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Preview: LexisNexis® Mealey's™ ERISA Legal News

LexisNexis® Mealey's™ ERISA Legal News



Headline ERISA Legal News from LexisNexis®



 



High Court: Church-Affiliated Hospitals Fall Under ERISA's Church-Plan Exemption
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 5 in three "church plan" class action lawsuits that pension plans for religious nonprofits, regardless of who established them, are exempt from the minimum funding and reporting and disclosure requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Advocate Health Care Network, et al. v. Maria Stapleton, et al., No. 16-74, Saint Peter's Healthcare System, et al. v. Laurence Kaplan, No. 16-86, Dignity Health, et al. v. Starla Rollins, No. 16-258, U.S. Sup.).



DOL Fiduciary Duty Rule Set To Take Effect On June 9
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) new fiduciary duty rule regarding investment advice will take effect June 9, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta said in a May 23 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal.



Groups File Amicus Briefs In 5th Circuit Challenging DOL's New Fiduciary Rule
NEW ORLEANS - The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans on May 9 filed separate amicus curiae briefs in the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business group's efforts to reverse a Texas federal judge's ruling that the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) new fiduciary duty rule does not exceed the DOL's authority, saying the new rule is deeply flawed (Chamber of Commerce of the USA, et al. v. United States Department of Labor, et al., No. 17-10238, 5th Cir.).



4th Circuit Will Not Rehear Tatum 401(k) Fiduciary Duty Ruling
RICHMOND, Va. - The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 26 denied a petition for rehearing en banc in a case in which a split panel on April 28 affirmed that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) is not liable for losses suffered by its 401(k) retirement employee benefit plan after its 1999 decision to divest Nabisco stock from the plan because a prudent fiduciary would have made the same divestment decision at the same time and in the same manner (Richard G. Tatum, et al. v. RJR Pension Investment Committee, et al., No. 16-1293, 4th Cir.).



Wells Fargo & Co. 401(k) Class Action Over Proprietary Target Date Funds Tossed
MINNEAPOLIS - A Minneapolis federal judge on May 25 granted a motion to dismiss a putative class action lawsuit filed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act against the sponsor and fiduciaries of the Wells Fargo and Co. 401(k) Plan, saying allegations that they violated their duties of loyalty and prudence in investing plan assets by selecting as investments proprietary Wells Fargo target date funds (TDFs) fail because there is not a meaningful comparison with the market as a whole (John Meiners, et al. v. Wells Fargo & Co., et al., No. 16-3981, D. Minn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80606).



10th Circuit: Loss Alleged By ESOP From Failed Stock Transaction Was Speculative
DENVER - The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 5 affirmed a district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a financial company in an action for breach of fiduciary duty brought by an employee stock ownership plan and trust alleging that the financial company's failure to prepare certain financial documents prevented the transfer of ownership of a holding company to the trust. The Circuit Court agreed with the lower court that there was insufficient evidence that a breach, if it occurred, prevented the transaction (Pioneer Centres Holding Co. ESOP & Trust v. Alerus Fin., N.A., No. 15-1227, 3rd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9940).



2 ERISA Class Actions Filed Against Universities Survive Dismissal Motions
Two putative class action lawsuits accusing universities of mismanaging their employee retirement plans by charging excessive fees, using multiple record keepers to operate their plans and handle administrative services and offering too many high-cost and poorly performing investment options survived motions to dismiss in May (David Clark, et al. v. Duke University, et al., No. 1:16-cv-01044, M.D. N.C.; Geneva Henderson, et al. v. Emory University, et al., No. 1:16-cv-2920, N.D. Ga.).



3 More Class Actions Filed Under ERISA Against University Retirement Plans
Three class actions alleging breach of fiduciary duty were filed recently against university retirement plans that claim that the plan administrators caused plan participants and beneficiaries to pay excessive and unreasonable fees (Winifred J. Daugherty, et al. v. The University of Chicago, No. 1:17-cv-03736, N.D. Ill.; Latasha Davis, et al. v. Washington University in St. Louis, No. 4:17-cv-01641, E.D. Mo.; Elysee Nicolas, et al. v. The Trustees of Princeton University, No. 2:17-cv-3695, D. N.J.).



California Federal Judge Again Tosses ERISA Class Action Against Chevron Corp.
OAKLAND, Calif. - A California federal judge on May 31 granted Chevron Corp.'s motion to dismiss an amended Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action against it alleging breach of fiduciary duty, saying that the plaintiffs failed to allege facts sufficient to raise a plausible inference that the defendants took any actions for the purpose of benefitting themselves at the expense of retirement plan participants or that they acted under any actual or perceived conflict of interest (Charles E. White, et al. v. Chevron Corp., et al., No. 16-cv-0793, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 893474).



Merrill Lynch To Settle 401(k) Class Action Lawsuit For $25 Million
MIAMI - Plaintiffs in a class action against Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. on June 8 filed an unopposed motion for preliminary approval of a $25 million settlement of a 401(k) lawsuit alleging that Merrill Lynch breached its fiduciary duties by failing to ensure that small retirement plan clients received mutual fund sales discounts (Benjamin Fernandez, et al. v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., No. 1:15-cv-22782, S.D. Fla.).



Iowa Federal Judge Certifies ERISA Class Action Targeting Principal Life Insurance
DAVENPORT, Iowa - An Iowa federal judge on May 12 certified a class action Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuit alleging that Principal Life Insurance Co. breached its fiduciary duty of loyalty to retirement plan participants by retaining compensation that it was not entitled to as a fiduciary (Frederick Rozo, et al. v. Principal Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 4:14-cv-463, S.D. Iowa).



