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LexisNexis® Mealey's™ ERISA Legal News



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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).