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7th Circuit Panel: Breach Claims Against GreatBanc Were Plausibly Alleged
CHICAGO - A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 25 reversed the dismissal of Employee Retirement Income Security Act claims against the trustee of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) because, it said, the plaintiffs plausibly alleged both a prohibited transaction and a breach of fiduciary duty (Lisa Allen, et al. v. GreatBanc Trust Co., No. 15-3569, 7th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15704).



New York Federal Judge Dismisses 5 Defendants From ERISA Class Action
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge on Aug. 23 granted five defendants' motion to dismiss claims against them in a second amended class action complaint against 12 banks and their affiliates under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the plaintiffs failed to adequately plead that the defendants were ERISA fiduciaries or "parties in interest" (Doris Sue Allen, et al. v. Bank of America Corp., et al., No. 1:15cv4285, S.D. N.Y.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112407).



11th Circuit Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Claims Against Third-Party Administrator
ATLANTA - An 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Sept. 1 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. 15-14046, 11th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 16162).



2 Organizations File Briefs In Support Of DOL's Fiduciary Rule
DALLAS - Two organizations filed amicus curiae briefs in Texas federal court in August supporting the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) fiduciary rule and opposing efforts to stop it from taking effect (Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Thomas E. Perez, Secretary of Labor, et al., No. 3:16-cv-1476, N.D. Texas).



2nd Circuit Panel Affirms Investment Advisers Liable For Pension Plan Losses
NEW YORK - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 30 affirmed a ruling that the investment advisers for employee pension plans sponsored by Severstal Wheeling Inc. (SWI) and its predecessors are liable for the full amount of investment losses - $9.6 million - due to their failure to properly diversify and manage the plans (Severstal Wheeling, Inc. Retirement Committee, et al. v. WPN Corporation, et al., No. 15-2725, 2nd Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15970).



California Federal Judge Dismisses ERISA Class Action Against Chevron Corp.
OAKLAND, Calif. - A California federal judge on Aug. 29 granted Chevron Corp.'s motion to dismiss an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action against it alleging breach of fiduciary duty for failure to state a claim (Charles E. White, et al. v. Chevron Corp., et al., No. 16-cv-0793, N.D. Calif.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115875).



Separate Class Actions Filed Against Large Universities Alleging Plan Mishandling
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), New York University (NYU) and Yale University were sued Aug. 9 in separate putative class action lawsuits on behalf of more than 60,000 employees in their defined contribution retirement plans who claim that the universities, as plan sponsors, breached their duties of loyalty and prudence under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by causing plan participants to pay millions of dollars in unreasonable and excessive administrative fees (David B. Tracey, et al. v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, et al., No. 1:16cv11620, D. Mass.; Dr. Alan Sacerdote, et al. v. New York University, et al., No. 1:16cv6284, S.D. N.Y.; Joseph Vellali, et al. v. Yale University, et al., No. 3:16cv1345, D. Conn.).



More ERISA Class Actions Filed Against Universities Alleging Plan Mishandling
A second wave of 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 were filed Aug. 10 and 11 (David Clark, et al. v. Duke University, et al., No. 1:16-cv-01044, M.D. N.C.; Loren L. Cassell, et al. v. Vanderbilt University, et al., No. 3:16-cv-02086, M.D. Tenn.; Jennifer Sweda, et al. v. University of Pennsylvania, et al., No. 2:16-cv-04329; Margaret E. Kelly, et al. v. The Johns Hopkins University, No. 1:16-cv-02835, D. Md.).



Georgia Federal Judge Allows Some ESOP Claims To Proceed
AUGUSTA, Ga. - A Georgia federal judge on Aug. 26 held that a plaintiff has stated a claim for breach of the fiduciary duty of prudence in a case in which she alleges that her employer's employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) imprudently continued to invest in company stock, the value of which dropped significantly (Carrie Brannen, et al. v. First Citizens Bankshares Inc. Employee Stock Ownership Plan with 401(k) Provisions, et al., No. 6:15-cv-30, S.D. Ga.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114775).



3rd Circuit Panel Affirms MEWA Marketer Ruling, Remands Trustee Decision
PHILADELPHIA - A Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 18 affirmed that the marketer of a multiemployer welfare arrangement (MEWA) breached his fiduciary duties to the fund by diverting plan assets within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act but vacated and remanded a lower court ruling against a named trustee of the plan, finding that more evidence is needed to determine when she became aware of the diversion of funds (Secretary of Labor v. James Doyle, et al., Nos. 15-1380 and 15-1574, 3rd Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15169).



North Carolina Federal Judge Refuses To Dismiss ERISA Claims Against Aetna
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - A North Carolina federal judge on Aug. 31 denied defendants' motion to dismiss two claims for breach of fiduciary duty brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the plaintiff sufficiently alleged an injury in fact (Sandra M. Peters, et al. v. Aetna Inc., et al., No. 1:15-cv-00109, W.D. N.C.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117326).