Minnesota Federal Judge: Wells Fargo Can't Apply Verdict To Nonjury Claims
MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota federal judge on June 8 denied Wells Fargo Bank's motion to reconsider his March order that a 2013 verdict did not have a preclusive effect on nonjury claims brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because its counsel failed to timely raise the issue (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, et al. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 11-2529, D. Minn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89240).



4th Circuit Panel Reverses ERISA Claim Dismissal, Says Factual Development Needed
RICHMOND, Va. - A Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 11 reversed and remanded a Virginia federal judge's ruling that a benefits director's Employee Retirement Income Security Act claim failed to allege that he testified or gave information in any "inquiry or proceeding," saying that the prudent course of action is to allow for greater factual development before delving into critical questions of statutory interpretation (Roberto Trujillo v. Landmark Media Enterprises, LLC, et al., No. 16-1264, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8361).



3rd Circuit Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Dentist's ERISA, ADEA, PHRA Claims
PHILADELPHIA - A Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 19 affirmed dismissal of a 61-year-old dentist's claims of age discrimination and violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, saying that she presented no direct evidence of age discrimination or intentional interference with her entitlement to ERISA-protected benefits (Mikele L. Boyle, D.M.D. v. Penn Dental Medicine, et al., No. 160-3621, 3rd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8799).



2nd Circuit Panel: Doctor's Suit Against Insurer Not Completely Preempted By ERISA
NEW YORK - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 18 held that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act does not completely preempt an "out-of-network" health care provider's promissory estoppel claim against a health insurer where the provider did not receive a valid assignment for payment under the health care plan and received an independent promise from the insurer that he would be paid for certain medical services provided to the insured, saying that any legal duty the insurer has to reimburse the provider is independent and distinct from its obligations under the patient's plan (McCulloch Orthopaedic Surgical Services PLLC a/k/a Dr. Kenneth E. McCulloch v. Aetna Inc., et al., No. 15-2150, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8694).



Insurance Contract's Anti-Assignment Provision Bars ERISA Claim, Judge Says
TRENTON, N.J. - A health care contract's anti-assignment provision precludes a provider from bringing an action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and the insurer's interactions with the provider during the claims review process do not waive that defense, a federal judge in New Jersey held May 12 (IGEA Brain and Spine, P.A. on assignment of Marcos V v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, No. 16-844, D. N.J., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72663).



Judge Certifies Class Seeking Reprocessing Of Depression Treatment Denials
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - A federal judge on May 4 certified a class action brought by individuals seeking magnetic stimulation therapy as a treatment for depression, saying that the proposed class is satisfactory and that an injunction requiring the insurer to reprocess the claims would constitute monetary relief (Christopher Meidl v. Aetna Inc., et al., No. 15-1319, D. Conn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70223).



Judge: Potentially Duplicative Claims OK While Court Sorts Out ERISA Case
MILWAUKEE - Plaintiffs alleging that they were undercompensated by their health plan's systemic miscalculation of reasonable out-of-network charges may bring potentially duplicative claims while the court works out the injuries and appropriate remedies, a federal judge in Wisconsin held May 22 (Brenten George and Denise Valente-McGee v. CNH Health & Welfare Benefit Plan, et al., No. 16-1678, E.D. Wis., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77437).



Class Action Over Cost Of EpiPens Filed In Minnesota Federal Court
MINNEAPOLIS - A putative class action brought pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act alleging that pharmacy benefits managers' violation of their fiduciary duty caused the price of a drug used to treat severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to skyrocket was filed June 2 in Minnesota federal court (Elan and Adam Klein, et al. v. Prime Therapeutics LLC, et al., No. 0:17-cv-01884, D. Minn.).



Judge Declines To Strike Expert's Interest Analysis For Tribe's ERISA Claims
BAY CITY, Mich. - If an Indian tribe prevails on its claim that its health care plan administrator violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by charging hidden fees and pursues prejudgment interest, its expert on calculating the interest amount can offer his analysis at trial, a Michigan federal judge ruled May 16, while also blocking the tribe's request for discovery in the interest rate dispute (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 56562).



5th Circuit Panel: Beneficiary Must Reimburse Plan After Third-Party Recovery
NEW ORLEANS - A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 30 affirmed that a beneficiary of an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan was required to reimburse the plan for payments it made for her medical expenses in the event she received a third-party recovery, saying the summary plan description (SPD) contains a valid reimbursement provision (Donna Rhea v. Alan Ritchey Inc. Welfare Benefit Plan, et al., No. 16-41032, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9482).



4th Circuit Affirms CBA Wording Kills Retirees' Claim That Benefits Had Vested
RICHMOND, Va. - After a rehearing, a Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 11 affirmed that a federal judge correctly ruled that health benefits for United Steel Workers retirees of a West Virginia aluminum manufacturer did not vest and were properly altered unilaterally by the company because union contracts expressly provided that the benefits remained in effect only for the term of the contracts, which had expired (Ronald Barton, et al v. Constellium Rolled Products-Ravenswood, LLC, et al., No. 16-1103, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8357).



Judge Grants Motion To Reconsider Ruling For Honeywell In Medical Coverage Dispute
HARTFORD, Conn. - A Connecticut federal judge on May 25 granted a motion to reconsider her previous grant of summary judgment in favor of Honeywell International Inc. that union employees who retired after the expiration of collective bargaining and related agreements that offered them lifetime medical coverage benefits are not contractually vested, saying that there exists a triable issue of material fact for a jury to consider (David Kelly, et al. v. Honeywell International Inc., No. 3:16-cv-00543, D. Conn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80185).



