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In Bafford v. Northrop Grumman Corp., No. 20-55222, __F.3d__, 2021 WL 1419055 (9th Cir. Apr. 15, 2021), the Ninth Circuit decided two important issues involving ERISA-imposed fiduciary duties and ERISA preemption. Plaintiffs-Appellants are participants in Northrop Grumman’s pension plan (Plan), which is administered by an Administrative Committee (Committee). In the years leading to their retirement, Plaintiffs received incorrect online statements about what their retirement benefits would be under the Plan from Hewitt (now Alight…
In Lebron v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, et al., No. 20-20165, __F.App’x__, 2021 WL 1396574 (5th Cir. Apr. 13, 2021), the Fifth Circuit was tasked with deciding whether a death fell under an ERISA-governed accidental death insurance policy’s exclusion for losses caused by “medical or surgical treatment.” In this case, the insured, Barbara, was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease associated with hypertensive cardiovascular disease, which required regular dialysis treatment. She…
Kay v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company, No. 19-CV-209-MMA (AHG), 2021 WL 1378742 (S.D. Cal. Apr. 12, 2021) involves a lawsuit for ERISA-governed long-term disability (“LTD”) benefits brought by a former registered nurse, Anne Kay, who claimed disability due to disc degeneration, disc bulges, and chronic pain syndrome. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company (“Hartford”) approved and paid LTD benefits before it later determined that she no longer met the Policy definition of…
In Hartford Life Insurance Company v. LeCou, et al., No. CV 19-17-BLG-SPW, 2021 WL 1312516 (D. Mont. Apr. 8, 2021), the US District Court for the District of Montana considered whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) preempts the Montana Code Annotated § 72-2-813, which states that an individual who “feloniously and intentionally kills the decedent forfeits all benefits under this chapter [Chapter 2 UPC—Intestacy, Wills, and Donative Transfers] with respect to…
In this dispute over ERISA-governed short- and long-term disability insurance benefits, Bernard v. Kansas City Life Ins. Co., No. 20-1593, 2021 WL 1244403 (8th Cir. Apr. 5, 2021), the Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Plaintiff-Appellee Ronald Bernard. The district court found that Defendant-Appellant Kansas City Life Insurance Company abused its discretion when it determined Bernard, a nurse anesthetist who is addicted to fentanyl, is not disabled from…
In Lyn M. v. Premera Blue Cross, 966 F.3d 1061, 1065 (10th Cir. 2020), a case involving the denial of ERISA-governed medical benefits, the three-judge panel including Judges Lucero, Bacharach, and Eid (dissenting) determined that “the court must in de novo review of the denial of benefits because members lacked notice of the plan administrator’s discretionary authority.” Specifically, discretionary authority was contained in a document called the “Plan Instrument” but plan participants had no…
Yesterday, in Peer v. Liberty Life Assurance Co. of Bos., No. 19-13974, __F.3d__, 2021 WL 1257440 (11th Cir. Apr. 6, 2021) , the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees under ERISA’s fee-shifting provision in 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1) against Plaintiff-Appellee Theresa Peer’s attorney since this provision cannot support a fee award against counsel. The underlying dispute involves a claim for waiver of life insurance premiums. Defendant-Appellee-Cross Appellant Liberty Life denied…
In a dispute over the payment of accidental death benefits, Boyer v. Schneider Elec. Holdings, Inc., No. 19-3144, __F.3d__, 2021 WL 1244397 (8th Cir. Apr. 5, 2021), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals just issued an upset to an ERISA plan beneficiary. Plaintiff-Appellee Amber Boyer was the beneficiary of an ERISA-governed accidental death benefits policy covering Eric Boyer, who died in a single-vehicle crash. Defendant-Appellant Unum Life Insurance Company (“Unum”) denied Amber’s claim on…
In this short unpublished opinion, McCool v. Life Insurance Company of North America, No. 18-56529, __F.App’x__, 2021 WL 1235842 (9th Cir. Apr. 2, 2021), the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of LINA, finding that “the district court did not clearly err in finding that McCool failed to meet his burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he could not sit for four hours a day.” The court…
In Roebuck v. USAble Life, No. 19-1855, __F.3d__, 2021 WL 1216217 (8th Cir. Apr. 1, 2021), Plaintiff-Appellant Karen Roebuck appealed the district court’s order holding that USAble Life did not abuse its discretion in denying her claim for disability benefits. Roebuck worked as a registered nurse before claiming disability due to injuries sustained after a car accident. USAble had her undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation (“FCE”), which found she could work a full-time schedule.…