Supreme Court Rules SPD Does Not Trump Plan Document, but Emphasizes Availability of Equitable Remedies Where Employer Misleads

By on June 21, 2011

by Stephen Pavlick and Nancy S. Gerrie

The Supreme Court of the United States in the CIGNA decision confirms, in what may be hailed as a victory for plan sponsors, that information contained in a summary plan description does not itself constitute the “terms” of a benefit plan for purposes of filing claims for benefits.  However, the majority’s assertion that participants have a vast arsenal of equitable relief under ERISA section 502(a)(3) will likely invigorate both participants and plaintiffs’ attorneys.  Because the surcharge remedy is one of the few equitable remedies that provide monetary relief, a likely increase in claims alleging notice violations and seeking a surcharge to plan participants is anticipated.

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