7th Circuit Majority Says Reinstatement Of Disability Benefits Was Reasonable
CHICAGO - The majority of a Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 18 affirmed a district court's judgment of more than $580,000 in past disability benefits in favor of a disability claimant after determining that the plan did not specify any type of job the claimant is capable of performing (Cathleen Kennedy v. The Lilly Extended Disability Plan, No. 16-2314, 7th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8738).



Texas Federal Judge Says Denial Of Disability Claim Is Supported By Evidence
DALLAS - A Texas federal judge on May 9 determined that a disability insurer did not wrongfully deny a claim for breast augmentation surgery under a short-term disability (STD) plan because the evidence supports the insurer's conclusion that the surgery was cosmetic and not necessary to treat the illness of gender dysphoria (Charlize Marie Baker v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 15-3679, N.D. Texas; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70595).



Disability Claimant's Breach Of Fiduciary Duty Claim Can Stand, 8th Circuit Panel Says
ST. LOUIS - The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal on May 8 remanded a disability claimant's suit after determining that the District Court erred in dismissing the claimant's breach of fiduciary claim because the breach of fiduciary duty claim is based on a different theory of liability than the claimant's denial-of-benefits claim (Lisa Jones v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 16-1714, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8112).



Disability Plan Is Exempt From ERISA, Louisiana Federal Judge Determines
NEW ORLEANS - A Louisiana federal judge on May 31 denied a disability insurer's motion for partial summary judgment on a claimant's state law claims after determining that the disability plan at issue is exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the hospital that administered the plan qualifies as a political subdivision of the state of Louisiana (Brenda Andrus v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America, No. 16-1112, E.D. La., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82833).



Disability Insurer's Offset Of Benefits Was Reasonable, 3rd Circuit Panel Determines
PHILADELPHIA - A disability insurer was entitled to offset a disability claimant's long-term disability benefits against income the claimant earned by working part time for her medical practice because the claimant still received the benefit of her earnings even though the earnings were applied against debt she owed her medical practice, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said June 7 (Amy Patrick, M.D. v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., No. 16-3980, 3rd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 10105).



Denial Of Disability Claim Was Not Arbitrary And Capricious, Panel Says
DENVER - A district court did not err in finding that a claims administrator's termination of long-term disability (LTD) benefits was not arbitrary and capricious because substantial evidence exists to support the termination of benefits, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said May 9 (Tracy Blair, et al. v. Alcaltel-Lucent Long Term Disability Plan, No. 16-7062, 10th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8198).



Disability Claimant Provided Administrator With Objective Medical Findings, Panel Says
CINCINNATI - A district court erred in determining that a disability plan administrator's denial of disability benefits was not arbitrary and capricious, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said June 8 after determining that the disability claimant provided the administrator with objective findings that support a disability (Bruce Corey v. Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., et al., No. 16-3817, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 10179).



Disability Claimant's Injury Was Related To Intoxication, 11th Circuit Panel Concludes
ATLANTA - The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 2 reversed a District Court's ruling that a disability insurer's denial of benefits based on the plan's intoxication exclusion was de novo wrong after determining that that the evidence clearly shows that the claimant's injury was related to intoxication (Steven D. Prelutsky v. Greater Georgia Life Insurance Co., No. 16-15900, 11th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9759).



9th Circuit Affirms Ruling That Disability Claimant Waived Right To Contest Denial
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 22 affirmed a district court's finding that a disability claimant waived his rights to contest the termination of his disability benefits because the claimant signed a waiver of all rights, including his rights to contest the termination of his disability claim, as part of a settlement with his former employer for wrongful termination claims (Thomas A. Gonda v. The Permanente Medical Group Inc., et al., No. 15-16484, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8888).



9th Circuit Panel Says Wrong Standard Of Review Applied In Disability Suit
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 11 reversed a district court's ruling in favor of a disability insurer after determining that the district court applied the wrong standard of review pursuant to California law (Talana Orzechowski v. The Boeing Company Non-Union Long-Term Disability Plan, et al., No. 14-55919, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8348).



High Court Denies Disability Plan Administrators' Petition For Writ Of Certiorari
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on May 22 denied a petition for writ of certiorari filed by disability plan administrators claiming that a district court and the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals failed to follow prior decisions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in disability insurance cases when determining that a claimant's benefits claim was "deemed denied" (Sun Life and Health Insurance Co., et al. v. Janet Solnin, No. 16-1238, U.S. Sup.).



11th Circuit Panel: ERISA Doesn't Let Paper Company Sue Pension Fund Over Changes
ATLANTA - In a case of first impression, a three-judge 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled May 16 that a corrugated packaging and paper company could not sue a multiemployer pension plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the statute does not allow employers to sue over certain pension fund changes (WestRock RKT Co. v. Pace Industry Union-Management Pension Fund, et al., No. 16-16443, 11th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8569).



3rd Circuit Panel Holds Parties Required To Arbitrate Withdrawal Liability Row
PHILADELPHIA - A Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 31 affirmed that a pension trust's claims for withdrawal liability fall within Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (MPPAA) provisions that were explicitly designated for arbitration (Steelworkers Pension Trust v. The Renco Group Inc., et al., No. 16-3751, 3rd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9524).



6th Circuit Panel: Ford Retirement Plan Election Window Not Capricious
CINCINNATI - A Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 19 affirmed a Michigan federal judge's dismissal of denial of benefits and breach of fiduciary duty claims against Ford Motor Co. and its retirement plan, saying it was not arbitrary and capricious for Ford to set a period to elect lump-sum distribution of retirement benefits that paid a widow $463,254.78 less in survivor benefits (Jennifer Strang v. Ford Motor Company General Retirement Plan, et al., No. 16-2090, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8849).



