Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in ERISA
UFCW & Employers Benefit Trust v. Sutter Health
UEBT is a healthcare employee benefits trust governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001, and pays healthcare providers directly from its own funds for the services provided to enrollees in its health plans. UEBT contracted with a “network vendor,” Blue Shield, to obtain access to Blue Shield’s provider network at the rates Blue Shield had separately negotiated, and certain administrative services. One of Blue Shield’s preexisting provider contracts was with Sutter, a group of health care providers in Northern California. UEBT sued Sutter, on behalf of a putative class of all California self-funded payors, alleging that Sutter’s contracts with network vendors, such as Blue Shield, contain anticompetitive terms that insulate Sutter from competition and drive up the cost of healthcare. UEBT sought damages, restitution, and injunctive relief under the Cartwright Act (Bus. & Prof. Code 16720) and California’s unfair competition law (section 17200). Sutter moved to compel arbitration, relying on an arbitration clause in the provider contract signed by Sutter and Blue Shield. The trial court denied Sutter’s motion, concluding that UEBT was not bound to arbitrate its claims pursuant to an agreement it had not signed or even seen. The court of appeal affirmed. View "UFCW & Employers Benefit Trust v. Sutter Health" on Justia Law
Amara v. CIGNA Corp.
Plaintiffs, individual CIGNA Plan participants, filed suit on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, alleging that CIGNA defendants made misleading communications in regards to the terms of the Plan. Subsequently, on remand, the court concluded that the district court acted within the scope of its discretion in denying CIGNA's motion to decertify the plaintiff class; the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the elements of reformation have been satisfied and that the Plan should be reformed to adhere to representations made by the plan administrator; and, in this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in limiting relief to A+B benefits rather than ordering a return to the terms of CIGNA's original retirement plan. View "Amara v. CIGNA Corp." on Justia Law
Merrimon, et al v. Unum Life Insurance Company
Plaintiffs challenged an insurance company's use of "retained asset accounts" (RAAs) as a method of paying life insurance benefits in the ERISA context. They presented the district court with two basic questions: (1) whether the insurer's method of paying death benefits in the form of RAAs constitute self-dealing in plan assets in violation of ERISA section 406(b); and (2) whether this redemption method offended the insurer's duty of loyalty toward the class of beneficiaries in violation of ERISA section 404(a). The district court answered the first question in favor of the insurer and the second in favor of the plaintiff class. The court then awarded class-wide relief totaling more than $12,000,000. Both sides appealed. Upon review, the First Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court that the insurer's use of RAAs in this case did not constitute self-dealing in plan assets. However, the Court disagreed with the district court's answer to the second question and held that the insurer's use of RAAs did not breach any duty of loyalty owed by the insurer to the plaintiff class. View "Merrimon, et al v. Unum Life Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Stephens, et al. v. US Airways Group, Inc., et al.
Plaintiffs, a group of retired U.S. Airways pilots, filed a class action seeking interest for the period of delay in the payment of their retirement benefits. The district court refused to certify the class. The court reversed and remanded, holding that the class members were not required to exhaust internal remedies before bringing their claims in court because they sought enforcement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act's (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., substantive guarantees rather than contractual rights. View "Stephens, et al. v. US Airways Group, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Wurtz v. The Rawlings Co.
Plaintiffs initially filed suit in state court seeking to enjoin defendant insurers under New York law from obtaining reimbursement of medical benefits from plaintiffs' tort settlements. Defendants removed to federal court where the district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). The court held that plaintiffs' claims did not satisfy the Supreme Court's test for being subject to complete Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., preemption, which would have conferred federal subject-matter jurisdiction; such jurisdiction exists, however, under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d); therefore, the court reached the merits of the express preemption defense and concluded that N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law 5-335 is saved from express preemption under ERISA section 514, as a law that "regulates insurance;" and therefore, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wurtz v. The Rawlings Co." on Justia Law
CIGNA Corp. v. Amara et al.
