 17-1431, 6th Cir.).



Unopposed Motion Filed Seeking $42.5M Settlement Of Church Plan Lawsuit
NEWARK, N.J. - The plaintiffs in a consolidated Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action against a health care provider on Aug. 3 filed an unopposed motion for preliminary approval of a $42.5 million class action settlement agreement with the provider (Donna Garbaccio, et al. v. St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center and Subsidiaries, et al., No. 2:16-cv-02740, D. N.J.).



Puerto Rico Federal Judge: Parties Haven't Proven If Plan Is Exempt Church Plan
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A Puerto Rico federal judge on July 19 denied a motion to dismiss a putative Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action alleging that the defendants have mismanaged an employee pension plan, saying that the parties at this point have failed to prove whether the plan is a church plan exempt from ERISA's requirements (Norma I. Cardoza-Estremera, et al. v. Colegio Padre Berrios, et al., No. 16-2318, D. Puerto Rico, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114435).



2nd Circuit Panel Affirms ERISA Claims Dismissal, OKs Securities Claim Amendment
NEW YORK - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 13 affirmed the dismissal of retired Booz Allen Hamilton officers' Employee Retirement Income Security Act claims because the plan through which Booz Allen distributed its stock to employees was not an employee pension benefit plan within the meaning of ERISA but vacated the judgment to the extent that it denied the motion by one plaintiff for leave to amend to add securities fraud claims (Bruce Pasternack, et al. v. Ralph W. Shrader, et al., No. 16-217, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12513).



11th Circuit Affirms Finding That Insurer's Termination Of Benefits Was Reasonable
ATLANTA - The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 12 affirmed a district court's ruling that a disability insurer's termination of long-term care disability benefits was reasonable based on the evidence properly considered by the insurer (David Carr v. John Hancock Life Insurance Company USA, No. 16-17134, 11th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12404).



LTD Plan Is Ambiguous As To Whether Insurer's Offset Was Permitted, Panel Says
NEW ORLEANS - A district court did not err in finding that a disability insurer abused its discretion in offsetting a claimant's long-term disability benefits because the plan is ambiguous as to whether a direct rollover of pension funds to an individual retirement account entitles the insurer to offset the claimant's disability benefits, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said July 18 (Joel Thomason v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 16- 10634, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12932).



Attorney Fees Awarded To Disability Claimant, But No Contingency Enhancement
DETROIT - A Michigan federal judge on Aug. 1 granted a disability claimant's motion for attorney fees because the claimant achieved a modest level of success on the merits, but the judge refused to apply a contingency enhancement, as requested by the claimant's attorney, after determining that a contingency enhancement is not appropriate when using the lodestar model to calculate the appropriate amount of attorney fees (Kyle D. Kennard v. Means Industries Inc., No. 11-15079, E.D. Mich., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120457).



Missouri Federal Judge Grants Limited Discovery In Disability Benefits Suit
ST. LOUIS - A Missouri federal judge on July 11 partially granted a disability claimant's motion for additional discovery, but only as it pertained to a plan administrator's claims-handling guidelines, an administrative services agreement and a limited number of documents from a third-party vendor responsible for conducting independent medical reviews on behalf of the plan administrator (Teresa Heartsill v. Ascension Health Alliance, et al., No. 17-155, E.D. Mo., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106749).



Interpretation Of Plan's Terms Was Reasonable Based On Extrinsic Evidence
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 28 affirmed a district court's ruling that a pension plan had the discretion to decide which level of disability retirement benefits should be paid to a plan participant and that the interpretation of the plan's terms by the plan's board of trustees was reasonable based on the extrinsic evidence (Harold Davis v. Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers, et al., No. 15-17212, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13727).



8th Circuit Panel Affirms Denial Of Spousal Benefits, Accidental Death Claims
ST. LOUIS - In an opinion filed July 24, an Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled that an Arkansas federal judge did not err in upholding an insurer's denial of a woman's claims for accidental death and spousal benefits, saying that because her husband was not on a business trip at the time of his fatal accident, the insurer's interpretation of an Employee Retirement Income Security Act-governed policy was consistent with the policy's goals of excluding accidents that occurred while the insured was working at his regular place of employment (Michele Donaldson v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA, No. 16-2229, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13258).



1st Circuit Panel Allows Alter-Ego Claims Against Transport Firm To Proceed
BOSTON - A First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 2 said an Employee Income Retirement Security Act case against a transportation company that is an alleged alter ego of a defunct transportation company that owes withdrawal liability can proceed, saying it is well established in First Circuit law that the alter-ego doctrine applies to ERISA claims (Edward F. Groden v. N&D Transportation Co., et al., No. 15-2553, 1st Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 14184).



Loffredo Petitioners Bolster Case For High Court Review Of Age Discrimination Case
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a June 15 reply brief in support of their petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, former Chrysler Corp. executives who lost benefits under the company's retirement plan say the respondents make several errors in their arguments in opposition, including that the petitioners failed to exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit (John Loffredo, et al. v. Daimler AG, et al., No. 16-1334, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2155).



