Tag Archives: Fifth Circuit

It May Be Time to Start Thinking About Equitable Claims Again

A recent decision by the Eighth  Circuit Court of Appeals, Jones v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., No. 16-1714, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8112 (8th Cir. May 8, 2017), provides another signal that those of us defending against benefit claims increasingly may have to contend with simultaneous equitable claims for breach of fiduciary duty. Though the law … Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Maintains Default Deferential Standard Of Review In Denial Of Benefit Claims, But Suggests It May Soon Be Overruled

For more than twenty-five years, the law of the Fifth Circuit has been that health and disability benefit denials based on factual determinations (e.g., whether a beneficiary is disabled or whether a treatment is medically necessary within the meaning of a plan) are reviewed by courts under an abuse of discretion standard, regardless of whether … Continue Reading

“Bare violation” of ERISA without concrete injury does not confer standing

Lee v. Verizon Commc’ns, Inc., — F.3d –, 2016 WL 4926159 (5th Cir. Sept. 15, 2016), held that a defined benefit pension plan participant does not have Article III standing to challenge the plan’s alleged violation of ERISA, in the absence of “concrete injury” to himself. The case is a putative class action growing out … Continue Reading

Extra-ERISA contractual obligation regarding pension plan is enforceable

Hunter v. Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., 829 F.3d 357, 358 (5th Cir. 2016), involved the interpretation of parties’ rights and obligations regarding a pension plan following a corporate acquisition. Its discussion of the extent to which an employer can obligate itself not to change a plan, even when benefits are not vested, is noteworthy.… Continue Reading

Language in SPD can be used to find discretion where SPD is incorporated into plan

In Burrell v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, — F.3d –, 2016 WL 1426092 (5th Cir. Apr. 11, 2016), plaintiff argued that the plan did not give discretionary authority to Prudential, because the plan merely defined “Claim Fiduciary” as the person or entity “designated in the Plan (including the Summary Plan Description, Insurance Contracts or … Continue Reading

Plan Manager Was Not a Fiduciary For Purposes of Subrogation Claim Standing

In Humana Health Plan, Inc. v. Nguyen, 785 F.3d 1023 (5th Cir. 2015), Humana entered into a Plan Management Agreement (“PMA”) with the API Enterprises Employee Benefits Plan. The PMA stated that API had the right to make all discretionary decisions about the plan’s administration and management. The PMA authorized Humana to provide “subrogation/recovery services” … Continue Reading

Insurer Reasonably Denied AD&D Claim Following “Suicide By Cop”

In Rice v. ReliaStar Life Ins. Co., 770 F.3d 1122 (5th Cir. 2014), the police responded to a 911 call about the decedent, Rice, sitting in his car, in his garage, with a gun to his head, threatening suicide. After various failed efforts by the police to get him to surrender, he walked toward the … Continue Reading

Court Provides Narrow Interpretation for Mental Illness Limitation

In George v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., 776 F.3d 349 (5th Cir. 2015), a case of first impression, a divided Fifth Circuit panel decided when a disability is “caused by or contributed to by” a mental illness. The plaintiff was a helicopter pilot who was disabled due to pain suffered at the site of … Continue Reading

Claim of ERISA Exemption Does Not Impact Subject Matter Jurisdiction

In Smith v. Regional Transit Auth., 756 F.3d 340 (5th Cir. 2014), the Fifth Circuit  rejected its prior precedent, and held that the governmental plan exemption (and presumably other, similar exemptions) does not impact subject matter jurisdiction. The court noted that the “Supreme Court has repeatedly instructed that we must avoid conflating the question of … Continue Reading

Fifth and Sixth Circuits Consider Coordination-of-Benefits Remedies For ERISA Plans

Providing for “coordination of benefits” means including a provision in an insurance policy that address what should happen if more than one insurer covers the same claim. Virtually every primary insurance policy will say that, if other insurance exists, the other policy will pay first. Of course, when there are two policies providing coverage, each … Continue Reading

Effect of Requiring “Satisfactory” Proof Is A Popular Issue in the Circuits This Year

Every so often a bit of legal synchronicity seems to occur. Sometimes its personal, like when you have several cases with the same uncommon issue, or multiple cases in the same rarely visited court. In 2013, there appears to be a larger force at work that has caused three circuits to address the question whether … Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Ends “Texas Shell Game,” Holding that Plan Has an Equitable Remedy for Reimbursement

In a post from last year, I reported on how the Fifth Circuit had issued a decision In ACS Recovery Servs., Inc. v. Griffin, 676 F.3d 512, 514 (5th Cir. 2012), in which it held that an ERISA plan beneficiary and his lawyer had created a perfect settlement structure in which no one ever had … Continue Reading

Including Ambiguous Plan Language Verbatim In the SPD Can Effectively Eliminate Discretion to Interpret It — At Least in the Fifth Circuit

In Koehler v. Aetna Health, Inc., 683 F.3d 182 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit criticized a health insurer for having an SPD that mirrored the plan, and held that Cigna v. Amara did not prevent the terms of the SPD from impacting plan interpretation. The plaintiff, a participant in an HMO, suffered from sleep … Continue Reading

Statute of Limitations Can Start Running Before Claim Accrues

ERISA claim practitioners generally have the concept of exhaustion of administrative remedies engrained in our thought process. They know well that claimants are required to exhaust their administrative remedies before they can sue over a benefit determination. Given the focus on this exhaustion requirement, it may surprise some to know that, in many circuits, the … Continue Reading

Autoerotic Asphyxiation and ERISA

The Second Circuit recently issued a decision on autoerotic asphyxiation (which I will call AEA because typing autoerotic asphyxiation really difficult). The decision doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s as good an excuse as any to write about this never-boring topic. For those of you that have led a highly sheltered life (or were … Continue Reading

The Texas Shell Game – A Subrogation Story

An ERISA Plan Administrator’s subrogation rights are not the easiest thing in the world to determine. I’m not talking about the situation where the plan is making current payments to the beneficiary and wants to offset some prior liability or overpayment. That’s easy. What is complicated is when the plan has made a full payment, … Continue Reading
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