Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in ERISA
Quatrone v. Gannett Company, Inc.
Plaintiffs, participants in the Gannett Co. 401(k) Savings Plan, filed suit alleging that defendants breached their fiduciary duties of prudence and diversification under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Plaintiffs contend that defendants ignored an imprudent single-stock fund in the Plan for several years, resulting in millions of dollars in losses.The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that plaintiffs plausibly alleged that a fiduciary breached a duty, causing a loss to the employee benefit plan. In this case, plaintiffs alleged that defendants breached their duty of prudence by allegedly failing to monitor the continuing prudence of holding a single-stock fund; because defendants did not monitor the merits of the fund, they did not uncover that it was an imprudent fund; defendants' failure to discover the imprudence led to the failure to divest the fund; and, when the price of the stock in the fund went down, the Plan suffered a loss. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Quatrone v. Gannett Company, Inc." on Justia Law
Dawson-Murdock v. National Counseling Group, Inc.
The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action against NCG, which alleged two claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Plaintiff alleged that NCG breached its fiduciary duties in the administration of a group life insurance plan in which plaintiff's late husband had enrolled and for which NCG was the "named fiduciary."The court held that the complaint sufficiently alleged NCG's fiduciary status in relation to plaintiff's ERISA claims. In this case, the complaint showed that NCG acted as a function fiduciary when it failed to inform or misinformed plaintiff's husband about the continued eligibility under the plan, and NCG neglected to notify her husband that he had the option to convert or port his life insurance coverage. Furthermore, NCG breached the fiduciary duty that it owed to plaintiff as a beneficiary when Vice President Baham advised her not to appeal Unum Life's denial of her benefits claim. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Dawson-Murdock v. National Counseling Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Board of Trustees v. Four-C-Aire, Inc.
The Fund filed suit claiming a delinquent exit from Four-C, a former participating employer, under section 515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of Four-C's motion to dismiss, holding that the Fund's governing agreements and Four-C's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) required participating employers to pay an exit contribution when they no longer have a duty to contribute to the Fund due to the expiration of the underlying CBA, and therefore the complaint alleged a viable claim. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment as to the exit contribution claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "Board of Trustees v. Four-C-Aire, Inc." on Justia Law
Griffin v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Hartford Life in an action brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Plaintiff filed suit seeking a continuation of the long-term disability benefits that Hartford Life had terminated based on its conclusion that plaintiff was no longer "disabled," as that term was used in the plan. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that Hartford Life, not Hartford Fire, determined that plaintiff was no longer eligible for long-term disability benefits, and Hartford Life's decision to terminate his long-term disability benefits was not an unreasonable exercise of discretion. In this case, the record demonstrated that plaintiff received a fair and thorough consideration of his claim and Hartford Life's conclusion was reasonably supported by the available evidence where, among other things, video surveillance evidence showed plaintiff walking at a quick pace and moving without observable bracing or support. View "Griffin v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Gordon v. Cigna Corp.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the insurance company that insured Steven Gordon. After Steven died, his wife filed suit seeking the full coverage amount for the insurance policy he had been paying for through his company. The court held that no reasonable jury could find that either of the CIGNA Defendants had a fiduciary duty toward the Gordons with respect to soliciting supporting materials for coverage beyond the guaranteed issue amount or notifying new employees that they had not completed the evidence of insurability requirement; even assuming without deciding, that the cause of action for breach of trust by a fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was cognizable, her claim would fail because there was no evidence that the CIGNA Defendants knowingly participated in any breach; and the district court did not err by granting summary judgment before allowing plaintiff to conduct discovery. View "Gordon v. Cigna Corp." on Justia Law
Bakery and Confectionary Union v. Just Born II, Inc.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment requiring Just Born, a candy manufacturer, to pay delinquent contributions into the Bakery and Confectionary Union and Industry International Pension Fund, as well as interest, statutory damages, and attorneys' fees. Under a plain-language application of the Provision to the facts of this case, the court held that Just Born was liable to the Pension Fund for continued contributions for all employees hired after the declaration of an impasse, pending the execution of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in compliance with section 1085 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the invocation of the withdrawal provisions, or some other statutorily required act. Accordingly, the Pension Fund was entitled to judgment on the pleadings so long as Just Born did not present a cognizable affirmative defense. The court agreed with the district court's reasoning that the Rule 9(b) standard applied to Just Born's affirmative defenses and that Just Born's allegations did not satisfy this standard. Therefore, the district court did not err in concluding that Just Born did not plead its affirmative defenses with sufficient particularity to withstand the Pension Fund's motion for judgment on the pleadings. View "Bakery and Confectionary Union v. Just Born II, Inc." on Justia Law
Plotnick v. Computer Sciences Corp.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of class certification and grant of summary judgment for CSC in an action filed by former executives pursuant to section 1132(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. Plaintiffs alleged denial of benefits under their deferred executive compensation plan after a plan amendment changed the applicable crediting rate, and sought class certification on behalf of all retired plan participants affected by the amendment. The court declined to decide which standards of review applied because the competing standards of review presented a distinction without a difference. Whether the court proceeded under a reasonableness inquiry, an abuse-of-discretion standard, or even de novo review, the 2012 Amendment and CSC's denial of benefits were valid. View "Plotnick v. Computer Sciences Corp." on Justia Law
Di Biase v. SPX Corp.
This case arose out of an underlying action to enforce the health benefits provisions of two court-approved settlement agreements. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The court held that a motion for preliminary injunction filed before the act to be enjoined has occurred, and subsequently intended to restore the status quo once it has been disturbed, was not moot. The court also held that the district court had jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claim pursuant to Section 502(a)(1)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). On the merits, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits; that they were likely to suffer irreparable harm without a preliminary injunction; and that the balance of the equities and the public interest favor an injunction. View "Di Biase v. SPX Corp." on Justia Law
Retirement Committee of DAK Americas v. Brewer
Plaintiffs filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., to recover alleged overpayments of retirement benefits to certain employees of DAK who were participants in the Plan. The Fourth Circuit held that the written language of the Plan clearly and unambiguously provided the lump sum elected by the employees was the actuarial equivalent of the Accrued Benefit payable at the employee's Normal Retirement Date. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment to plaintiffs on their equitable restitution claim. The court also held that the doctrine of equitable estoppel could not be used to require the payment of benefits that conflict with the express, written terms of the Plan; the court assumed, without deciding, that the particular facts of this case could establish a finding that plaintiffs breached their fiduciary duty and turned instead to consider whether any of the employees established a triable issue of fact as to "actual harm" in connection with their claims for a surcharge remedy; and Rodney B. Smith was the only employee with a viable surcharge claim for purposes of summary judgment. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment against Smith and remanded for further proceedings. View "Retirement Committee of DAK Americas v. Brewer" on Justia Law
Solomon v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan
Plaintiff filed suit under section 502(a)(1)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B), after the plan administrator determined that plaintiff's disability-onset date rendered him ineligible for benefits. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiff was entitled to benefits and order requiring the Plan to provide the benefits. The court explained that the Board failed to follow a reasoned process or explain the basis of its determination -- neither addressing nor even acknowledging new and uncontradicted evidence supporting plaintiff's application, including that of the Plan's own expert. View "Solomon v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan" on Justia Law