HLD, v. 31, n. 2
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
Post v. Hartford Life and Accident Ins. Co., No. 02-1917,
2002 WL 31741470 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 6, 2002) (12 pages).