California Federal Judge Lets Class Action Against Asset Management Firm Proceed
SANTA ANA, Calif. - A California federal judge on Aug. 5 denied in part defendants' motion to dismiss a first amended class action complaint alleging that mismanagement of their asset management company's 401(k) plan led to "outrageously high" expenses for plan participants, rejecting their arguments that the claims are time-barred and that the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge plan investment options (Aleksandr Urakhchin, et al. v. Allianz Asset Management of America LP, et al., No. 8:15cv1614, C.D. Calif.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104244).



Georgia Federal Judge Certifies Class Of SunTrust 401(k) Plan Participants
ATLANTA - a Georgia federal judge on Aug. 17 certified a class of participants in or beneficiaries of the SunTrust Banks Inc. 401(k) Savings Plan who allege that they sustained a loss to their account as a result of investment in SunTrust stock, saying it would "help bring an efficient resolution to this case" (In re SunTrust Banks Inc. ERISA Litigation, No. 1:08-CV-03384, N.D. Ga.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108916).



5 Groups Support Petitioners Seeking High Court Review Of Church Plan Rulings
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Five organizations in August filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of petitioners seeking clarification of what constitutes a "church plan" exempt from the 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, U.S. Sup.).



Dignity Health Seeks High Court Review Of Church Plan Rulings
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Lower courts and religious employers "desperately need definitive resolution" of the recurring question of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act's "church plan" exemption, Dignity Health argues in a petition for a writ of certiorari filed Aug. 29 in the U.S. Supreme Court (Dignity Health, et al. v. Starla Rollins, No. 16-258, U.S. Sup.; 2016 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 3166).



Maryland Federal Judge Consolidates ERISA Cases, Appoints Lead Counsel
BALTIMORE - A Maryland federal judge on Aug. 24 consolidated two Employee Retirement Income Security Act class actions against Bon Secours Health System Inc. and appointed interim lead class counsel (Arlene Hodges, et al. v. Bon Secours Health System Inc., et al., No. RDB-16-1079, Carolyn Miller, et al. v. Bon Secours Health System Inc., et al., No. RDB-16-1150, D. Md.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113414).



Proposed Settlement Filed In Alabama Federal Court In 'Church Plan' Class Action
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A plaintiff on Aug. 26 submitted in Alabama federal court an unopposed motion and brief in support of a proposed settlement of a class action that alleges that the Baptist Health System Inc. Retirement Plan was improperly classified as a "church plan" under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and significantly underfunded (Jeffrey Tucker, et al. v. Baptist Health System Inc., et al., No. 2:15-cv-00382, N.D. Ala.).



3rd Circuit Appeals Panel Vacates, Remands Case Over 'Active-Service' Clause
PHILADELPHIA - A Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 19 vacated a decision denying a woman's claim for benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because of an "active-service" clause in her husband's employee benefit plan and remanded for a determination of the terms of the plan at the time her benefits, if any, vested (Lou Ann Woerner, et al. v. Fram Group Operations LLC, et al., No. 15-2813, 3rd Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15248).



5th Circuit Panel Affirms Bonus Arrangement Is Not An ERISA Plan
NEW ORLEANS - A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 31 affirmed that a bonus agreement offered by an employer to a select number of employees does not qualify as an Employee Retirement Income Security Act employee welfare benefit plan because "the purchase of insurance alone is insufficient to demonstrate an ERISA plan" (Sarah Mozingo Martin, et al. v. Trend Personnel Services, et al., No. 15-11263, 5th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 16146).



Panel Majority Says District Court Failed To Consider Effect Of Medications
SAN FRANCISCO - A district court erred in entering judgment in favor of a disability plan and a disability insurer because it failed to consider how medications taken by the disability claimant would affect his ability to function in a workplace under the "any occupation" test, the majority of a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel said Aug. 26 (Daniel G. Demer v. IBM Corporation LTD Plan, et al., No. 13-17196, 9th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15788).



6th Circuit Majority Says Remand To Plan Administrator Was Not Violation Of Mandate
CINCINNATI - The majority of a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 19 determined that remanding a disability retirement claim to the plan administrator was not an abuse of discretion because the remand remained within the purview of an earlier mandate issued by the Sixth Circuit (Kyle D. Kennard v. Means Industries Inc., No. 15-1872, 6th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15308).



Denial Of Benefits Was Not Rational, 6th Circuit Appeals Panel Says In Reversing
CINCINNATI - The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 7 reversed and remanded a district court's ruling that a disability claimant is not entitled to long-term disability benefits beyond the plan's one-year limitation for mental disorders because the plan administrator's decision was arbitrary and capricious (Patti Okuno v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., No. 15-4043, 6th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 16423).