5th Circuit Reverses Ruling In Plan Administrator's Favor In Severance Benefits Dispute
NEW ORLEANS - The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 1 reversed a lower federal court's ruling that ordered a claimant to take nothing from a Separation Benefits Plan, rendering a $255,000 judgment in favor of the claimant after finding that the administrator's reading of the plan was an abuse of discretion (William Langley v. Howard Hughes Management Co., No. 16-20724 c/w No. 17-20217, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. Lexis 9724).



Respondents: High Court Should Deny Certiorari In Age Discrimination Case
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a June 5 brief, respondents contend that the U.S. Supreme Court should deny a petition for writ of certiorari asking the high court to determine whether a state law age discrimination claim relating to employee benefits that is untimely under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, saying a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision is entirely consistent with Supreme Court precedent and all other lower court decisions on ERISA preemption and presents no important issue of federal law (John Loffredo, et al. v. Daimler AG, et al., No. 16-1334, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 1990).



Disability Claimant Says 6th Circuit's Preemption Decision Must Be Reviewed
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals incorrectly determined that a negligence claim is completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the Sixth Circuit's reasoning conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court's analysis for complete preemption, a disability claimant says in a May 22 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 1860).



11th Circuit: Trial Court Must Determine If Insured Reasonably Relied On Typo
ATLANTA - The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 25 vacated a district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston in an action brought by Melinda Webb under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act seeking the payment of life insurance benefits under a policy held by her deceased husband, ruling that the district court needed to make certain factual determinations (Webb v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., No. 16-14565, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9155).



Beneficiary's Claim Is Barred By 6-Year Statute Of Limitations, Panel Affirms
NEW YORK - The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal on May 24 affirmed that a beneficiary's claim for increased disability pension benefits is barred by New York's six-year statute of limitations because the beneficiary knew in 2004 that she was not receiving the increased benefits (Julienne Moses, as beneficiary of Paul Moses [deceased] v. Revlon Inc. et al., No. 16-2960, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9005).



Arizona Federal Judge Awards $25,000 In Fees, Costs To Plan In Case Lacking Merit
PHOENIX - Applying the five-factor test set forth in Hummell v. S.E. Rykoff & Co., an Arizona federal judge on May 8 awarded $25,000 and interest for attorney fees and costs to a defined benefit retirement plan, less than 95 percent of what the plan was seeking, saying the plaintiff's claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act lacked merit (Maureen Terri Angichiodo v. Honeywell Pension and Savings Plan, et al., No. 15-00097, D. Ariz., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69793).



6th Circuit Panel Remands Arbitration Award In ERISA Case For Clarification
CINCINNATI - A Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 30 affirmed an Ohio federal judge's order remanding an arbitration award for clarification in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act action brought by a union seeking the establishment of a welfare and pension trust fund for its members from their employer because the wording of the award is unclear (Local 1982, International Longshoremen's Association v. Midwest Terminals of Toledo International Inc., No. 16-4004, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9848).



4th Circuit Panel Affirms Tatum Decision As Being In Line With Dudenhoeffer
RICHMOND, Va. - A split Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 28 affirmed a North Carolina federal judge's ruling that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) is not liable for losses suffered by its 401(k) retirement employee benefit plan after its 1999 decision to divest Nabisco stock from the plan because a prudent fiduciary would have made the same divestment decision at the same time and in the same manner (Richard G. Tatum, et al. v. RJR Pension Investment Committee, et al., No. 16-1293, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 7561).



Rhode Island Federal Judge Tosses ERISA Lawsuit Against CVS Health With Prejudice
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A Rhode Island federal judge on April 18 adopted a report by a magistrate judge who recommended dismissal of an amended complaint arising under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act alleging that CVS Health Corp., its employee benefits plan committee and the manager of one of the plan's investment options breached their fiduciary duties because new material in the complaint is insufficient to permit an inference of imprudence and dismissed the complaint with prejudice (Mary Barchock, et al. v. CVS Health Corp., et al., No. 1:16-cv-00061, D. R.I., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59083).



California Judge Again Tosses Class Action Over Disney Fund Investment Option
LOS ANGELES - A California federal judge on April 21 again dismissed a putative Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action lawsuit filed by participants in the Walt Disney Co. retirement plan over a plan investment option, saying that the plaintiffs' second amended complaint is time-barred by the three-year statute of limitations of 29 U.S.C. 1132(2) (In re Disney ERISA Litigation, No. 2:16-cv-02251, C.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61202).



New York Federal Judge Unseals Order Certifying J.P. Morgan ERISA Class
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge on April 17 unsealed a two-week-old 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 he found evidence of a possible causal link between alleged breaches of fiduciary duties and the underperformance of the funds (In re J.P. Morgan Stable Value Fund ERISA Litigation, No. 1:12-cv-2548, S.D. N.Y.).



Virginia Federal Judge Says ESOP Trustee Acted As A Fiduciary In Stock Purchase
LYNCHURG, Va. - A Virginia federal judge on May 2 denied a motion to dismiss a lawyer defendant in a case alleging that the defendants facilitated the purchase of company stock by an employee stock ownership and savings plan (ESOP) at an inflated price in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, saying that the attorney exercised discretionary authority or control over the management of the ESOP and, therefore, was a de facto fiduciary (Edward C. Hugler v. Adam Vinoskey, et al., No. 6:16-cv-00062, W.D. Va., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67030).



2nd Circuit Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Suit Against Hartford Financial, Retailer
NEW YORK - In an unpublished decision, a Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held April 25 that a Connecticut federal judge properly dismissed a putative class action filed by Family Dollar Stores Inc. employees under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, saying that the plaintiffs failed to show that the insurance company that issued group life insurance to them was a fiduciary under ERISA (Patrick Hannan, et al. v. Hartford Financial Services Inc., et al., No. 16-1316, 2nd Cir.).