2nd Circuit Panel Affirms Foot Locker Pension Plan Must Be Reformed
NEW YORK - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 6 affirmed a New York federal judge's ruling in favor of a class of about 16,000 former and current employees of Foot Locker Inc. seeking additional pension benefits, holding that classwide relief in the form of reformation does not require a showing of individualized detrimental reliance (Geoffrey Osberg, et al. v. Foot Locker Inc., et al., No. 15-3602, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12041).



Massachusetts Federal Judge Dismisses Remaining Claims In ERISA Class Action
BOSTON - A Massachusetts federal judge on June 19 dismissed the remaining claims in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action, saying that the plaintiffs have failed to show that the defendants breached their duties of loyalty and prudence and failed to make a prima facie showing of loss (John Brotherston, et al. v. Putnam Investments LLC, et al., No. 1:15-cv-13825, D. Mass., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93654).



Massachusetts Federal Judge Grants Summary Judgment To Fidelity Management Trust
BOSTON - A Massachusetts federal judge on June 19 granted Fidelity Management Trust Co.'s motion for summary judgment in a class action alleging that Fidelity breached its fiduciary duties pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by mismanaging the Fidelity Group Employee Benefit Plan Managed Income Portfolio Comingled Pool (MIP), saying the plaintiffs did not carry their burden to establish a fiduciary breach (John Ellis, et al. v. Fidelity Management Trust Co., No 1:15-14128, D. Mass., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93656).



2nd Circuit Panel Denies Appeal Of Ruling Certifying J.P. Morgan ERISA Class
NEW YORK - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on June 27 denied a petition to appeal a New York federal judge's order certifying a class of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPMC) employees who invested in any of its stable value funds during 2009 and 2010, saying "an immediate appeal is unwarranted" (In re J.P. Morgan Stable Value Fund ERISA Litigation, No. 17-1091, 2nd Cir.).



New York Federal Judge Dismisses ERISA Lawsuit Over Excessive Advice Fees
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge on June 21 dismissed an Employee Retirement Income Security Act putative class action that alleged that a record keeper's advice arrangement constituted a breach of fiduciary duty resulting in excessive fees, saying that the plaintiff failed to allege facts showing that the defendants were ERISA fiduciaries with respect to their fees (Lisa Patrico v. Voya Financial Inc., et al., No. 16-cv-7070, S.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95735).



ERISA Class Action Targets 'Excessive' Asset-Based Fees Charged To Plan
COLUMBUS, Ohio - An Employee Retirement Income Security Act putative class action was filed June 27 in Ohio federal court alleging that participants and beneficiaries of the Andrus Wagstaff PC 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan (AW plan) were charged excessive fees for record keeping and administrative services (Alana Schmitt, et al. v. Nationwide Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 2:17-cv-00558, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Div.).



DOL Defends Fiduciary Rule In Appellee Brief Filed In 5th Circuit
NEW ORLEANS - The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on July 3 filed a lengthy appellee brief in the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in a consolidated lawsuit filed by investment and insurance industry trade groups against its fiduciary rule (Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. United States Department of Labor, et al., No. 17-10238, 5th Cir.).



Thrivent Financial Letter Invokes DOL Brief To Seek Summary Judgment
ST. PAUL, Minn. - In a three-page letter, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans on July 5 asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota to grant it summary judgment and a permanent injunction in its case against the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) after the DOL in a July 3 brief in another case said it would no longer defend the part of its fiduciary rule that bans class action waivers (Thrivent Financial for Lutherans v. Acosta, et al., No. 0:16-cv-03289, D. Minn.).



Supreme Court Rejects Bid For Review Of Ponzi Scheme Case
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on June 19 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari to review a judgment of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that a pension fund had no standing to assert breach of fiduciary duty claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act against its investment adviser for continuing to recommend investment in a Ponzi scheme when the adviser had privately expressed significant doubts about the continued prudence of that investment vehicle (Trustees of the Upstate New York Engineers Pension Fund v. Ivy Asset Management, et al., No. 16-1377, U.S. Sup.).



4th Circuit Panel Affirms Judgment For Michelin Plan On Injection Payment Rulings
RICHMOND, Va. - A Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on June 13 affirmed the grant of summary judgment to defendants in a case where a plaintiff sued under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act seeking additional reimbursement for a series of steroid knee injections that an orthopedic surgeon administered to his spouse, finding no abuse of discretion in the defendants' decision to not provide additional insurance coverage and no error in the trial court's refusal to consider information that the plaintiff failed to provide during the administrative appeals process (Monte Hooper, et al. v. UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co., et al., No. 15-2157, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 10482).



Judge Certifies Class In Mental Health Insurance Coverage Denial Case
SAN JOSE, Calif. - A federal judge in California on June 15 granted class certification to a group of plaintiffs seeking reprocessing of mental health insurance claims after their insurer allegedly imposed overly strict definitions of medically necessary care in contravention of the plans' terms (Charles Des Roches, et al. v. California Physicians' Service, et al., No. 16-2848, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92573).



