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Your ERISA Watch – District Court Rules Colorado Law Turns Life Insurance Policy’s Two-Year Suicide Exclusion into a One-Year Exclusion

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This week’s notable decision is a district court order in Auwae v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., No. 19-CV-02504-RBJ, 2020 WL 996874 (D. Colo. Mar. 2, 2020), a matter challenging the applicability of an ERISA life insurance policy’s two-year suicide exclusion.

On a motion to dismiss, the court was asked to decide if the following exclusion in a group life policy applied as written:

“If a Dependent commits suicide within 2 years from the date Life Insurance for such Dependent takes effect, We will not pay such insurance….”

While the date of enrollment was disputed, it was not after January 1, 2018. The dependent committed suicide on February 4, 2019—more than one year, but less than two years after the latest effective date. MetLife denied the claim applying the language as written. Plaintiff appealed, noting that MetLife violated Colorado law by not recognizing the applicability of Colorado Revised Statute § 10-7-109. MetLife upheld the denial of benefits.

At issue in MetLife’s motion to dismiss was whether Colorado Revised Statute § 10-7-109 turned the policy’s two-year exclusion into a one-year exclusion. The court ruled it did. Colorado Revised Statute § 10-7-109 nullifies suicide exclusions longer than one year in life insurance policies. MetLife argued the statute applied to individual policies, but not group policies. The court rejected this argument because the Supreme Court of Colorado had recognized the longstanding public policy in Colorado that disfavored suicide exclusions and had applied the statute to group credit life insurance – a different, but similar type of group insurance. The court was also heavily persuaded by the language of the statute itself, which stated it applied to “any life insurance policy issued by any life insurance company.” Non-controversially, this was interpreted to encompass all types of life insurance, including group policies. The court noted that Colorado courts treated the terms “policyholder” and “insured” as interchangeable—nullifying MetLife’s argument that Boeing, as the “policyholder,” cannot commit suicide, and thus when § 10-7-109 referenced only a policyholder, it did not include the insured. Thus, the court held the statute acted to reduce the group policy’s two-year suicide exclusion to a one-year suicide exclusion. The exclusion MetLife had relied upon “does not bar [Plaintiff] from recovery of insurance benefits.”

Separately, Plaintiff also asked the court to decide if MetLife, as the claim administrator, was liable for statutory penalties for failure to provide “all relevant documents” under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)(1). Plaintiff acknowledged that MetLife was not a plan administrator, but argued that “administrator” referred to any administrator, including a claim administrator. Citing Tenth Circuit authority, the court viewed this broad reading of § 1132(c) as incorrect. Section 1132(c) did not provide a cause of action against anyone, whether plan administrator or claim administrator, for failure to fulfill claim administrator duties. It rejected Plaintiff’s public policy argument that such a holding would “flout ERISA regulations” because it allowed MetLife to escape liability under § 1132(c) simply because it was a claim administrator. The court did not agree that its holding rendered the statute “toothless.” It cited to another case which held the enforcement mechanism rested in the hope a later reviewing court would consider the failure to provide all relevant information during an internal appeal as a failure to provide a full and fair review, and thus that its denial of the plaintiff’s claim was arbitrary and capricious.

This week’s notable decision summary was written by Kantor & Kantor partner, Brent Dorian Brehm.

Below is a summary of this past week’s notable ERISA decisions by subject matter and jurisdiction.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Second Circuit

Varga v. General Electric Company, et al., 1:18-cv-1449, 2020 WL 1064809 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 5, 2020) (Judge Gary L. Sharpe). In this case, the court dismissed the complaint in its entirety. Plaintiff alleged breach of fiduciary duty of prudence and loyalty for allowing the GE stock fund, consisting of mostly GE Stock, to remain an investment option for the 401(k) plan. Plaintiff alleged the stock had an inflated price because GE was improperly under reserving for the insurance liabilities of its subsidiaries. The court held Plaintiff’s allegations were conclusory and failed to meet the Twombly and Iqbal pleading standards because the court could not plausibly draw an inference Defendants knew or should have known of the under reserve problem after prior litigation on the issue, in 2006, and before 2018, when GE announced the under reserve issue. The court also analyzed the pleading standards required by Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer, which requires pleading an “alternative action that the defendant could have taken that would have been consistent with the securities laws and that a prudent fiduciary in the same circumstances would not have viewed as more likely to harm the fund than to help it.” Fifth Third at 425. Plaintiffs alleged GE could have disclosed the problem earlier, or close the GE Stock Fund to additional investment after 2010. The court said no such allegations plausibly showing that an earlier disclosure was legally viable or that Defendants could have concluded that they would do more harm than good. It further held merely alleging that there is no evidence that closing the fund to future investments would have materially impacted the GE stock price, without more, fails to satisfy the Fifth Third pleading standards.

