The Employee Retirement Income Security Act strictly regulates how employers set up and manage their employees’ retirement plans. As with any law, though, the interpretation of ERISA can be open to question due to the circumstances of each unique situation.
Courts set the precedent for future decisions when employees file litigation. Here are the outcomes of some of the top 2018 trial decisions and how the appellate court rulings may affect 2019 litigation.
Will past precedent uphold arbitration of claims?
The University of Southern California has requested that the U.S. Supreme Court review whether participants of the university’s retirement plan must arbitrate their claims based on an employment agreement they signed. According to USC, the Supreme Court has favored arbitration in past decisions, and the 9th Circuit ruling contradicted precedent with its decision against arbitrability in the case. Other companies have also cited the precedent for arbitration.
Could en banc review reveal conflicting standards?
In litigation against Chevron, employees claimed that the company did not act prudently or loyally when it offered a money market fund rather than a stable value fund, among other complaints. A three-judge panel dismissed the case because, the judges stated, the plaintiffs did not provide facts that supported a breach of prudence or loyalty.
The plaintiffs then requested that the full 9th Circuit appellate panel of judges review the case because they believe the dismissal shows inconsistency in the strictness of the pleading standards. The appellate court ruled that the plaintiffs must provide factual content that would allow the judges to reasonably infer that there is misconduct, but the plaintiffs argue that a previous case sets the precedent for them to provide only sufficient factual matter showing that the request for relief is plausible.
How much evidence is necessary to overturn the intoxication exclusion?
Although there was enough evidence to make a logical conclusion that the insured was driving under the influence, the appellate court reversed the decision to allow LINA to deny the claim after the insured’s death. Although the plan included an intoxication exclusion, there was no scientific evidence of the amount of illegal substances in the insured’s blood stream.
The Fifth Circuit court also stated that LINA had a structural conflict of interest in its review of the toxicology report that the company ordered.