Employer Owes $750,000 For Not Telling Employee About Converting Insurance Policy
PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania federal magistrate judge on April 13 ordered an employer to pay a beneficiary $750,000 plus interest and attorney fees for failing, under ERISA, to tell the beneficiary and her late husband about their right to convert a group life insurance policy into a personal policy that would continue in force after the husband was forced to leave due to a terminal brain tumor (Patricia Erwood v. Life Insurance Company of North America, et al., No. 14-1284, W.D. Pa., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56348).



New York Federal Judge Strikes 3 Of 4 Pension Fund Withdrawal Liability Claims
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - A New York federal judge on May 1 granted three of four motions to dismiss filed by a wholesale supply company that a pension fund says is obligated to pay withdrawal liability for a bankrupt company whose assets it purchased, saying that claims of evading or avoiding liability, common control liability and joint employer liability fail (New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund, et al. v. C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc., No. 5:16-cv-84, N.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65505).



D.C. Federal Judge Orders More Document Production In Lawsuit Against PBGC
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A District of Columbia federal judge on April 13 ordered the U.S. Treasury Department to produce 63 documents it has withheld on the basis of the presidential communications privilege in a civil action against the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), saying that the subpoenaed material likely contains evidence directly relevant to issues that are expected to be central to the trial and that the evidence is not available with due diligence elsewhere (U.S. Department of the Treasury v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. Dennis Black, et al., No. 12-mc-100, D. D.C.; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56598).



Pennsylvania Federal Judge Rules Allstate Didn't Violate ERISA Anti-Cutback Rules
PHILADELPHIA - On April 27, a Pennsylvania federal judge presiding over a suit brought by a nationwide class of former sales agents accusing Allstate Insurance Co. and its president of age discrimination and violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ruled that Allstate did not violate ERISA's anti-cutback rules when it eliminated an early retirement subsidy known as the "beef-up" because it had offered plan participants the greater of two alternatives with a baseline of their beef-up subsidy as of the time of the amendment (Gene R. Romero, et al. v. Allstate Insurance Company, et al., No. 01-3894, consolidated with No. 01-6764, 03-6872, 15-1017, 15-1049. 15-1190, 15-2602, 15-2961, 15-3047, E.D. Pa., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64150).



2nd Circuit Panel: ERISA Plaintiff Failed To Exhaust Administrative Procedures
NEW YORK - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 10 affirmed a New York federal judge's ruling that a plaintiff in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuit failed to exhaust a pension plan's internal administrative procedures before filing suit (Kevin McCulloch v. Board of Trustees of the SEIU Affiliates Officers and Employees Pension Plan, et al., No. 16-1374, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6099).



4th Circuit Panel Affirms Plan Wrongfully Denied Man's Early Retirement Benefits
RICHMOND, Va. - A Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 24 affirmed a North Carolina judge's ruling that a man's pension plan wrongfully denied him regular early retirement benefits, saying that the man clearly qualified for regular early retirement under the plan's terms (Garry Carroll v. Continental Automotive Inc., et al., No. 16-1152, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 7119).



2nd Circuit Panel Affirms New York Judge's Dismissal Of Pension, Benefits Claims
NEW YORK - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 14 affirmed a New York federal judge's dismissal of a plaintiff's claims for pension and stock benefits on timeliness grounds, saying that his complaint was filed well outside of the six-year limitations period that applies to Employee Retirement Income Security Act claims (Benjamin Reches v. Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc., No 16-3294, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6490).



Pennsylvania Federal Judge Dismisses ADEA Disparate Impact Claim In Romero
PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania federal judge presiding over a suit brought by a nationwide class of former sales agents accusing Allstate Insurance Co. and its president of age discrimination and violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act on April 27 granted Allstate's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiffs' Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) disparate impact claim, saying the insurance agents cannot show that the insurer decided to terminate agents to eliminate older agents or stop pension accruals (Gene R. Romero, et al. v. Allstate Insurance Company, et al., No. 01-3894, consolidated with No. 01-6764, 03-6872, 15-1017, 15-1049. 15-1190, 15-2602, 15-2961, 15-3047, E.D. Pa., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64005).



6th Circuit Panels Issue 3 Collective Bargaining Rulings In Retiree ERISA Cases
CINCINNATI - Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panels on April 20 issued three rulings in Employee Retirement Income Security Act cases involving collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), ruling in one case that the retiree plaintiffs had a right to lifetime health care benefits, in another that the retirees did not and in another that an employer was properly enjoined from changing health care benefits provided to workers who retired from a plant before its closing (Jack Reese, et al. v. CNH America LLC, et al., Nos. 15-2382, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6856; Robert Cole, et al. v. Meritor, Inc., et al., No. 06-2224, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6853; International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), et al. v. Kelsey-Hayes, Co., et al., No. 15-2285, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6857).



Retiree Class Certified In Suit Over Union's Authority To Agree To Medical Changes
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A Connecticut federal judge on April 19 certified a class of retirees in a suit filed by an employer seeking a court declaration that a union has the authority to agree to changes in retiree medical benefits for those persons who retired after a 1996 class action settlement that provided the retirees with medical benefits without violating federal law (Barnes Group, Inc. v. International Union United Automobile Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America, et al., No. 16-559, D. Conn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59761).



5th Circuit Panel Affirms Abuse-Of-Discretion Standard Proper In Benefits Denial
NEW ORLEANS - A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 21 affirmed a Texas federal judge's ruling denying coverage for partial hospitalization for mental health treatment, saying that the judge properly reviewed the denial of coverage under an abuse-of-discretion standard (Ariana M. v. Humana Health Plan of Texas Inc., No. 16-20174, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 7072).