Claimant Failed To Prove She Is Totally Disabled, 6th Circuit Panel Says
CINCINNATI - A district court did not err in finding that a disability claimant's long-term benefits were properly terminated because the claimant failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that she is totally disabled as defined by the plan, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Aug. 23 (Christina Saunders v. Procter & Gamble Health & Long-Term Disability Benefit Plan, No. 16-3043, 6th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15743).



Denial Of Claim Was Proper; Lawsuit Was Untimely Filed, 8th Circuit Panel Determines
ST. LOUIS - The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 22 affirmed a disability insurer's denial of a long-term disability (LTD) claim on the basis that the claimant's lawsuit was not filed within the plan's contractual limitations period (Jeff Schmitz v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, No. 14-3701, 8th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15319).



11th Circuit: External Medical Necessity Review Not Binding On Parties
ATLANTA - An 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 16 held that a federal judge erred in determining that an external review of the medical necessity of a woman's anorexia treatment was binding on the parties and precluded her from challenging Oxford Health Insurance Inc.'s denial of her claim under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the external review had not finally decided the issue against her (Alexandra H. v. Oxford Health Insurance Inc. Freedom Access Plan, et al., No. 15-11513, 11th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15030).



Alaska Federal Judge: Lab Claims Preempted By ERISA, FEHBA
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - An Alaska federal judge on Aug. 16 ruled that Alaska's Prompt Pay Statute, requiring insurers to pay benefit claims within 30 days, is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act for claims related to employee benefit plans and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act (FEHBA) for claims related to federal worker benefit plans (John D. Zipperer Jr. v. Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, No. 3:15-CV-00208, D. Alaska; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109531).



Statute Voiding Discretionary Clauses Does Not Apply To Health Plan, Judge Says
SAN FRANCISCO - A California statute voiding discretionary clauses in disability and life insurance policies does not apply to a claim for medical expenses under a health insurance policy because New York law applies to the dispute and because health insurance is not a form of disability insurance, a California federal judge said Aug. 30 (David Bain et al., v. United Healthcare Inc., No. 15-3305, N.D. Calif.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116805).



California Federal Judge Dismisses Part Of Suit Over Hepatitis C Drug
SAN FRANCISCO - A California federal judge on Aug. 31 granted in part a defendants' motion to dismiss a putative class action seeking injunctive relief from Blue Shield of California's denial of coverage for a drug to treat hepatitis C because Blue Shield has since amended its Harvoni policy and given notice to insureds that they can resubmit claims for treatment (Aram Homampour, et al. v. Blue Shield of California Life and Health Insurance Co., et al., No. 3:15-cv-05003, N.D.. Calif.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117632).



Judge Reverses Course, Reinstates Man's ACA Claim Against Government Plan
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. - A man's claims invoke the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which unlike other regulations does not specifically exclude government-sponsored plans, a federal judge in New York held in granting reconsideration and reinstating the claims on Sept. 6 (Raymond A. Semente, D.C., P.C. v. Empire Healthcare, et al., No. 14-5823, E.D. N.Y.).



Virginia Federal Judge: 'Serial Litigant' Lawsuit Barred By Res Judicata
LYNCHBURG, Va. - A Virginia federal judge on Aug. 10 granted a health insurer's motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that it unlawfully ignored requests to provide plan documents and breached co-fiduciary duties owed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because it is barred by res judicata (W.A. Griffin v. Areva Inc., No. 6:16-cv-00029, W.D. Va.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105887).



9th Circuit Reverses Award Of Equitable Remedies In Retaliatory Discharge Case
PASADENA, Calif. - A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 26 reversed a district court award of front pay and reinstatement as equitable remedies under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act for a retaliatory discharge after the plaintiff had already sought and been awarded front pay damages to compensate for the harm by a jury (Scott Teutscher, et al. v. William Nathaniel Woodson III, et al., No. 13-56659, 13-56411, 9th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15790).



7th Circuit Panel Affirms Board Service Payments Not 'Salary' Under Plan
CHICAGO - A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 10 affirmed that a union pension fund's denial of a former business representative's attempt to have board services payments included in his pension benefits was not arbitrary and capricious because the payments were not "salary payments" as defined by the pension plan (William Rabinak v. United Brotherhood of Carpenters Pension Fund, No. 15-1717, 7th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 14738).



Pennsylvania Federal Judge Transfers Billing Dispute To Central District Of Illinois
PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania federal judge on Aug. 29 enforced a forum selection clause in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act health insurance plan and transferred the case to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, where the plan is administered (George W. Mathias v. Caterpillar Inc., et al., No. 16-1846, E.D. Pa.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115314).



