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LexisNexis® Mealey's™ ERISA Legal News



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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).



Drug Makers, Benefit Managers Hit With Class Suit Alleging Insulin Pricing Scheme
NEWARK, N.J. - Three drug makers and the three largest pharmacy benefit managers have engaged in a pricing scheme to drive up the cost of diabetes insulin - by more than 150 percent in the last five years - in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, the Sherman Act and numerous state laws, four consumers and Type 1 Diabetes Defense Foundation allege in a March 17 class complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (Julia Boss, et al. v. CVS Health Corporation, et al., No. 17-1823, D. N.J.).



4th Circuit: CBA Language Kills Retirees' Claim That Health Benefits Had Vested
RICHMOND, Va. - 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, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held March 22 (Ronald Barton, et al v. Constellium Rolled Products-Ravenswood, LLC, et al., No. 16-1103, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5087).



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).



Insurer Acted Arbitrarily In Determining Disability Onset Date, 1st Circuit Panel Says
BOSTON - The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 24 determined that a disability insurer acted arbitrarily and capriciously by relying on a job description of a generic "lawyer" rather than a job description of a specialized "environmental lawyer" when it determined the onset date of a claimant's disability (Jane Doe v. Standard Insurance Co., No. 16-2085, 1st Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5232).



Claimant Failed To Prove He Was Disabled Under Policy, 6th Circuit Panel Affirms
CINCINNATI - A disability insurer's decision to terminate a claimant's long-term disability benefits is supported by the medical evidence, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said March 22, agreeing with a district court's finding that the claimant failed to show that his depression prevented him from performing the duties of his occupation (Les A. Gilewski v. Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co., No. 16-2028, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5240).



6th Circuit Affirms Court's Decision To Uphold Denial Of ERISA Benefits
CINCINNATI - The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 9 held that an insurer's decision to deny an insured's benefits is supported by substantial evidence notwithstanding the insurer's inherent conflict of interest as both the plan administrator and payer, affirming a lower federal court's decision to uphold the denial of benefits sought under Section 502(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Daniel Collins v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America, No. 16-3918, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4322).



Disability Insurer's Reliance On Mental Health Limitation Was In Error, Judge Says
LOS ANGELES - Because a disability claimant established that his disability was caused by brain damage and not depression and anxiety, a disability insurer's reliance on the plan's mental illness limitation to terminate his benefits was in error, a California federal judge said March 27 (John Doe v. Prudential Insurance Company of America, et al., 15-04089, C.D. Calif.. 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45774).



Disability Plan's Provision Granting Discretionary Authority Is Void
SAN FRANCISCO - A de novo standard of review must be applied in a claimant's suit seeking long-term disability benefits because the plan's discretionary authority provision is void under California state law, a California federal judge said March 27 (Peter Englert v. The Prudential Insurance Company of America, No. 15-4814, N.D. Calif.; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44833).



Claimant Petitions High Court To Review Ruling That Remand Was Not Violation Of Mandate
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Because the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals failed to follow the law-of-the-case doctrine when it determined that the remand of a disability retirement claim was not an abuse of discretion or a violation of a previous court mandate, the U.S. Supreme Court should grant certiorari, a disability claimant maintains in a March 13 petition for writ of certiorari (Kyle D. Kennard v. Means Industries Inc., No. 16-1117, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 954).



Judge Adopts Magistrate's Finding That Government Exclusion Negates Defense Duty
SHERMAN, Texas - A Texas federal judge on March 2 adopted a magistrate's report that recommended granting an insurer's request for a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify its insureds against an underlying lawsuit because coverage is barred by the policy's government exclusion (Continental Casualty Co. v. Jeffrey Ramsey, et al., No. 16-00125, E.D. Texas).



Respondents, Amici Argue ERISA Requires Church Plans To Be Established By A Church
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The church plan exemption in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act unambiguously requires that a church plan be established by a church, the appellee-respondents in three cases consolidated before the U.S. Supreme Court say in their initial brief filed Feb. 16, a view shared by five amicus briefs filed in support of the respondents (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., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 515).



Texas Federal Judge Denies Groups' Motions Challenging DOL's Fiduciary Duty Rule
DALLAS - A Texas federal judge on Feb. 8 denied motions for summary judgment in consolidated cases filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (COC) and other groups opposed to the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) new "fiduciary rule" set to take effect April 10, saying that the DOL has not exceeded its authority and that the new rule does not violate the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Edward Hugler, Acting Secretary of Labor, et al., No. 3:16-cv-1476, consolidated with 3:16-cv-1530, 3:16-cv-1537, N.D. Texas; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17619).