8th Circuit Panel Affirms Health Care Policy Exclusion Bars 24-Hour In-Home Care
ST. LOUIS - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 4 affirmed a Minnesota federal judge's dismissal of a couple's claim that they were improperly denied 24-hour in-home health care, saying that their group health care policy's private-duty nursing exclusion barred such coverage (Raleigh Spizman, et al. v. BCBSM Inc., No. 16-1557, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 7917).



9th Circuit Panel Says Plaintiffs In Case Against Aetna Failed To State Claim
SAN FRANCISCO - A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 24 ruled that plaintiffs in a putative class action against Aetna Life Insurance Co. under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act failed to state a claim that Aetna improperly denied them coverage for mental health treatment (Elizabeth L., et al. v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 15-15893, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 7145).



3rd Circuit Panel Affirms Dismissal Of ERISA Suit On Res Judicata Grounds
PHILADELPHIA - A Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 11 affirmed a New Jersey federal court's dismissal of a lawsuit challenging a ruling that a man was ordered to reimburse a health benefit plan after he obtained a settlement from a third party for injuries he suffered in an accident, saying the lawsuit is barred by the doctrine of res judicata (Bernard McLaughlin, et al. v. Board of Trustees of the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan, No. 16-4108, 3rd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6195).



1st Dismissal Of Doctor's ERISA Suit Was Final; Res Judicata Applies
ATLANTA - An 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 13 said a trial court's dismissal of a doctor's Employee Retirement Income Security Act action against an employer health plan was final, and her second attempt at bringing her claims is barred by res judicata (W.A. Griffin, M.D. v. Focus Brands Inc., No. 16-13485, 11th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6373).



Judge Orders Response From Blue Cross To Tribe's ERISA Document Request
BAY CITY, Mich. - A Michigan federal judge on April 13 directed an Indian tribe's health care plan administrator to respond to the tribe's request to file four sealed summary judgment documents on the public record in the tribe's lawsuit alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (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 56562).



Disability Insurer Is Entitled To Seek Reimbursement For Overpayment Of Benefits
CHICAGO - A disability insurer has a right to seek reimbursement for the overpayment of long-term disability benefits because both the terms of the disability plan and an agreement the claimant executed with the insurer afford the insurer the right to seek reimbursement, an Illinois federal judge said April 26 in denying the claimant's motion to dismiss the insurer's counterclaim (Natalie Schiavone v. The Prudential Insurance Company of America, No. 16-9848, N.D. Ill., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63035).



7th Circuit Panel Affirms Disability Plan Benefit Was Not Available To Claimant
CHICAGO - The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 18 affirmed a district court's ruling that a disability insurer did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in denying a claim for disability life insurance benefits because the disability life insurance benefit was not in the disability plan that was effective when the claimant became disabled (James B. Sumpter v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., No. 16-2012, 7th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6552).



Evidence Supports Insurer's Denial Of Disability Benefits Claim, 6th Circuit Panel Says
CINCINNATI - A district court did not err in finding that a disability insurer's denial of long-term disability (LTD) benefits was reasonable because the denial is supported by substantial evidence, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said May 2 (Stanley D. Rothe v. Duke Energy Long Term Disability Plan, et al., No. 16-4225, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 7904).



Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Disability Claimant's Claim For Deprivation Of Rights
CHICAGO - The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 14 affirmed a district court's dismissal of a disability claimant's allegation of deprivation of rights after determining that the pension plan that administered the disability plan at issue did not act in the interests of the "state" as required by the federal statute governing the claim for deprivation of rights (Joseph Reinwand v. National Electrical Benefit Fund, et al., No. 16-3381, 7th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6472).



Procedural Violation Does Not Justify Award Of Disability Benefits, 9th Circuit Says
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 4 vacated and remanded a district court's ruling in a disability benefits suit after determining that the disability insurer's failure to comply with procedural requirements does not, on its own, justify an award of benefits in favor of the claimant (Gregory Smith v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., Nos. 16-15319, No. 16-15413, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5835).



Disability Claimant Is Not Precluded From Pursuing Claim, Magistrate Judge Says
ST. LOUIS - A disability claimant is not barred from pursuing a claim for long-term disability (LTD) benefits because the claimant was not required to disclose the disability benefits claim as part of her assets in a bankruptcy case as the disability claim did not begin to accrue until after the bankruptcy case was filed, a Missouri federal magistrate judge said May 2 (Rochelle Byrd v. Wellpoint Flexible Benefit Plan, et al., No. 17-8, E.D. Mo., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66460.



High Court Refuses To Review Ruling On Remand Of Disability Benefits Claim
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on April 24 denied a disability claimant's petition for writ of certiorari, refusing to review the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals' decision that that the remand of a disability retirement claim was not an abuse of discretion or a violation of a previous court mandate (Kyle D. Kennard v. Means Industries Inc., No. 16-1117, U.S. Sup.).



Plan Administrators Seek High Court's Review Of Disability Benefits Decision
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Because a district court and the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals failed to follow prior decisions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in disability insurance cases, the high court should grant the plan administrators' petition for writ of certiorari, the plan administrators argue in an April 12 petition (Sun Life and Health Insurance Co., et al. v. Janet Solnin, No. 16-1238, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 1371).



Iowa Top Court Rejects Chiropractors' Unequal Pay Claim Against Insurer
DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa state law does not require insurers to compensate chiropractors at the same rate as other medical professionals and would be preempted by ERISA if it did, the Iowa Supreme Court held April 21 (Lyle H. Abbas, et al. v. Iowa Insurance Division, Wellmark Inc., et al., No. 15-1248, Iowa Sup., 2017 Iowa Sup. LEXIS 39).