California Federal Judge Orders Arbitration Of Claim Seeking Future Rights
SAN FRANCISCO - A California federal judge on Aug. 24 granted Aetna Health of California Inc.'s motion to compel arbitration of a claim seeking to recover benefits due under an Employee Retirement Income Security Act-governed health benefit plan insured by Aetna Health of California (Anna M. Sanzone-Ortiz v. Aetna Health of California Inc., et al., No. 15-cv-03334, N.D. Calif.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113252).



10th Circuit Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Suit Over Life Insurance Proceeds
DENVER - A 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 31 affirmed dismissal of a lawsuit over whether a mother and daughter were co-beneficiaries of a life insurance policy for failure to state a valid claim (Judy Woolf v. Shaela K. Wigginton, et al., No. 15-4142, 10th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 16151).



1st Circuit Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Fidelity Float Class Action Litigation
BOSTON - A First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 13 affirmed dismissal of a putative class action filed by retirement plan participants and a plan administrator alleging breach of fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (In Re: Fidelity ERISA Float Litigation; Timothy M. Kelley, et al. v. Fidelity Management Trust Co., et al., No. 15-1445, 1st Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12874).



Claims Related To Reduction In Benefits To Continue Against Purchaser
NEW ORLEANS - A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 11 affirmed dismissal of claims for breach of fiduciary duty and declaratory, equitable and injunctive relief against Acme Building Brands Inc. but allowed claims to continue against Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which purchased Acme's parent company, in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act suit over reductions in Acme's retirement plans (Judy Hunter, et al. v. Berkshire Hathaway Inc., et al., No. 15-10854, 5th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12744).



10th Circuit Panel Affirms Consultant Not A Plan Fiduciary
DENVER - A 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 11 affirmed dismissal of claims that a pension plan consultant breached a fiduciary duty by misstating the amount of pension payments that a member could expect upon retirement for failure to state a valid claim (Trent Lebahn, et al. v. National Farmers Union Uniform Pension Plan, et al., No. 15-3201, 10th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12708).



Groups Opposing DOL's Fiduciary Rule File Motions Seeking Summary Judgment
DALLAS - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups opposed to the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) new "fiduciary rule" on July 18 filed motions for summary judgment in Texas federal court, contending that the DOL has exceeded its authority and violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Internal Revenue Service Code and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) (Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Thomas E. Perez, Secretary of Labor, et al., No. 3:16-cv-1476, N.D. Texas).



9th Circuit Will Rehear En Banc Mutual Fund Dispute After Supreme Court Remand
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 5 announced that it will rehear en banc a case in which a panel previously found that 401(k) plan participants challenging the selection and retention of certain mutual funds forfeited their right to argue that their employer and its benefits plan failed to adequately monitor those investments because the argument was never raised before a California federal judge or in their initial appeal (Glenn Tibble, et al. v. Edison International, et al., No. 10-56406, 9th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 14413).



Class Action Lawsuits Filed On Behalf Of Target Corp. 401(k) Plan
MINNEAPOLIS - Participants in the Target Corporation 401(k) Plan filed separate class actions in July in Minnesota federal court against the company and its plan investment committee alleging breach of fiduciary duty for retaining Target Corp. common stock as a plan investment option (Mitchell W. Knoll, et al. v. Target Corporation, et al., No 0:16-cv-02400; Dorothea Simmons, et al. v. Target Corporation, et al., No. 0:16-cv-02421, D. Minn.).



7th Circuit Panel: ERISA's Authority Allows Indemnification
CHICAGO - A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 21 affirmed that a defendant in a class action alleging breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act can be required to indemnify his co-fiduciaries because a court's remedial authority under ERISA includes the power to fashion "traditional equitable remedies" (Carol Chesemore, et al. v. David B. Fenkell, et al., Nos. 14-3181, 14-3215 and 15-3740, 7th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 13316).



8th Circuit Panel Affirms Equitable Relief Ruling In ERISA, ADEA Case
ST. LOUIS - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel in an opinion filed July 27 affirmed the grant of equitable relief under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act to a woman who lost her job on the basis of her age because she did not receive continued coverage under her employer-based group health plan and some payments to her 401(k) plan (Vicki J. Smith v. Health Resources of Arkansas Inc., et al., No. 16-1066, 8th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 13630).



Penalty Was Correctly Assessed But Must Be Recalculated, Panel Says
SAN FRANCISCO - A district court did not err in assessing a statutory penalty against a disability plan administrator for failing to provide a requested plan document within 30 days, but the district court must recalculate the penalty to assess the penalty based solely on the failure to timely produce the plan document, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said July 25 (Curtis F. Lee v. ING Groep, N.V., et al., No. 14-15848, 9th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 13489).



Judge Dismisses Tribe's ERISA Claim Against Blue Cross Blue Shield
BAY CITY, Mich. - An Indian tribe's claim that its health care plan administrator violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act fails because the tribe cannot establish that the administrator had a fiduciary duty under ERISA to ensure payment of Medicare-like rates (MLRs) for certain health services, a Michigan federal judge ruled Aug. 3 in dismissing the claim (Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, et al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, No. 16-cv-10317, E.D. Mich.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101610).