Third Circuit

IJKG Opco LLC, d/b/a CarePoint Health-Bayonne Medical Center v. General Trading Co., et al., No. CV176131KMJBC, 2020 WL 1074905 (D.N.J. Mar. 6, 2020) (Judge Kevin McNulty). The court granted Cigna’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s cause of action for breach of a fiduciary duty. The court found that Plaintiff did not plausibly allege that Cigna is a fiduciary because Cigna outsourced its review of the claim, did not negotiate with out-of-network providers like the medical center at issue, and Cigna’s treatment-based (as opposed to coverage-based) decisions are not fiduciary in nature.

Fourth Circuit

Hooker v. Tunnell Gov’t Servs., GJH-18-2352, 2020 WL 1064848 (D. Md. Mar. 4, 2020) (Judge George J. Hazel). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against her former employer, Tunnell Government Services, Inc., alleging that (1) it breached its fiduciary duties to her under 29 U.S.C. 1104 and 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(3) (Count II), (2) it unlawfully interfered with her ability to make a claim for disability benefits under 29 U.S.C 1140 (Count III), and (3) it failed to provide information that she requested under 29 U.SC. 1132 (c)(1) (Count IV), when it terminated her because of her inability to work due to injury and refused to allow her to apply for short-term and long-term disability benefits. The court granted in part and denied in part Defendants’ partial Motion to Dismiss holding that (1) Count II was duplicative of Count III, (2) Count III was not duplicative of her claim for benefits under Section 502(a)(1)(B), and (3) allowing Plaintiff leave to amend her complaint to properly name Tunnell’s parent company as potentially liable for penalties under 502(c)(1).

Class Actions

Third Circuit

Stevens, et al. v. SEI Investments Company, et al., 18-4205, 2020 WL 996418 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 26, 2020) (Judge Nitza I. Quinones Alejandro). The Court granted final approval of the proposed class action settlement, an agreement that was reached back in July 2019, flowing from SEI Investment’s alleged packing of a 401(k) plan with a company-affiliated fund that performed poorly for investors. The settlement was for $6.8 million, imposed a requirement that the plan’s investment committee undergo training on ERISA’s fiduciary duties, an agreement that SEI would retain the services of an unaffiliated investment consultant to evaluate the plan’s investment lineup and review its investment policy statement, and finally SEI was to pay all recordkeeping fees that would have normally come out of the plan assets.  The court’s final approval awards Class Counsel reasonable attorneys’ fees in the amount of $2,266,666.00 and the reimbursement of litigation and administrative expenses in the amount of $60,170.97, and awards the sum of $10,000.00 to the Class Representative, Gordon Stevens.

Disability Benefit Claims

Sixth Circuit

Young v. Hartford Life & Acc. Ins. Co. & Group Long Term Disability Plan for Employees of Flowers Foods, Inc. Group Insurance Plan, No. CV 6:19-61-KKC, 2020 WL 996448 (E.D. Ky. Mar. 2, 2020) (Judge Karen Caldwell). Plaintiff Gina Young filed suit against Hartford in pursuit of her ERISA-governed long term disability benefits, which Hartford denied. The court found that despite Ms. Young’s evidence, which included supportive doctor’s statements, imaging studies, and an independent examination, Hartford’s determination that she was able to perform any occupation under the terms of the policy was not unreasonable, and thus not arbitrary and capricious. The court also addressed Plaintiff’s arguments regarding the problems with Hartford’s claim review. The Court rejected the argument that Hartford’s decision was arbitrary because the employment analysis was based only on the findings of Hartford’s final peer reviewer, rather than considering all opinions in the course of preparing a vocational conclusion. The court concluded that “[t]he vocational expert is not qualified to sort through various medical opinions to develop his own determination of a plaintiff’s disabilities.” The Court also noted that Plaintiff conceded that it was not inappropriate for Hartford to rely on the same vocational expert for the initial and final decisions.