No Profits To Award From Bank's Pension Plan Transfer Strategy, Judge Says
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Plaintiff employees in a decade-long case over a bank's illegal transfer of assets from a 401(k) plan to an Employee Retirement Income Security Act pension plan failed to show that any profit was retained by the bank as a result of the transfer, a North Carolina federal judge ruled March 17 in awarding judgment in favor of the bank on the plaintiffs' accounting-for-profit claim (William L. Pender, et al. v. Bank of America Corp., et al., No. 3:05-cv-00238, W.D. N.C., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38771).



6th Circuit Panel Rules University ERISA Case Belongs In Federal Court
CINCINNATI - Calling it a matter of first impression, a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on March 14 joined with six other circuits in holding that participants or beneficiaries need not exhaust administrative remedies before proceeding to federal court when they assert statutory violations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Eloise Hitchcock, et al. v. Cumberland University 403(b) DC Plan, et al., No. 16-5942, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4410).



8th Circuit Panel Remands ABB Retirement Plan Case For Recalculation Of Losses
ST. LOUIS - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on March 9 remanded to Missouri federal court a case in which ABB Inc. fiduciaries were found to have abused their discretion and breached their fiduciary duties in choosing investment options for their 401(k) retirement plans, saying that the lower court seems to have mistook a recommendation on how to measure plan losses (Ronald C. Tussey, et al. v. ABB Inc., et al., No. 15-2792, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4225).



3rd Circuit Finds DuPont Miscalculated Part Of Retiree's Pension Benefit
PHILADELPHIA - The Employee Retirement Income Security Act does not permit an employer to recalculate a state court's formula related to a retiree's spouse's payments under a pension plan, a Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled March 16, reversing a trial court's judgment in favor of the employer in a benefits dispute with the retiree (Mark Matthews v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Co., et al., No. 16-3237, 3rd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4606).



5th Circuit Denies Motion For Injunction Pending Appeal Of DOL Fiduciary Rule
NEW ORLEANS - With no comment, a Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 5 denied an emergency motion filed by a consortium of eight national and Texas-based trade associations that sell annuities and other life insurance products for an injunction pending appeal of the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) new fiduciary duty rule (Chamber of Commerce of the USA, et al. v. United States Department of Labor, et al., No. 17-10238, 5th Cir.).



California Federal Judge Denies USC Defendants' Motion To Compel Arbitration
LOS ANGELES - A California federal judge on March 23 denied the defendants' motion to compel arbitration in a putative class action alleging that the University of Southern California's (USC) 403(b) retirement plans charged excessive fees, saying that the 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. 2:16-cv-06191, C.D. Calif.).



Missouri Federal Judge Follows Dudenhoeffer In Tossing Peabody Breach Claims
ST. LOUIS - A Missouri federal judge on March 30 granted a motion to dismiss a putative class action brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act alleging that the fiduciaries of three employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) breached their fiduciary duties by keeping a company stock fund as an investment option after the company began having financial difficulties, saying the claims did not meet the high standard for stating a claim set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Fifth Third Bancorp. v. Dudenhoeffer (Lori J. Lynn, et al. v. Peabody Energy Corp., et al., No. 4:15-cv-00916, E.D. Mo., Eastern Div., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48468).



6th Circuit Affirms Ruling Dismissing ERISA Suit Against Cliffs Natural Resources
CINCINNATI - A Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 7 affirmed an Ohio federal judge's decision to dismiss a class action filed by members of the Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) alleging breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, saying that the decision is in line with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Fifth Third Bancorp. v. Dudenhoeffer that allowed fiduciaries for ESOPs to rely solely on the market price of a security as a risk barometer (Paul Saumer, et al. v. Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., et al., No. 16-3449, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6015).



Most Breach Of Duty Claims Against 401(k) Plan Administrator Survive Dismissal Bid
INDIANAPOLIS - An Indiana federal judge on March 23 declined to dismiss most claims of current and former participants of one of the largest 401(k) plans in the nation challenging the management of the plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Mary Bell, et al. v. Pension Committee of ATH Holding Company, LLC, et al., No. 1:15-cv-2062, S.D. Ind., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42107).



New York Federal Judge: Record-Keeper Services Didn't Give Rise To Fiduciary Duty
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge on March 7 granted a motion to dismiss an Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuit alleging that a record-keeper breached its fiduciary duty by preventing ERISA plans from getting a more competitive rate for record-keeping services, finding that the record-keeper was not a fiduciary of the plans (Elaine Malone, et al. v. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, No. 15-cv-08038, S.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32308).



Georgia Federal Judge Denies Motions To Dismiss Excessive Fees Lawsuit
ATLANTA - A Georgia federal judge on March 7 mostly denied two motions to dismiss an Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuit against 401(k) investment manager Reliance Trust Co. and Insperity Inc., a professional employer organization, saying that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that the defendants acted as fiduciaries concerning administrative and record-keeping fees for the 401(k) plan (Ronda A. Pledger, et al. v. Reliance Trust Co., et al., No. 1:15-cv-04444, N.D. Ga.).



Texas Federal Judge Denies Motion To Amend ERISA Complaint Against BP
HOUSTON - A Texas federal judge on March 8 denied a motion filed by participants and beneficiaries of BP entities' employee investment and savings plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to file an amended complaint related to the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill that resulted in a steep drop in the BP stock price for failure to state a claim (In Re: BP P.L.C. Securities Litigation, In re: BP ERISA Litigation, No. 4:10-cv-4214, S.D. Texas, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33302).



