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Tag Archives: Surcharge

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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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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Ninth Circuit Confirms That Plan Language Controls In The Absence of Detrimental Reliance on SPD Language

Posted in: Case Updates, ERISA April 09, 2012

In Skinner v. Northrop Grumman Retirement Plan B, 673 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2012), the Ninth Circuit applied the Supreme Court’s ruling in CIGNA Corp. v. Amara, 131 S. Ct. 1866 (2011) wherein the high court ruled that ERISA “summary documents, important as they are, provide communication with beneficiaries about the plan, but that their statements do not themselves constitute the terms of the plan for purposes of § 502(a)(1)(B).”  (The holding in CIGNA Corp. v. Amara was discussed in our blog)  While the Ninth Circuit adopted the Supreme Court’s logic and ruling, it left open the possibility that language contained only in the Summary Plan Description (“SPD”) could be enforced if a claimant relied on that language.…

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