Harrison v. Life Insurance Company of North America, No. 2:18-CV-1077, 2020 WL 1030897 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 3, 2020) (Chief Judge Algenon L. Marbley). Defendant denied Plaintiff’s application for long-term disability benefits based on the pre-existing condition exclusion. The court reviewed Defendant’s decision de novo, finding that the language of the policy requiring the claimant to satisfactorily prove their claim is insufficient to prove that the policy granted discretion. However, even under a de novo review, the court found that Plaintiff has not shown that she is entitled to LTD benefits, because the record shows that Plaintiff’s own statements, statements from her treating physicians, and assessments by Defendant’s consultants all support Defendant’s conclusion that Plaintiff’s cognitive issues and inability to work were at least contributed to by her pre-existing depression, anxiety, and ADD. Therefore, the court granted Defendant’s motion for judgment.

Ninth Circuit

Schwarz v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., No. 19-CV-02370-EMC, 2020 WL 1072449 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 6, 2020) (Judge Edward M. Chen). Plaintiff brought a motion to expand the administrative record or in the alternative, a stay and remand. The court granted the motion and remanded the matter back to Hartford for reconsideration of Plaintiff’s eligibility for disability benefits. The court found that Hartford violated ERISA regulation 29 C.F.R. § 2560.503-1(h)(4) by not providing its two physicians’ file reviews to Plaintiff prior to denial, despite having provided the reviews to Plaintiff’s physician who was not Plaintiff’s legal representative. Hartford’s violation shows it failed to substantially comply with ERISA’s procedural obligations; Plaintiff did not see Hartford’s two file reviews until after the final denial and so Plaintiff and her counsel “never had the chance to evaluate or rebut the file reviews’ contentions.” Plaintiff argues that the reviews missed treatment records and omitted important notes from her physicians. The court held that the remedy for such violation is remand to the plan administrator so the claimant gets the benefit of a full and fair review. The court also found that Hartford failed to adequately investigate Plaintiff’s psychiatric condition during the administrative appeal which further serves support for the court’s remand.

Discovery

Tenth Circuit

Bribiesca v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., No. 19-1339-DDC-ADM, 2020 WL 996799 (D. Kan. Feb. 28, 2020) (Magistrate Judge Angel D. Mitchell). Plaintiff’s motion to allow conflict discovery was granted. In an abuse of discretion ERISA LTD case, the court recognized Tenth Circuit law that, at least in some cases, discovery and consideration of extra-record materials may be necessary and appropriate as an administrative record is not likely to contain the details of a history of biased administration of claims. Plaintiff claimed “red flags” existed in the administrative record calling into question MetLife’s efforts to mitigate against its own conflict of interest. Specifically, she pointed to MetLife’s use of Dr. Chris Fevurly during the claims process. Dr. Fevurly allegedly lacked appropriate experience and training in the relevant medical fields to perform Plaintiff’s independent medical examination. Plaintiff supported this claim, in part, by citing to a published opinion that had decided to give Dr. Fevurly’s opinion no weight on multiple grounds including that he had “attach[ed] (to his report) an excerpt from a book characterizing fibromyalgia as a ‘medical myth’ kept alive by rheumatologists and plaintiffs’ lawyers.” In response to Plaintiff’s accusations of bias, MetLife provided a declaration of its vice president of U.S. claims that it adopted appropriate procedures to protect the independence of the claims process. This included adjudicating claims based on the terms of the plan, keeping finances separate from claims-handling processes, keeping the two departments geographically separate, and that employees receive no incentives for the number of claims denied. The court reasoned that, while the declaration “lends support” to MetLife’s position that its conflict was not substantial, thus limiting the need for discovery, Plaintiff “is not necessarily bound to take MetLife’s word for it, particularly when the 1.5-page declaration lacks specific detail.” Because the issue before the court was whether limited discovery on the alleged dual-role conflict appeared relevant, and Plaintiff’s statements were sufficient to establish some level of relevance at the discovery stage of the proceedings, the court allowed “limited, targeted discovery on the issue of whether MetLife’s dual role as plan administrator and payor impacted its decision-making process.”