Kansas Federal Judge Grants DOL Summary Judgment In Fiduciary Rule Lawsuit
TOPEKA, Kan. - A Kansas federal judge on Feb. 17 granted the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit challenging the DOL's new fiduciary rule, saying that a plaintiff insurance agency failed to prove violations of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA) as a matter of law (Market Synergy Group Inc. v. United States Department of Labor, et al., No. 16-cv-4083, D. Kan., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23155).



Labor Department Proposes Extension To Fiduciary Rule Applicability Date
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in a March 1 press release announced a proposed extension of the applicability dates of the new fiduciary rule and related exemptions from April 10 to June 9.



2nd Circuit Panel Says Pension Plan Participant Has Standing To File Suit
NEW YORK - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Feb. 10 issued a summary order vacating a New York federal judge's ruling that a pension plan participant does not have standing to sue on behalf of himself, his pension plan and other similarly situated Employee Retirement Income Security Act plans over alleged improper fiduciary conduct (Landol Fletcher v. Convergex Group LLC, et al., No. 16-734, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 2459).



Verizon Asks High Court To Deny Cert Petition In Defined-Benefit Plan Case
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a Feb. 16 opposition brief, Verizon Communications Inc. says the U.S. Supreme Court should deny a petition for writ of certiorari asserting that a defined-benefit pension plan participant has standing to file a breach of fiduciary duty suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the lead plaintiff has not alleged a concrete injury (Edward Pundt, et al. v. Verizon Communications, Inc. et al., No. 16-762, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 537).



2nd Circuit Rejects Bid For Rehearing Of Ponzi Scheme Case
NEW YORK - In a two-sentence order, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 13 denied a motion to rehear an Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuit brought by pension fund trustees alleging that the fund's investment manager and its principals knew that investing in a Ponzi scheme was imprudent (Trustees of the Upstate New York Engineers Pension Fund v. Ivy Asset Management, et al., No. 15-3124, 2nd Cir.).



Missouri Federal Judge Won't Dismiss Employee Lawsuit Over Excessive 401(k) Fees
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Missouri federal judge on Feb. 27 denied a defense motion to dismiss an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action alleging that American Century Services LLC charged excessive investment management and record-keeping fees for its 401(k) plan and filled the retirement plan with proprietary investment options for its own benefit, saying that the plaintiffs' allegations state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty (Steve Wildman, et al. v. American Century Services LLC, et al., No. 4:16-cv-00737, W.D. Mo.).



Colorado Magistrate Says Class Action Lawsuit Against Oracle Corp. Should Proceed
DENVER - A Colorado magistrate judge on Feb. 16 recommended that a proposed class action challenging the fees in Oracle Corp.'s 401(k) plan proceed, saying that the plaintiffs have met their pleading obligations (Deborah Troudt, et al. v. Oracle Corp., et al., No. 1:16-cv-00175, D. Colo., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22194).



High Court Denies Cert In Stock-Drop Case Arising Under ERISA
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 21 denied a petition for writ of certiorari in a stock-drop case arising under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Alex E. Rinehart, et al. v. John F. Akers, et al., No. 16-562, U.S. Sup.).



High Court Won't Review Ruling Tossing Claims Against Third-Party Administrator
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 21 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari in a case in which an 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel affirmed the dismissal of claims against a third-party administrator of an employee pension benefit plan because it was not a fiduciary of the plan and a self-dealing claim was time-barred (Carolinas Electrical Workers Retirement Plan, et al. v. Zenith American Solutions Inc., et al., No. 16-731, U.S. Sup.).



Arkansas Federal Judge: ERISA Preempts State Law That Regulates PBMs
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - An Arkansas federal judge on March 1 granted a pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) trade association summary judgment on its claim that Arkansas Act 900, a law that requires PBMs to pay pharmacies the amounts those pharmacies spent to buy generic drugs from wholesalers, is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and denied the state of Arkansas' motion for summary judgment because Act 900 is invalid as applied to PBMs in their administration and management of ERISA plans (Pharmaceutical Care Management Association v. Leslie Rutledge, No. 4:15-cv-00510 BSM, E.D. Ark.).



Data Breach Class Claims Against Premera Mostly Survive Dismissal Motion
PORTLAND, Ore. - Although an Oregon federal judge on Feb. 9 found that some fraud and contract-based claims related to a 2014 data breach experienced by Premera Blue Cross merited dismissal, he held that the plaintiffs cured some previous deficiencies and concluded that their claims are not preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) (In Re: Premera Blue Cross Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, No. 3:15-md-02633, D. Ore., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18322).