Oklahoma Top Court: No Preemption Where ERISA Plan Is 'Factual Backdrop'
OKLAHOMA CITY - On remand, a trial court must consider whether a woman's class action claiming that a hospital improperly sought collection from her in violation of its contract with her insurer invokes an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan or whether the plan is merely part of the "factual backdrop" of the case, a divided Oklahoma Supreme Court held June 21 (Elizabeth Cates v. INTEGRIS Health Inc., No. 114314, Okla. Sup., 2017 Okla. LEXIS 53).



Federal Judge Grants Injunction For Retirees In Medical Coverage Dispute
HARTFORD, Conn. - A Connecticut federal judge on June 27 granted retired union employees' motion for a preliminary injunction and ordered Honeywell International Inc. to reinstate previously existing medical coverage benefits, saying that the threat of termination and the actual termination of medical coverage benefits constitute irreparable harm (David Kelly, et al. v. Honeywell International Inc., No. 3:16-cv-00543, D. Conn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99419).



3rd Circuit Panel Affirms Company Didn't Intend For Health Benefits To Vest
PHILADELPHIA - A Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on June 15 affirmed summary judgment for Johnson Controls Inc. in an Employee Income Retirement Act lawsuit, saying that language in collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and insurance booklets indicates that the company never intended for retirees' health insurance benefits to vest (William Grove Sr., et al. v. Johnson Controls Inc., et al., No. 16-2178, 3rd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 10615).



New York Law Bars Offset For Personal Injury Settlement, Appeals Panel Concludes
NEW YORK - The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 22 reversed a district court's ruling that a disability insurer was entitled to offset a claimant's benefits based on the claimant's settlement of his personal injury claim after determining that New York law bars the disability insurer from offsetting benefits when a claim for personal injuries is settled (Salvatore Arnone v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 15-2322, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 11055).



4th Circuit Panel Says Plan Defendants Are Required To Adopt SSA's Onset Date
RICHMOND, Va. - Because a plan administrator failed to follow a reasoned process in determining a disability claimant's onset date of disability, the plan must adopt the disability onset date determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal said June 23 in affirming a district court's decision (Jesse Solomon v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan, et al., No. 16-1730, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 11197).



D.C. Appellate Panel: ERISA Plan Administrator Wrongfully Denied Woman Benefits
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A District of Columbia appeals panel on June 30 said a federal judge correctly ruled that a woman was totally disabled under the terms of her Employee Retirement Income Security Act-governed long-term disability plan and that the plan administrator has not satisfactorily supported its conclusion that she was ever capable of full-time work after November 2007 (Jill Marcin v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 16-78125, D.C. Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 11670).



Evidence Supports Termination Of Disability Benefits Based On Substance Abuse Provision
CINCINNATI - A disability plan administrator did not act arbitrarily and capriciously when it terminated a claimant's benefits based on the plan's substance abuse provision because the evidence supports the administrator's finding that the claimant's disability was caused by the effects of opioid medications, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said June 30 (Angela Blount v. United of Omaha Life Insurance Company, No. 16-6372, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 11779).



Substantial Evidence Supports Termination Of Disability Benefits, Appeals Panel Says
NEW ORLEANS - The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 14 affirmed a district court's ruling that a disability insurer did not abuse its discretion in terminating a claimant's long-term disability benefits because there is substantial evidence supporting the insurer's termination of benefits (Lashondra Davis v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 16-10895, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 10576).



Disability Insurer's Denial Of Benefits Supported By Medical Records, Panel Says
ST. LOUIS - A disability insurer did not abuse its discretion in denying a claim for disability benefits because the medical records and evidence support the insurer's denial, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said July 5 (Michelle E. Cooper v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, No. 16-3429, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 11933).



Termination Of Disability Benefits Was Reasonable, 9th Circuit Panel Affirms
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 12 affirmed a district court's ruling that the termination of a disability claim was reasonable based on the plan's mental health coverage limitation and the medical evidence considered by the disability insurer (Kathee A. Colman v. American International Group Inc. Group Benefit Plan, et al., No. 15-15903, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 10394).



3rd Circuit Panel Affirms Denial Of Severance Claims As Not Arbitrary, Capricious
PHILADELPHIA - A Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on June 21 affirmed summary judgment in a case in which refinery workers were denied severance benefits, saying that a Pennsylvania federal judge correctly ruled that a plan administrator's denial of benefits was neither arbitrary nor capricious and was warranted under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Paul Felker, et al. v. USW Local 10-901, et al., No. 16-3064, 3rd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 10982).



5th Circuit Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Widow's Claims Over Life Insurance Policy
NEW ORLEANS - A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on June 21 affirmed the dismissal of Employee Retirement Income Security Act claims arising out of a life insurance policy originally issued to a woman's husband, saying that an insurer's determination that the widow was not entitled to his life insurance benefits was neither arbitrary nor capricious (Kimberly D. Hendrix v. Prudential Insurance Co. of America, et al., No. 16-20750, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 11008).



11th Circuit Panel Says Death Benefits Award To Widow, Conservator Proper
ATLANTA - An 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 6 ruled that a Georgia federal judge properly granted death benefits to a widow and her conservator, saying that the decedent's son failed to show any reversible error in that decision (Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Devin Lanier Waddell, et al., No. 16-15321, 11th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12027).