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U.S. Court In Pennsylvania Dismisses Several Counts Of ERISA Complaint


HLD, v. 31, n. 2 (February 2003)

U.S. Court In Pennsylvania Dismisses Several Counts Of ERISA Complaint

Carol A. Post claimed she was totally disabled and sought benefits under her employer's group disability insurance plan through Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Co. (Hartford). In 2001, Hartford terminated Post's benefits because she refused to submit to a medical examination. Post sued Hartford for violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Hartford moved to dismiss Counts II through V of Post's complaint.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted Hartford's motion to dismiss the counts. In Count II, Post claimed breach of fiduciary duty for alleged injuries she suffered from the denial of benefits under � 1132(a)(2) of ERISA. The district court explained that a claim under � 1132(a)(2) must be based upon harm to the plan and cannot be based upon harm to an individual. The court found that Count II must be dismissed because Post only alleged harm to herself and failed to state a claim for breach of duty to the plan itself. On Count III, the court determined that Post was requesting equitable relief. In Varity Corp. v. Howe, 516 U.S. 489 (1996), the U.S. Supreme Court held that claims of equitable relief are not appropriate where there is an adequate remedy elsewhere in ERISA. The district court held that Count III had to be dismissed because another one of the plaintiff's allegations provided an adequate remedy under ERISA.

Hartford argued that in Count IV Post had merely recast her claim for denial of benefits in Count I as a claim for failure to follow plan documents. The court failed to find any legal basis or any provision of ERISA that suggested there is a separate cause of action for a "failure to follow plan documents" claim, and therefore dismissed Count IV. As to Count V, the district court also dismissed that claim because it was a state law claim that was pre-empted by ERISA. Accordingly, the court dismissed Counts II, III, IV, and V of plaintiff's complaint.

Post v. Hartford Life and Accident Ins. Co., No. 02-1917, 2002 WL 31741470 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 6, 2002) (12 pages).

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