Respondents, on behalf of beneficiaries of the CIGNA Corporation's ("CIGNA") Pension Plan, challenged the new plan's adoption, claiming that CIGNA's notice of the changes was improper, particularly because the new plan in certain respects provided them with less generous benefits. At issue was whether the district court applied the correct legal standard, namely, a "likely harm" standard, in determining that CIGNA's notice violations caused its employees sufficient injury to warrant legal relief. The Court held that although section 502(a)(1)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. 1022(a), 1024(b), 1054(h), did not give the district court authority to reform CIGNA's plan, relief was authorized by section 502(a)(3), which allowed a participant, beneficiary, or fiduciary "to obtain other appropriate relief" to redress violations of ERISA "or the [plan's] terms." The Court also held that, because section 502(a)(3) authorized "appropriate equitable relief" for violations of ERISA, the relevant standard of harm would depend on the equitable theory by which the district court provided relief. Therefore, the Court vacated and remanded for further proceedings.View "CIGNA Corp. v. Amara et al." on Justia Law
Ruppert v. Alliant Energy Cash Balance Pension Plan
Participants in a cash balance defined benefit pension plan filed a purported class action, alleging that the plan violated ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B), and seeking recovery of benefits denied the participants as a consequence of the violation. The district judge granted summary judgment in favor of sub‐class A, which challenged the projection rate used by the defendant, and subclass B, which challenged the defendant’s handling of the pre‐mortality retirement discount. A cash balance plan is a “notional” retirement account because individual accounts are not funded; every year the employer adds a specified percentage of the employee’s salary plus interest at a specified rate on the amount in each individual’s notional account. The challenged projection rate and discount rate relate to the entitlement of employees who leave before reaching retirement age. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded with respect to the statute of limitations for class members who took lump sum benefits more than six years before the suit was filed and also with respect to the adequacy of the class representatives, but otherwise affirmed. View "Ruppert v. Alliant Energy Cash Balance Pension Plan" on Justia Law
Abbott v. Lockheed Martin Corp.
Plaintiffs claim that Lockheed breached its fiduciary duty to its retirement savings plan, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(2). The Plan is a defined-contribution plan, (401(k)); employees direct part of their earnings to a tax-deferred savings account. Participants may allocate funds as they choose. Among the investment options Lockheed offered was a “stable-value fund” (SVF). SVFs typically invest in a mix of short- and intermediate-term securities, such as Treasury securities, corporate bonds, and mortgage-backed securities. Holding longer-term instruments, SVFs generally outperform money market funds. For stability, SVFs are provided through “wrap” contracts with banks or insurance companies that guarantee the fund’s principal and shield it from interest-rate volatility. Plaintiffs allege that the Lockheed SVF was heavily invested in short-term money market investments, with a low rate of return that did “not beat inflation by a sufficient margin to provide a meaningful retirement asset.” The district court granted Lockheed summary judgment with respect to some claims. The SVF claim survived. The district court initially certified two classes under FRCP 23(b)(1)(A). On remand, the court declined to certify further narrowed classes. The Seventh Circuit reversed, reasoning that the plaintiffs carefully limited the class to plan participants who invested in the SVF during the class period and employed reasonable means to exclude from the class persons who did not experience injury. View "Abbott v. Lockheed Martin Corp." on Justia Law
Kopp v. Klein, et al.
Plaintiff brought a class action suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., alleging various breaches of fiduciary duty to plan participants. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed Counts I and IV of the amended complaint which alleged that Idearc Defendants breached their fiduciary duties by allowing plan participants to buy and hold Idearc stock when it was no longer prudent to do so where the amended complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to overcome the "presumption of prudence" the court adopted in Kirschbaum v. Reliant Energy Inc. The court also concluded that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's claim for inaccurate disclosures and nondisclosures (Count II) where plaintiff alleged no specific circumstance or specific injury mandating the Idearc Defendants disclose non-public information to plan participants and no general duty to disclose non-public information existed under ERISA or under the court's precedents. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Kopp v. Klein, et al." on Justia Law
Harris v. Amgen
Plaintiffs, current and former employees of Amgen and AML, participated in two employer-sponsored pension plans, the Amgen Plan and the AML Plan. The Plans were employee stock-ownership plans that qualified as "eligible individual account plans" (EIAPs) under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1107(d)(3)(A). Plaintiffs filed an ERISA class action against Amgen, AML, and others after the value of Amgen common stock fell, alleging that defendants breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA. The court concluded that defendants were not entitled to a presumption of prudence under Quan v. Computer Sciences Corp., that plaintiffs have stated claims under ERISA in Counts II through VI, and that Amgen was a properly named fiduciary under the Amgen Plan. Therefore, the court reversed the decision of the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Harris v. Amgen" on Justia Law