8th Circuit To Decide Coverage Dispute For Student Athlete's Injury
ST. LOUIS - An insurer of student athletes in a coverage dispute with an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan over which has primary coverage for an injured athlete's medical expenses has asked the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to decide whether a trial court erred in finding that it has jurisdiction under ERISA and that the insurer is primarily responsible for the bills (Dakotas and Western Minnesota Electrical Industry Health and Welfare Fund v. First Agency, Inc., et al., No. 16-1846, 8th Cir.)



Autism Therapy Settlement Class Approved But Proposed Settlement Rejected
SEATTLE - A Washington state federal judge on July 18 approved an unopposed motion for certification of a settlement class but denied preliminary approval of the proposed settlement agreement in a case alleging that T-Mobile's employee benefit plan failed to cover autism therapy (A.D., et al. v. T-Mobile USA Inc. Employee Benefit Plan, et al., No. 2:15-cv-00180, W.D. Wash.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94155).



6th Circuit Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Insurer's Claim Against ERISA Plan
CINCINNATI - A Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 21 affirmed dismissal of a no-fault automobile insurer's claim for reimbursement of an insured's medical services bills from an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) because it has no standing to bring a claim under federal common law or ERISA (Farm Bureau General Insurance Company of Michigan, v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, No. 15-2323, 6th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 13453).



High Court Asked To Rule On Standing To Sue Insurer Under ERISA
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a July 8 petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, the high court is asked to consider whether a party who is not an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan participant, an ERISA beneficiary or a health care provider has standing to sue an insurer under ERISA for benefits (Gables Insurance Recovery Inc., as assignee of South Miami Chiropractic LLC, v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc., No. 16-64, U.S. Sup.; 2016 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2650).



Pension Plan Participants: Judge's Rulings At Odds With High Court Decisions
ST. LOUIS - U.S. Bancorp pension plan participants filed a brief July 12 with the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, asking for oral argument in a putative class action alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because, they say, recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions raise the question of whether a Minnesota federal judge erred in dismissing their ERISA claims as moot and time-barred (Sherry Smith, et al. v. U.S. Bank, et al., No. 0:13-cv-02687, 8th Cir.).



DOL Supports Petitioner Opposing Disability Plan's Forum-Selection Clause
ST. LOUIS - The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on June 16 filed an amicus brief in the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in support of a plan participant, saying that a disability plan's forum-selection clause deprives her of the choices afforded by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act's venue provision and requires her to bring suit at a considerable distance from her home (In re Lorna Clause, No. 16-2607, 8th Cir.).



9th Circuit Panel Says Dignity Health Pension Plan Not A Church Plan
SAN FRANCISCO - A panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 26 affirmed that Dignity Health's pension plan was not subject to the requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and did not qualify for ERISA's church-plan exception because it was not established by a church or by a convention or association of churches (Starla Rollins, et al. v. Dignity Health, et al., No. 15-15351, 9th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 13574).



Petitioners Seek U.S. High Court Review Of 'Church Plan' Rulings
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Two pension plans in July filed petitions for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking clarification of what constitutes a "church plan" exempt from the requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Saint Peter's Healthcare System, et al. v. Laurence Kaplan, No. 16-86, U.S. Sup.; 2016 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2706. Advocate Health Care Network, et al. v. Maria Stapleton, et al., No. 16-74, U.S. Sup.; 2016 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2675).



Pension Plans Participants Move For Approval Of $76 Million Settlement
GREENBELT, Md. - Participants in health pension plans on Aug. 1 filed a motion for preliminary certification of a proposed settlement class and preliminary approval of a class action settlement agreement that will provide them with Employee Retirement Income Security Act-like protections for the next 15 years, contribute $75 million to the plans and pay $1.3 million to former participants in the plans (Anita Lann, et al. v. Trinity Health Corporation, et al., No. PJM 14-2237, D. Md.).



3rd Circuit Panel Affirms Summary Judgment For GM In Suit Over QDRO
PHILADELPHIA - A panel of the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 2 affirmed the grant of summary judgment to General Motors Corp. in a lawsuit alleging that GM unlawfully circumvented the Employment Retirement Income Security Act and the Pension Protection Act with its denial of a woman's Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) because the claims are time-barred and without merit (Marva Jane Richardson-Roy v. Abigail Johnson, et al., No. 15-1914, 3rd Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 14051).



Pennsylvania Federal Judge Says Motor Vehicle Statute Saves Claim From Preemption
SCRANTON, Pa. - A Pennsylvania federal judge on Aug. 2 partially denied a life insurance company's motion to dismiss a putative class action for benefits under an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan, finding that a section of a state motor vehicle statute "regulates insurance" and is therefore saved from ERISA preemption (Eric Yost, et al. v. Anthem Life Insurance Co., No. 3:16-cv-00079, M.D. Pa.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101202).