ERISA Preemption

Second Circuit

Walker v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., No. 19 CIV. 7286 (AKH), 2020 WL 978515 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2020) (Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein).  In this life insurance benefits case, Plaintiff alleges seven causes of action: ERISA-breach of contract (“Count I”), promissory estoppel (“Count II”), waiver and estoppel (“Count III”), declaratory judgment (“Count IV”), unjust enrichment (“Count V”), equitable estoppel – public policy (“Count VI”), and collateral estoppel (“Count VII”). The parties agree that the plan at issue is governed by ERISA. Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s claims are all preempted by ERISA. They seek an order recharacterizing Count I as a claim for benefits under ERISA and dismissing the remaining claims with prejudice. With respect to Count I the Court held that breach of contract claims in ERISA-governed plans are preempted by ERISA where they could have been brought as claims for benefits and there is no other independent legal duty implicated by defendant’s actions. The Court found here that ERISA preempts Plaintiff’s breach claim, thus it should be recharacterized as a claim for benefits. With respect to Plaintiff’s remaining claims, the Court held Count II and VI are claims for promissory estoppel and equitable estoppel, respectively. Defendants argue that Plaintiff failed to plead extraordinary circumstances, which the Court held are generally intentional inducement and deception. Here, the Court found Defendants’ conduct constitutes the type of intentional deception that constitutes extraordinary circumstances. The Court dismissed Count III, the waiver claim, because it duplicates the estoppel claim and held that Count V, as a claim for unjust enrichment, is not available for a plaintiff seeking payment of benefits under an ERISA plan. The Court did not dismiss Count VII, Plaintiff’s claim for collateral estoppel, holding that courts have applied defensive collateral estoppel in cases for benefits under ERISA.

Fourth Circuit

United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union-Indus. Pension Fund v. EC Mgmt. Servs. of Ga., No. 3:19CV247, 2020 WL 1016344 (E.D. Va. Feb. 28, 2020) (Judge M. Hannah Lauck). In this unpaid contribution case, Plaintiff ERISA plan alleged three counts, one involving piercing the corporate veil, and the other two involving the Virginia Fraudulent Transfer Act (VFTA). Defendant moved to dismiss for failure to state an adequate claim. The court denied the motion as moot because the parties did not adequately address the relevant legal issues. First, the parties had assumed that Virginia law applied to the first count regarding piercing the corporate veil, but the court noted that the Fourth Circuit had ruled that federal law applied to such claims because they were governed by ERISA. Second, the parties assumed that the VFTA counts had been properly brought, but the court found that “this may be an unsettled question.” The court suggested that the VFTA counts might also be preempted by ERISA, specifically by its “evade or avoid” provisions. The court thus ordered the parties to submit further briefing on these issues.

Eighth Circuit

Schicker v. Klenda, No. 8:20-CV-02, 2020 WL 1043669 (D. Neb. Mar. 4, 2020) (Judge Brian Buescher). Brandi Cady’s spouse was a participant in a group life plan sponsored by his employer and insured by Lincoln. The spouse passed away, and Ms. Cady made a claim for life insurance benefits that was denied. She hired Defendant Schicker to represent her in getting the benefits. Schicker contacted Lincoln and spoke to Defendant Klenda, who offered to pay less than the policy limits to settle the dispute. Schicker relayed the offer to his client. Klenda then called Plaintiff directly and offered to pay the full policy limits, and Plaintiff agreed. Schicker attempted to enforce an attorney’s lien, but Lincoln paid the full benefits directly to Cady. Schicker then brought suit against Klenda for tortious interference with contract and violation of the Nebraska Unfair Trade Practices Act. The Court found the attorney’s claims related to an employee benefit plan and therefore were preempted by ERISA and that the Nebraska Unfair Trade Practices Act did not contain a private right of action.

Life Insurance & AD&D Benefit Claims

Tenth Circuit

Auwae v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., No. 19-CV-02504-RBJ, 2020 WL 996874 (D. Colo. Mar. 2, 2020) (Judge R. Brooke Jackson).  See Notable Decision summary above.

