Breach of Fiduciary Duty under ERISA: Making the Insurer or Plan Administrator Responsible for their actions towards a Plan’s Participants and Beneficiaries

Posted in: Accidental Death or Dismemberment, Equitable Relief, ERISA, Fiduciary Duty, Insurance Litigation Blog, Life Insurance, Waiver & Estoppel November 06, 2018

In a previous blog, we addressed the doctrines of equitable estoppel and waiver when the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) governs their insurance or pension plan.  As we explained, both doctrines provide an insured with methods of forcing an insurance company to honor its word and previous conduct.  However, insureds often have difficulty invoking the doctrines.  ERISA governs a wide variety of plans that provide life insurance, disability insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance and pension benefits.  Given the challenges of invoking equitable estoppel and waiver in the ERISA context, do plan participants and their beneficiaries have other ERISA specific tools to force insurers to honor their word and previous conduct?  Luckily, they do.  A lawsuit …

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Waiver and Estoppel in the Ninth Circuit Post Salyers v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co.

Posted in: Equitable Relief, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Life Insurance, Waiver & Estoppel October 16, 2018

Waiver and equitable estoppel serve as some of the legal systems’ fundamental checks on the fairness of a party’s actions.  Both doctrines serve to prevent an individuals and insurers from performing actions contradictory to what they have previously guaranteed or established via their conduct.  “A waiver occurs when a party intentionally relinquishes a right or when that party’s acts are so inconsistent with an intent to enforce the right as to induce a reasonable belief that such right has been relinquished.”  Salyers v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 871 F.3d 934, 938 (9th Cir. 2017) (internal quotations omitted).  Equitable estoppel “holds the [individual] to what it had promised and operates to place the person entitled to its benefit in the …

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Multi-Million Dollar Disgorgement Award Struck Down in Rochow - But the Disgorgement Remedy May Still Be Alive

Posted in: Case Updates, Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, Equitable Relief, ERISA, Fiduciary Duty, Insurance Litigation Blog March 31, 2015

In December 2013, we published an article highlighting the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ bold decision to award the plaintiff disability benefits plus $2.8 million in disgorged earnings, as a potential “game-changer” in Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) litigation—that is, if it survived review.  Rochow v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 737 F.3d 415 (6th Cir. 2013) (“Rochow I”).  Alas, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the decision in February 2014 and stayed the case.  Rochow v. Life Ins. Co., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3158 (6th Cir. Feb. 19, 2014) (“Rochow II”).  Finally, in March 2015, the Court of Appeals issued an en banc decision vacating the disgorgement …

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Robert McKennon and Scott Calvert Publish Article: "Expanding Equitable Remedies in ERISA Cases”

Posted in: Equitable Relief, ERISA January 10, 2015

The January 8, 2015 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal featured Robert McKennon and Scott Calvert’s article entitled:  “Expanding Equitable Remedies in ERISA Cases.”  In it, Mr. McKennon and Mr. Calvert discuss a new case, Gabriel v. Alaska Electrical Pension Fund, 2014 DJDAR 16590 (9th Cir. 2014) and also discuss equitable remedies generally in ERISA cases and, in particular, how the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has joined other circuits in allowing certain equitable remedies, most especially the surcharge remedy.  Mr. McKennon and Mr. Calvert also explain how insurance claimants should go about proving equitable remedies.  The article is posted below with the permission of the Daily Journal.…

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Ninth Circuit Expands the Availability of Equitable Remedies in ERISA Cases, Approving Surcharge as a Viable Remedy

Posted in: Case Updates, Equitable Relief, ERISA December 24, 2014

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Russell, 473 U.S. 134 (1985), the courts have grappled with the issue of the extent to which equitable remedies are available under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”).  One of the most interesting and beneficial for plan participants is the issue of the equitable remedy of surcharge under ERISA.  Recently, the Ninth Circuit withdrew an earlier decision regarding the availability of the equitable remedy of surcharge in ERISA, and issued a new ruling consistent with the holdings of other Circuit courts.  The new ruling, Gabriel v. Alaska Electrical Pension Fund, 2014 DJDAR 16590 (9th Cir. 2014), is much more favorable to ERISA claimants and makes …

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Echague v. Met Life: Equitable Surcharge is an Available Remedy Against Unresponsive Plan Administrators Under ERISA

Posted in: Case Updates, Equitable Relief, ERISA, Life Insurance June 26, 2014

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) seeks to protect participants in employer-sponsored plans, but lack of adequate communication and transparency is an often an unfortunate byproduct of the insurance industry.  The California district court shed light on this issue in Echague v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68642 (N.D. Cal. May 19, 2014) by holding an insurer breaches its fiduciary duty when providing insufficient responses and the insured may be entitled to equitable surcharge.  Echague is highly beneficial to insureds and beneficiaries, as it warns plan fiduciaries (such as insurers and plan administrators/employers) to think twice before ignoring requests for information, giving incorrect information, or neglecting to provide updates regarding the policies they …

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Rochow v. LINA: A Game-Changer in ERISA Disability Benefits Litigation

Posted in: Case Updates, Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, Equitable Relief, ERISA, Fiduciary Duty, Insurance Litigation Blog December 13, 2013

While this blog often discusses disability, life and health insurance/employee benefit decisions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA “), we rarely discuss federal circuit court of appeal decisions from outside the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which governs California).  We are making an exception here, as a recent case from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals really caught our attention.  The case is Rochow v. Life Insurance Company of North America, __ F.3d ___ (6th Cir. December 6, 2013).  It is a “game-changer” in the world of ERISA disability, life and health insurance/employee benefit litigation, and could fundamentally change the way in which ERISA remedies are discussed and how these cases are litigated.  To say …

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Recovery of Overpayments Under ERISA

Posted in: Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, Equitable Relief, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog May 21, 2013

Keith Parker, an excellent mediator who specializes in mediating ERISA matters, authored the following article on “Recovery of Overpayments Under ERISA”   We at the McKennon Law Group PC are happy to recommend this outstanding article for your reading.  We include the entire article below with permission from Mr. Parker.

Section 1132(a)(3)(B) of ERISA authorizes participants, beneficiaries and/or fiduciaries to bring civil actions seeking “appropriate equitable relief” to enforce the provisions of an ERISA plan.  Just what constitutes “appropriate equitable relief” has challenged courts and practitioners, in large part because the Supreme Court has interpreted that language to incorporate the “archaic” (Justice Ginsburg’s word) and “obsolete” (Justice Steven’s word) distinction between relief available in equity and that available in law at …

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Equitable Relief in the Ninth Circuit Just Got Better for Consumers

Posted in: Case Updates, Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, Equitable Relief, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog July 11, 2012

The Wednesday July 11, 2012 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal featured Robert McKennon’s and Scott Calvert’s article entitled: “Equitable Relief in the Ninth Circuit Just Got Better for Consumers.”  In it, Mr. McKennon and Mr. Calvert discuss two important Ninth Circuit rulings allowing certain equitable relief to ERISA plan participants that have definite pro-consumer holdings.  The article is posted below with the permission of the Daily Journal.

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