New York Federal Judge Denies Remand, Rules For Union Fund
ALBANY, N.Y. - A New York federal judge on July 12 denied a motion to remand a case against SEIU Local 200 United Benefit Fund alleging breach of fiduciary duty and granted Local 200's cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings (Kevin Boyle, et al. v. SEIU Local 200 United Benefit Fund, et al., No. 5:15-cv-517, N.D. N.Y.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89810).



Labor Secretary Urges 2nd Circuit To Find Claim Was Properly 'Deemed Denied'
NEW YORK - In a June 9 amicus curiae brief, the U.S. secretary of Labor urged the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to uphold a district court's ruling that a disability claim was properly "deemed denied," noting that reversing the ruling could significantly undermine the secretary's regulations governing benefit claims (Janet Solnin v. Sun Life and Health Insurance Co., et al., No. 15-3921, 2nd Cir.).



District Court Erred In Policy Interpretation, 7th Circuit Says In Reversing
CHICAGO - Because a district court erred in interpreting a disability policy and made factual findings unsupported by the evidence, a new trial is warranted, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said July 27, vacating and remanding the district court's ruling in favor of a disability claimant (Carole Cheney v. Standard Insurance Co., et al., No. 15-1794, 7th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 13692).



Claimant Not Provided With 'Meaningful Opportunity' To Submit Evidence, Panel Says
PORTLAND, Ore. - Because a disability claimant did not have a "meaningful opportunity" to submit additional evidence in support of her claim and because the plan did not explain what "objective medical findings" are, a district court erred in granting the plan's motion summary judgment, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal said July 29 in reversing the district court's ruling (Barbara Scoles v. Intel Corporation Long Term Disability Benefit Plan, No. 13-36167, 9th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 13819).



11th Circuit Panel Says Long-Term Benefits Were Not Wrongfully Terminated
ATLANTA - A district court did not err in determining that a disability plan did not wrongfully terminate a claimant's long-term disability benefits, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said July 11 (Elizabeth Jenkins v. Grant Thornton LLP, et al., No. 14-15695, 11th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12729).



Dismissal Of Claimant's Suit Was Proper, 6th Circuit Appeals Panel Determines
CINCINNATI - A district court did not err in dismissing a disability claimant's suit with prejudice because the decision to terminate the claimant's benefits was reasonable and correct, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said July 21 (Monica L. Crox v. Unum Group Corp., No. 15-6006, 6th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 13451).



Plan Participant, Amici Tell 2nd Circuit He Has Standing To File Suit
NEW YORK - A pension plan participant asserts in a June 29 brief to the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that he has 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, et al. v. Convergex Group LLC, et al., No. 16-734, 2nd Cir.).



Plaintiffs Seek Preliminary Approval Of $30.9 Million Class Action Settlement
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Plaintiffs in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act breach of contract lawsuit on June 15 filed a joint motion for preliminary approval of a $30.9 million class settlement in Massachusetts federal court (Dennis Gordan, et al. v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 13-30184, D. Mass.).



Colorado Federal Judge Certifies Class In Action Alleging Breach Of Duty
DENVER - A Colorado federal judge on June 22 granted a motion for class certification and denied a defense motion to exclude expert testimony in a case alleging that Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co. breached its fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (John Teets v. Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co., No. 14-02330, D. Colo.).



DOL Seeks Consolidation Of 3 Cases Challenging Its New Fiduciary Rule
DALLAS - The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on June 17 filed an unopposed motion in Texas federal court to consolidate three cases challenging its new "fiduciary rule" (Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Thomas E. Perez, Secretary of Labor, et al., No. 3:16-cv-1476, N.D. Texas).



High Court Won't Review Ruling On ERISA Fiduciary's Liability
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on June 27 let stand a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals divided opinion that rejected the breach of prudence claims asserted by participants in an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) (Raymond M. Pfeil, et al. v. State Street Bank and Trust Company, No. 15-1199, U.S. Sup.).



California Federal Judge Denies TRO Against IRS For Pension Plan Levies
SAN DIEGO - A California federal judge on June 29 denied a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) sought to stop the Internal Revenue Service from tapping a pension plan to collect back taxes (Jim Nemlowill v. United States of America, No. 16CV1642, S.D. Calif.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84843).



6th Circuit Panel Affirms Dismissal Of Preemption Claims
CINCINNATI - A Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 1 affirmed dismissal of claims that a Michigan law is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Self-Insurance Institute of America Inc. v. Rick Snyder, et al., No. 12-2264, 6th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12142).