Pension Benefit Claims

Tenth Circuit

Birse v. Centurylink, Inc. et al. 17-cv-02872-CMA-NYW, 2020 WL 1062902 (D. Colo. Mar. 5, 2020) (Judge Christine M. Arguello). Plaintiffs brought this case alleging Defendants failed to have a prudent procedure for creating the investment fund at issue and failed to monitor investment options after it was implemented. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment and the court granted Defendant’s motion and denied Plaintiff’s motion. Defendant CIM was appointed by CenturyLink to serve as its investment advisor to the 401(k) plan. CIM created an investment fund that Plaintiffs allege was underperforming from inception and CIM failed to monitor the investment and take appropriate action. Defendants countered claiming they employed a prudent process of designing and monitoring the fund and made changes as appropriate. The court agreed with Defendants stating the test focuses on the fiduciaries’ conduct in arriving at an investment decision, not the results. In support of their motion, Defendants provided a lengthy declaration showing CIM engaged in a robust decision-making process. The court gave the declaration credit and ruled in favor of Defendants on the issue of the investment fund design. On the issue of the duty to monitor the investment fund after its implementation, the court likewise found Defendants engaged in a prudent process that was comprehensive, analytical and reflected thorough due diligence.

Seventh Circuit

Sharp v. Trustees of UMWA 1974 Pension Tr., No. 18-CV-03056, 2020 WL 989607 (C.D. Ill. Feb. 28, 2020) (Judge Sue E. Myerscough). In this dispute over pension disability benefits under the United Mine Workers of America 1974 Pension Plan (Pension Plan), the court granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff suffered from numerous medical problems since the 1980s, including low back pain. He had a work accident in December 2003 with a subsequent MRI showing significant canal and foraminal stenosis at L4-5. Plaintiff had multiple surgeries, but his improvement was only temporary. Plaintiff was eventually awarded worker’s compensation benefits, but was able to return to work through March 2007. Plaintiff was also awarded Social Security benefits in 2008. The court reviewed the denial of pension benefits under the arbitrary and capricious standard. The court found that under the policy, if a pre-existing condition is exacerbated by a mining accident and the worker becomes permanently disabled, the mine worker is considered “totally disabled as a result of a mine accident.” Defendant’s cases cited in support of their argument that the “substantially responsible” causation standard applies in this case are out-of-circuit and therefore not binding. Defendant, in addition to applying the wrong causation standard to Plaintiff’s application for disability benefits under the Pension Plan, adopted a causation analysis that failed to credit important pieces of the administrative record, evidence that shows that Plaintiff’s December 2003 mine accident aggravated his preexisting back condition and, eventually, rendered him disabled. The result of this unreasonable analysis was a denial of disability benefits under the Pension Plan by Defendants that was arbitrary and capricious. While the most common remedy when an ERISA plan administrator’s decision is deemed arbitrary and capricious is to remand the matter for a new administrative decision, in this case the court concluded that the record contains such powerfully persuasive evidence that the only determination the plan administrator could reasonably make is that the claimant is disabled, that it warranted an award of pension benefits without a remand.

Pleading Issues & Procedure

Sixth Circuit

Castellon-Vogel v. Int’l Paper Co., No. 1:18-CV-00688, 2020 WL 996444 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 2, 2020) (Judge Michael Barret). Plaintiff’s job was eliminated, and she sued her former employer for discrimination based on sex, national origin, and age. The employer, International Paper Company, sponsored a welfare benefit plan which included a “termination allowance” paid to an employee if their employment ended and the employee signed a Termination Agreement and Release that released International Paper Company from any claims, including ERISA claims. Plaintiff previously sued International Paper seeking a declaratory judgment that the release was unenforceable under ERISA and did not bar her discrimination claims (“Castellon-Vogel I”). That lawsuit was dismissed for lack of statutory or constitutional standing, but Plaintiff filed a new lawsuit asking for the same relief. In Castellon-Vogel I, it was determined Plaintiff also lacked constitutional standing because her alleged injury was only a potential injury, not an actual one because she had not made any ERISA claims. Plaintiff altered her complaint for Castellon-Vogel II to include denial of benefits under ERISA plans, curing that defect. However, the Court in Castellon-Vogel II found she still lacked statutory standing to bring an ERISA claim because she was a former employee without a colorable claim to vested benefits under the plan. She had received everything she was due under the plan, she received consideration for releasing her claims, and she signed the release. She, therefore, had no statutory standing under ERISA to challenge the release, and her ERISA claims were dismissed.

