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The Biggest ERISA Decisions of 2019

In a relatively slow year for benefits rulings, multimillion-dollar settlements were the star of the show. And amid the slew of settlements this year, two court rulings stood out. McDermott’s Richard J. Pearl contributes to a Law360 article that breaks down the Ninth Circuit ruling allowing benefit plan managers to force fiduciary-breach suits into solo arbitration and the Tenth Circuit holding that insurers who determine workers’ profits from 401(k) investments aren’t fiduciaries. Access the full article. Originally published by Law360, December 2019

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Fifth Circuit Issues ACA Ruling, But Severability Question Remains

A decision in Texas v. United States was issued by a divided three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on December 18, 2019. This case presented once again the question whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional and sustainable, and questions of severability remain for the near future. Access the full article.

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Ninth Circuit Decides Not to Rehear Its Decision Requiring Arbitration of ERISA Claims

As we wrote in a previous On the Subject, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had signaled that it might rehear its August 2019 decisions in Dorman v. The Charles Schwab Corp., in which the Court compelled arbitration of ERISA class-action claims relating to a 401(k) plan. After ordering additional briefing, however, the Ninth Circuit denied the plaintiff’s petition for rehearing, leaving the Court’s decisions unchanged and requiring the plaintiff to arbitrate his ERISA breach-of-fiduciary-duty claims. Access the full article.

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Finally! First Circuit Overturns the Sun Capital ERISA Multiemployer Plan Liability Case—But Risks Remain for Private Equity

The First Circuit issued a decision holding that two private equity funds involved in a case are not required to pay for the withdrawal limit of a portfolio company. Despite the limited victory, the guiding rule with respect to defined benefit plan and multiemployer plan pension liabilities remains “buyer beware,” as applicable law continues to provide that such liabilities may become liabilities of private equity funds under certain circumstances. Access the full article.

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Fla. Class Actions Show Why Correct COBRA Notices Matter

In Florida’s federal courts, there has been an epidemic of class actions alleging that employers failed to provide technically proper notice of the right to continued healthcare coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. A dozen such lawsuits have been filed (each by the same law firm) with mirror image allegations. These cases illustrate why it is necessary to sweat the details in issuing COBRA notices, which McDermott’s Megan Mardy and Julie McConnell walk through in a recent analysis for Law360. Access the full article. Originally published by Law360, October 2019

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Class Certification Denied in ERISA Health Coverage Lawsuit

A federal district court denied class certification to health plan participants who claimed the plan promised them lifetime benefits. The court found too many individualized questions about what the plan told each participant, and the claims could not be resolved on a class-wide basis. Fitzwater, et al. v. Consol Energy, Inc., et al., No. 2:16-cv-09849 and 1:17-cv-03861 (S.D.W.Va., October 15, 2019). Access the full article.

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Eye on ERISA: Q&A with McDermott’s Ted Becker

As presidential hopefuls bemoan the high cost of healthcare, McDermott’s Ted Becker imagines a stack of lawsuits pushed toward corporations and insurance companies. If workers can use the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to challenge 401(k) plans' fees and investments, why can't they use it to sue over how their health insurance plans are managed? In a Q&A recently published on Law360, Becker discusses his prediction that health and welfare plan management suits will be the next frontier for ERISA plaintiffs, and how McDermott is preparing clients. Access the full article.

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High Court Pension Row May Have Broad Impact

A US Supreme Court case pitting pensioners against US Bank could have a wide-ranging impact on who can bring suit under ERISA, whether they participate in a defined benefit pension plan or a 401(k) plan. Recently, on Law360, McDermott’s Richard J. Pearl weighed in on the impact of Thole v. US Bank, one of three ERISA cases that the US Supreme Court will decide this term. The case, discussed in greater detail in our On the Subject, will address whether defined benefit pension plan participants have standing to bring suit under ERISA if their plan is fully funded. Although the case focuses on participants’ ability to bring suit on behalf of defined benefit pension plans, according to Pearl, the case seems to ask the high court to answer a question that often crops up in defined contribution plan litigation, as well: Whose injury matters, the plan’s or the person’s? As a result, the court’s decision could impact not only litigation involving defined benefit...

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