Tennessee Appeals Court: ERISA Preempts Claims In Lawsuit Against Insurer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Tennessee Court of Appeals panel on June 9 concluded that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act preempts state law causes of action based on implied-in-law contract in a suit brought by health care corporations to recover costs for emergency medical services to patients participating in Blue Cross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc.'s (BCBST) insurance plans (HCA Health Services of Tennessee Inc., et al. v. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc., No. M2014-01869, Tenn. App.; 2016 Tenn. App. LEXIS 407).



Complaint Was Properly Dismissed, 3rd Circuit Panel Says In Affirming
PHILADELPHIA - A district court did not err in dismissing a disability claimant's suit because the Employee Retirement Income Security Act preempts his state law contract and fraud claims, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said June 16 (Andre D. Butler v. Liberty Mutual Life Assurance Company of Boston, No. 16-1316, 3rd Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 10889).



5th Circuit Panel Affirms Welfare Plan Is Governmental Plan
NEW ORLEANS - A Fifth Circuit U.S. Appeals Court panel on June 28 affirmed that claims alleged under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by retirees against an employee welfare plan cannot stand because the plan is a governmental plan exempt from ERISA regulations (Mary Smith, et al. v. Regional Transit Authority, et al., No. 15-31001, 5th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 11841).



Lawsuit: Puerto Rico Church Plan Fails To Comply With ERISA
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A class of vested participants or beneficiaries of the pension fund of the Catholic Schools of the Archdioceses of San Juan Pension Plan sued the plan on June 13 in federal court in Puerto Rico, alleging that although the church plan elected to be an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan, it has failed to comply with ERISA provisions (Ivette M. Martinez-Gonzalez, et al. v. Catholic Schools of the Archdioceses of San Juan Pension Plan, et al., No. 16-2077, D. Puerto Rico).



5th Circuit Panel Finds No Abuse Of Discretion In Severance Pay Denial
NEW ORLEANS - A panel of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 8 affirmed that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act governs a case in which a laid-off employee was denied severance compensation for failing to return all company property as required by a severance agreement (Mark Gomez v. Ericsson Inc., No. 15-41479, 5th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12604).



D.C. Federal Judge Lets Pilots' Fiduciary Breach Claim Stand
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A District of Columbia federal judge on July 6 denied the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.'s (PBGC) motion to dismiss plaintiffs' breach of fiduciary duty claim in a putative class action against the agency under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (K. Wendell Lewis, et al. v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, No. 15-1328, D. D.C.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87199).



10th Circuit Panel Affirms Judgment For Exxon In Plan Dispute
DENVER - A panel of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 6 affirmed a lower court's grant of summary judgment to Exxon Mobil Corp. in a case where the daughter of a deceased former Exxon employee who owned an employee savings plan claimed that she is entitled to the plan proceeds (Isoke N. Jenkins-Dyer v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al., No. 15-3261; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 10262).



High Court Will Not Review Denial Of Pension Benefits
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on June 13 let stand a Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that a federal district court did not err in dismissing a plaintiff's claims related to the denial of pension benefits because the denial was not arbitrary or capricious and was supported by the evidence (Kathleen Whelehan v. Bank of America Pension Plan for Legacy Companies, et al., No. 15-1245, U.S. Sup.).



7th Circuit Panel Reverses Judgment For 4 Chicago Union Funds
CHICAGO - A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on June 10 reversed the grant of summary judgment to four carpenter union fringe benefit funds that alleged violations of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Fund, et al. v. Schal Bovis Inc., Nos. 14-3413, 14-3336, 7th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 10568).



7th Circuit Panel Remands Withdrawal Liability Case For Trial
CHICAGO - A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on June 24 remanded for trial a case in which an auto mechanics' pension board claims that Full Circle Group Inc. (FCG) has withdrawal liability for fund contributions as a successor to an insolvent company (Board of Trustees of the Automobile Mechanics' Local No. 701 Union and Industry Pension Fund v. Full Circle Group Inc., et al., No. 15-2497, 7th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 11600).



Maryland Federal Judge: Penske Not Liable To Give To Union's Pension Plan
BALTIMORE - A Maryland federal judge on June 15 denied a freight driver union pension plan's motion to hold Penske companies liable for unpaid pension fund contributions (Freight Drivers and Helpers Local Union No. 557 Pension Fund v. Penske Logistics LLC, et al., No. 12-2376, D. Md.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77685).



After De Novo Review, Federal Judge Denies Treatment Coverage
BOSTON - A Massachusetts federal judge on June 30 granted Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts HMO Blue Inc.'s (BCBS) motion for summary judgment in a case in which a guardian sued BCBS under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act over its partial denial of benefits for mental health treatment (Stephanie C., et al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts HMO Blue Inc., No. 13-13250, D. Mass.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85273).



6th Circuit Panel: Health Care Provider Lacks Standing To Sue
CINCINNATI - A panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 27 affirmed a ruling that a health care provider lacks standing under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to recoup payments for services provided to Blue Cross plan members (Amanda G. Brown, et al. v. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc., No. 15-5739, 6th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 11739).