Texas Federal Judge Lets Cigna Units' Claims Against Surgical Centers Proceed
HOUSTON - A Texas federal judge on Feb. 15 ruled that two Cigna units may proceed on their claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, civil conspiracy and injunctive and declaratory relief in an action alleging that ambulatory surgical centers waived payments for out-of-network patients but billed insurers as if the patients had paid (Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., et al. v. Elite Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery LLC, et al., No. 4:16-cv-00571, S.D. Texas, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21026).



Texas Federal Judge Denies Parties' Motions To Reconsider ERISA Preemption Ruling
HOUSTON - A Texas federal judge on Feb. 6 denied motions to reconsider a Sept. 28 ruling that the breach of contract claims of an out-of-network hospital that Cigna Healthcare allegedly underpaid by using flawed data to calculate usual, customary and reasonable rates to reimburse out-of-network and emergent care services are preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (North Cypress Medical Center Operating Company, et al. v. Cigna Healthcare, et al., No. 4:09-cv-2556, S.D. Texas; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16076).



Judge Remands Implied Insurance Contract Claims As Outside ERISA
NEWARK, N.J. - A neurosurgical specialist's claim seeking payment for out-of-network care is based on an implied contract providing a separate and independent basis for recovery and thus is not preempted by ERISA, a federal judge in New Jersey held Feb. 17 in remanding the case (North Jersey Brain & Spine Center v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 16-1544, D. N.J., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22710).



Connecticut Federal Judge Rules For, Against Honeywell In Medical Coverage Dispute
HARTFORD, Conn. - A Connecticut federal judge on Feb. 28 granted summary judgment in favor of Honeywell International Inc., finding 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 (David Kelly, et al. v. Honeywell International Inc., No. 3:16-cv-00543, D. Conn., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28203).



Ohio Federal Judge Rules Honeywell Can't Cut Retiree Lifetime Health Benefits
DAYTON, Ohio - An Ohio federal judge on Feb. 28 found that plaintiffs satisfied their burden of proving that Honeywell International Inc. agreed to provide lifetime health care benefits to retirees from its Greenville, Ohio, plant and permanently enjoined the company from dropping the benefits for those who retired from the plant before June 1, 2012, and their eligible spouses and dependents (Barbara Fletcher, et al. v. Honeywell International Inc., No. 3:16-cv-302, S.D. Ohio, Western Div., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28324).



New Jersey Federal Judge Remands Health Insurance Case For Further Review
TRENTON, N.J. - A New Jersey federal judge on Feb. 14 remanded for further administrative review a case in which a plaintiff challenged a health insurance benefits determination, saying the claims processor had not provided enough evidence related to the determination for the court to make a ruling (Patient C.E. v. Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, No. 14-6950, D. N.J., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20343).



Judge: ERISA Preempts Provider's Contract Claim Against Insurer
GREENSBORO, N.C. - A substance abuse provider's claims that an insurer failed to pay for medically necessary treatments are preempted by ERISA or fail to state a claim, a federal judge in North Carolina held Feb. 9 (Bobby P. Kearney, M.D., PLLC, v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, et al., No. 16-191, M.D. N.C., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18428).



Judge Permits Late Class Claims In Insurance Spat Involving Autism Treatment
BENTON, Ill. - Plaintiffs' failure to include class allegations in their complaint does not excuse the oversight, but because an insurer was on notice of the claims, the late addition does not warrant denying leave to amend in a case challenging the reduction of coverage for autism treatments, a federal judge in Indiana held Feb. 15 (W.P., et al. v. Anthem Insurance Companies Inc., No. 15-562, S.D. Ind., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21424).



8th Circuit Panel Affirms Ruling On Enhanced Benefits For Anheuser Busch Pensioners
ST. LOUIS - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Feb. 22 affirmed in part a Missouri federal judge's ruling that participants in the Anheuser-Busch Cos. Pension Plan are entitled to enhanced pension benefits, saying that a plan administrator cannot contradict the plain language of an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan to deny benefits, but reversed and remanded for a calculation of benefits owed to individual class members (Brian Knowlton, et al. v. Anheuser-Busch Cos. Pension Plan, et al., No. 15-3538, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 3115).



Kentucky Federal Judge: Dispute Over Agreement Fails To State Claim Under ERISA
LONDON, Ky. - A Kentucky federal judge on Feb. 7 granted a university's motion to dismiss a claim that a disputed agreement that would give the university's former president lifetime retirement benefits, including health insurance, was a denial of Employee Retirement Income Security Act-protected benefits because the agreement is not governed by ERISA (Dr. James Taylor, et al. v. University of the Cumberlands, No. 6:16-cv-109, E.D. Ky., Southern Div., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17005).