Retaliation Claims

Seventh Circuit

Hart v. Prestress Services Industries, LLC., No. 1:18-CV-360-HAB-SLC, 2020 WL 1033302 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 2, 2020) (District Court Judge Holly Brady). Plaintiff Mikel Hart filed suit against his former employer for wrongful termination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as a claim under ERISA Section 510, which prohibits employers from frustrating their employees’ attainment or enjoyment of benefit rights. To recover under § 510, an employee must show that the employer terminated him with the specific intent to interfere with his ERISA rights. Plaintiff argued that Defendant interfered with his ability to obtain short-term disability benefits when it agreed to let him work from home, as working from home made him ineligible for short term disability benefits, and the employer terminated Plaintiff shortly thereafter. Plaintiff further argued that his termination prevented the employer’s insurance “would not be required to pay for expensive surgery that he was planning to undergo.” The court concluded that “Plaintiff has not presented evidence from which a jury could conclude that Defendant’s employment action was taken for the purpose of interfering with Plaintiff’s benefits. If the decision to permit Plaintiff to work from home had an incidental impact on Plaintiff’s benefits, that does not establish a claim.” The court noted that a violation of this section does not arise merely because it made a decision which incidentally impacted the employee’s benefits, and the same “legitimate, non discriminatory, non-retaliatory reason that supported Defendant’s decision to terminate Plaintiff’s employment applies to foreclose his ERISA claim.”

Statutory Penalties

Tenth Circuit

Auwae v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., No. 19-CV-02504-RBJ, 2020 WL 996874 (D. Colo. Mar. 2, 2020) (Judge R. Brooke Jackson).  See Notable Decision summary above.

Eleventh Circuit

Robles v. Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC, No. 8:19-CV-2713-T-02AAS, 2020 WL 1027592 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 3, 2020) (Judge William F. Jung). This is a class action against Lowe’s, alleging that Lowe’s violated ERISA by failing to give employee medical plan participants adequate notice of their right to continued coverage pursuant to COBRA. Lowe’s moved to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiffs lacked standing and failed to state a plausible claim under ERISA.  The court denied Lowe’s motion. The court found that Plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged specific facts that deficiencies in Lowe’s COBRA notices had prevented them from understanding that they were entitled to receive continued coverage, as well as how to apply for that coverage, thereby causing them to incur the cost of medical bills. The court further found that Lowe’s arguments that its COBRA notices were not deficient were directed at the merits of the case and thus could not be addressed at the pleading stages. The court ordered that no class discovery could begin until the merits of the individual plaintiffs’ cases were resolved on summary judgment.

Withdrawal Liability & Unpaid Contributions

Second Circuit

New York State Teamsters Conference Pension & Retirement Fund v. International Chimney Corporation, No. 519CV00169NAMML, 2020 WL 1044022 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 2020) (Judge Norman A. Mordue).  The court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for default judgment and awarded “Plaintiffs Judgment against Defendant International Chimney Corporation in the amount of $276,644.40, which represents the total of: 1) $264,761.90 for the Pension Fund & Wash Rule Liabilities and related interest; and 2) $11,882.50 for attorneys’ fees and costs.”

Third Circuit

Trustees of the New Jersey B.A.C. Health Fund, et al. v. Watercontrol Services, Inc., No. 19CV9273KSHCLW, 2020 WL 1065178 (D.N.J. Mar. 5, 2020) (Judge Katharine S. Hayden).  In this dispute over employer contributions, the court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for default judgment.

Eighth Circuit

Gillick, et al. v. Elliott, et al., No. 4:19CV3094 JCH, 2020 WL 1065646 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 5, 2020) (Judge Jean C. Hamilton).  The court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that possible dissipation of Trust Fund assets renders the proposed action “extraordinary” and not arbitrable under LMRA Section 302(c)(5).

Ninth Circuit

Board Of Trustees Of The Laborers Health And Welfare Trust Fund For Northern California, et al. v. RMT Landscape Contractors, Inc., No. 4:19-CV-01771-KAW, 2020 WL 978622 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 28, 2020) (Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore).  In this dispute over late-paid and unpaid contributions, the court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, awarding Plaintiffs $100,557.65 under the LLC Master Addendum, $38,457.96 under the Landscape Tech Addendum, $1,787.32 pursuant to the audit under the LLC Master Addendum, and $20,524.12 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

Your ERISA Watch is made possible by the collaboration of the following Kantor & Kantor attorneys:  Brent Dorian BrehmBeth Davis, Sarah DemersElizabeth GreenAndrew Kantor, Monica Lienke, Susan Meter, Michelle RobertsTim Rozelle, Peter Sessions, and Zoya Yarnykh.

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