Supreme Court Denies Cert In ERISA Class Action Against Verizon Communications
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a two-sentence order, the U.S. Supreme on March 27 denied a petition for writ of certiorari filed by a defined-benefit pension plan participant and the Pension Rights Center in which they asked the court to consider whether the participant has standing to file a breach of fiduciary duty suit challenging the transfer of plan assets to a group annuity contract, regardless of loss to the participant's benefits (Edward Pundt, et al. v. Verizon Communications, Incorporated, et al., No. 16-762, U.S. Sup.).



NLRB's Jurisdictional Award Precludes ERISA Claims, Majority Affirms
CINCINNATI - A majority of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 30 affirmed a lower federal court's ruling that a jurisdictional award by the National Labor Relations Board bars claims by plaintiffs in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act contribution action (Raymond Orrand, et al. v. Hunt Construction Group, Inc., et al., No. 16-3822, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5515).



2nd Circuit Rules Against Louis C.K. In Dispute Over Plan Contributions
NEW YORK - Comedian Louis C.K.'s company is subject to the "controlling-employee" provisions in three employee benefit plan agreements and therefore must make plan contributions at the 40-hour workweek rate, even though C.K. worked fewer hours as editor of his TV show, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled March 21 (Pig Newton, Inc. v. Boards of Directors of Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan, Motion Picture Industry Individual Account Plan, Motion Picture Industry Health Plan, No. 15-1029, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4974).



U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments On ERISA's Church-Plan Exemption
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Whether a church establishes a plan or not, pension plans for religious nonprofits are and have been exempt from the minimum funding and reporting and disclosure requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the attorney representing three religious hospitals and health care providers argued March 27 before the U.S. Supreme Court (Advocate Health Care Network, et al. v. Maria Stapleton, et al., No. 16-74, Saint Peter's Healthcare System, et al. v. Laurence Kaplan, No. 16-86, Dignity Health, et al. v. Starla Rollins, No. 16-258, U.S. Sup.).



ERISA Not The Vehicle For Health Centers' Suits Against Insurers, 9th Circuit Says
SAN FRANCISCO - Health care centers designated to receive direct payment from a health plan administrator for medical services cannot file suit in federal court under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because they lack both direct statutory authority and derivative authority through assignment under ERISA's civil enforcement provisions, a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held March 22 (DB Healthcare, LLC, et al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Inc., No. 14-16518, Advanced Women's Health Center, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company, No. 14-16612, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5082).



Minnesota Federal Judge Certifies Cross-Plan Question For Immediate Appeal
MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota federal judge on March 14 certified for immediate appeal to the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals the question of whether a health insurer acted reasonably in permitting cross-plan offsetting, a method to recoup overpayments it made to medical providers, saying that immediate appellate review of the issue will significantly advance the litigation and also reduce the time that the insurer will spend in "legal limbo" (Louis J. Peterson, et al. v. UnitedHealth Group Inc., et al., Nos. 14-cv-2101, 15-cv-3064, D. Minn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36730).



Judge Finds Provider's State Law Claims Preempted By ERISA
NEWARK, N.J. - A medical provider's state law claims attempting to recover almost $98,000 clawed back by an insurer implicate claims-processing issues governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and are preempted, a federal judge in New Jersey held March 31 (Jason D. Cohen, M.D., FACS and professional orthopaedic Associates, et al. v. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, No. 15-4528, D. N.J., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49291).



Nevada High Court: NLRA, ERISA Don't Preempt Minimum Wage Amendment
CARSON CITY, Nev. - Nevada's Minimum Wage Amendment (MWA), which allows employers to pay a lower minimum wage if they provide health benefits, is not preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and is not unconstitutionally vague, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled March 16 (Western Cab Company v. The Eighth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada, in and for the County of Clark, et al., No. 69408, Nev. Sup., 2017 Nev. LEXIS 16).



Plan Excludes 'Educational Setting' Mental Health Treatment, 1st Circuit Finds
BOSTON - A Blue Cross Blue Shield company correctly denied coverage for a teenager's residential center treatment for his mental health problems because his father's group health insurance plan did not provide coverage for services rendered in an educational setting and the services at issue were not medically necessary under the plan, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found March 24 (Stephanie C. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts HMO Blue, Inc., No. 16-1997, 1st Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5231).



Oregon Federal Judge Refuses To Certify Class Of Naturopath Patients
PORTLAND, Ore. - An Oregon federal judge on March 9 denied a motion to certify a class of persons who were enrolled in an employer-issued health plan administered by Health Net Health Plan of Oregon who claimed that the plan discriminated against naturopathic physicians, finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they could not show that they suffered an injury-in-fact (Eileen Fox-Quamme, et al. v. Health Net Health Plan of Oregon Inc., et al., No. 3:15-cv-01248, D. Ore., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35964).



Judge Hands Insurer Mixed Results In Colorectal Cancer Test Coverage Case
GREENSBORO, N.C. - An insurer received mixed results in its challenge to claims that it failed to properly compensate the developer of a colorectal cancer screening test, with a federal judge in North Carolina dismissing some of the claims on March 27 but largely allowing Employee Retirement Income Security Act claims to proceed (Exact Sciences Corp. and Exact Sciences Laboratories LLC v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, No. 16-125, M.D. N.C., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44679).



Judge Approves Website For Class Of Autism Treatment Plaintiffs
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - A class of plaintiffs alleging that an insurer improperly restricted coverage for applied behavioral analysis may use a supplemental website as a method of communicating with the class, a federal judge in Kentucky held March 21 (Margaret Wilson, et al. v. Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky Inc., No. 14-743, W.D. Ky.).



Judge Dismisses ERISA Action Involving Proton Beam Therapy Coverage Denial
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A man's Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) suit impermissibly seeks equitable relief in the face of other available remedies, a federal magistrate judge in Alabama held March 23 (Jeffrey Woodruff v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, et al., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41921).