Spouse Lacks Standing To Assert Claims In ERISA Suit, 3rd Circuit Rules
PHILADELPHIA- A spouse lacks standing to assert a claim under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act against his spouse's former employer regarding an alleged failure to timely send notice for health insurance coverage because the spouse was not a beneficiary or participant in the plan, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed June 13 in an unpublished opinion (John Sacchi v. Katheryn J. Luciani, et al., No. 15-1453, 3rd Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 10651).



Florida Federal Judge OKs Preliminary Settlement Of Harvoni Drug Coverage Suit
FORT PIERCE, Fla. - A Florida federal judge on June 21 approved an unopposed motion for preliminary approval of a settlement worth at least $126 million in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act class action against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc. on behalf of patients denied coverage for the prescription drug Harvoni (Eugene Oakes, et al. v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc., No. 16-80028, SD. Fla.).



Texas Federal Judge Says Hospital Makes Plausible Claim To Recover Benefits
DALLAS - A Texas federal judge on June 28 granted in part and denied in part United HealthCare Services Inc.'s motion to dismiss claims that it either did not pay or underpaid claims for services provided by a Texas hospital to United subscribers (Texas General Hospital LP, et al. v. United HealthCare Services Inc., et al., No. 3:15-CV-02096, N.D. Texas, Dallas Div.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84082).



Woman Denied Medication Urges Court To Review ACA-ERISA Appeal Interplay
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s amendments to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act present the court with novel issues regarding external appeals of benefit denials, as well as the role and duties of reviewers going forward, a woman told the U.S. Supreme Court June 23 in urging it to grant review (S.M. v. Oxford Health Plans [NY] Inc., et al., No. 15-1540, U.S. Sup.; 2016 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2502).



3rd Circuit Vacates, Remands Disability Suit, Says Issues Of Fact Exist On Termination
PHILADELPHIA - The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 7 determined that summary judgment in favor of a disability insurer was not appropriate because issues of material fact exist regarding whether the medical evidence supports the insurer's termination of benefits and whether the termination was arbitrary and capricious (Frank Reed v. Citigroup Inc., et al., No. 15-2094, 3rd Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12523).



No Ambiguity In Policy, Panel Says In Affirming Termination Of Benefits
PHILADELPHIA - The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 7 affirmed a district court's finding that there is no ambiguity in a residual disability policy regarding the policy's use of the term "occupation" and the policy rider's use of the term "insured's occupation" (Daniel S. Bowerman, D.C. v. National Life Insurance Co., No. 15-1129, 3rd Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12503).



Disability Claimant Was Capable Of Sedentary Work, 11th Circuit Panel Affirms
ATLANTA - A disability insurer's decision to terminate a claimant's long-term disability benefits was not de novo wrong, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed July 1, noting that the insurer's decision was supported by the evidence (Rassekh Sobh v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Co., No. 15-15586, 11th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12144).



Termination Of Benefits Was Reasonable, California Federal Judge Determines
FRESNO, Calif. - A California federal judge on July 5 determined that a disability claims administrator did not abuse its discretion in terminating a claimant's benefits because the administrator identified two reasonable jobs within the proper zone that could be performed by the claimant (William Barnett v. Southern California Edison Company Long Term Disability Plan, No. 12-130, E.D. Calif.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86828).



Offset Was Not Abuse Of Discretion, California Federal Judge Determines
SAN JOSE, Calif. - A disability plan administrator did not abuse its discretion in offsetting a claimant's long-term disability benefits to account for Social Security disability income (SSDI) benefits that she receives for her dependents, a California federal judge said June 14 in granting the plan's motion for summary judgment (Susan Rene Jones v. Life Insurance Company of North America et al., No. 08-3971, N.D. Calif.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77409).



Indiana Federal Judge Says Additional Briefing Needed To Decide Standard Of Review
INDIANAPOLIS - An Indiana federal judge on June 20 directed the parties in a disability benefits suit to file additional briefing to address how a recent decision by the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals applies to a determination of the applicable standard of review (Donald Fessenden v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 15-370, N.D. Ind.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79690).



2nd Circuit Panel Says Company Had Cause To Fire, Deny Benefits
NEW YORK - A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on June 16 upheld a New York federal judge's ruling that a company had cause to fire two employees who refused to answer questions about their possible involvement in an alleged criminal conspiracy (William W. Gilman, et al. v. Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., et al., No. 15-0603, 2nd Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 10937).



5th Circuit Appeals Panel Affirms Denial Of Army Widow's ERISA Claims
NEW ORLEANS - A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 6 affirmed summary judgment for an employer and an insurance company in a woman's lawsuit seeking to recover benefits she claimed were due to her under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Linda Singletary v. United Parcel Service Inc., et al., No. 15-30762, 5th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12475).