March 16, 2015

Obtained a Major Victory for an ERISA Pension Plan

Payne & Fears LLP obtained a major victory for an ERISA pension plan by ending a nationwide class action lawsuit claiming back pension benefits for a period exceeding 20 years. The federal district court granted the plan’s motion for summary judgment, and denied the motion for summary judgment brought by the named class representative plaintiff. The court first agreed with the plan that a slight delay of the plan administrator in responding to the plaintiff’s administrative appeal was not sufficiently egregious to invoke de novo review, so the court applied abuse of discretion review. Even though the plaintiff argued that the plan’s interpretation of a defined term was inconsistent with the plain language of the plan, the court adopted the plan’s arguments that the plan administrator’s interpretation was reasonable, consistent with the text and ERISA law, and consistently applied. The interpretation also supported the purposes and goals of the plan. Attorneys Eric Sohlgren and Andrew Haeffele led the briefing effort, and Daniel Fears argued the motion before the federal court.