Washington Appeals Panel: Garnishment Of Plan Assets Proper Under ERISA, State Law
SEATTLE - A Washington appellate panel on Feb. 13 affirmed that garnishment of a pension's assets was proper under both the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and Washington state's garnishment law, Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 6.15020, because Washington law does not "relate to" ERISA and, therefore, neither is preempted (Jack A. Johnson v. Clyde E. Carlson, et al., No. 7424001, Wash. App., Div. 1, 2017 Wash. App. LEXIS 342).



New York Federal Magistrate Advises $4.5 Million Fee For Pension Plan Withdrawal
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. - A New York federal magistrate judge on Feb. 7 recommended that a federal judge require a trucking company to pay more than $4.5 million in withdrawal liability for allegedly withholding payments from multiemployer pension plan funds pending an arbitrator's determination of the reasonableness of the amount (Thomas Gesualdi, et al. v. Scara-Mix Inc., No. 2:14cv765, E.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18059).



9th Circuit Panel: Judge Erred In Holding Job Resignation 'Voluntary'
PASADENA, Calif. - A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Feb. 17 remanded an Employee Retirement Income Security Act case with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of a man whose late wife lost her severance pay when she was forced to leave her job because of a disabling illness, saying a California judge erred in ruling that it was a "voluntary resignation" (Stanley Hoffman, et al. v. American Society for Techion-Israel Institute of Technology, No. 15-55756, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 2837).



LTD Plan Was Not Granted Discretionary Authority, 1st Circuit Panel Determines
BOSTON - The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 1 reversed a federal court's ruling that a disability insurer was delegated with discretionary authority and directed the lower court to review a claimant's termination of benefits under a de novo standard of review (Nilda Rodriguez-Lopez v. Triple-S Vida, Inc., No. 15-2413, 1st Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 3729).



New York Federal Judge Says Administrator Failed To Prove Extension Was Warranted
NEW YORK - Because a plan administrator failed to prove that special circumstances existed when it extended the allowable time to issue a decision on appeal, a New York federal judge on Feb. 28 concluded that a de novo standard of review is appropriate (Katherine Salisbury v. Prudential Insurance Company of America, No. 15-9799, S.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27983).



California Federal Judge OKs Settlement In Dispute Over Offset Of Veterans' Benefits
OAKLAND, Calif. - A California federal on March 1 approved a class action settlement between former U.S. veterans and Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston after determining that the terms of the settlement, which provides compensation to class members whose disability benefits were offset or reduced by Liberty Life, are reasonable (James L. Bush v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, et al., No. 14-1507, N.D. Calif.).



6th Circuit Finds Disability Coverage Claims Preempted By ERISA
CINCINNATI - After finding that a former marketing director's claims for coverage against a medical review company were completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 17 affirmed dismissal of the claims and found that a previous lawsuit filed against a plan administrator was the proper recourse (James Hackney v. Allmed Healthcare Management Inc., No. 16-5651, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 2877).



9th Circuit Panel Upholds Plan's Offset Of Disability Benefits
SAN FRANCISCO - Plan language clearly allowed an insurer to offset permanent partial disability benefits by the amount of long-term disability benefits the employee received, a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held Feb. 16 in an unpublished opinion (John Del Gallego v. Wells Fargo & Co. Long Term Disability Plan, et al., No. 15-15294, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 2753).



10th Circuit Panel Finds No Evidence That Employer Created Hostile Environment
DENVER - The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 24 affirmed that an employer did not create a hostile work environment after learning of an employee's disability because the employee failed to submit sufficient evidence that he was subject to a hostile work environment as a result of his disability (Steven R. Williams v. FedEx Corporate Services, et al., No. 16-4032, 10th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 3364).



High Court Denies Cert In Case Over Termination Of Long-Term Benefits
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 21 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari in a case in which the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said a district court did not err in determining that a disability plan did not wrongfully terminate a claimant's long-term disability benefits (Elizabeth Jenkins v. Grant Thornton LLP, et al., No. 16-682, U.S. Sup.).



Federal Judge: ERISA Stock Ownership Plan Cannot Seek Recovery Under Crime Policy
HOUSTON - A federal judge in Texas on Feb. 9 held that a third-party holding corporate stock cannot seek coverage under an insurance policy's plain language that limits coverage to "direct" losses when a corporate officer committed fraud that caused the devaluation of the corporation's stock (HC4, Inc. Employee Stock Ownership Plan v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America, No. 16-00090, S.D. Texas, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19605).