HLD, v. 28, n. 12
U.S. Court in
Pennsylvania Rules That ERISA Does Not Apply Extraterritorially
After being injured in a high speed boating accident, American
Corey Snyder was rushed to a Montreal hospital and came under the care of Dr.
Gilles Maurais. Snyder participated in a group healthcare plan issued to his
employer, Highway Marines Services, by The Guardian Life Insurance Company ("Guardian").
After obtaining authorization for certain surgical procedures on Snyder, Maurais
treated Snyder. Snyder was later transferred to a hospital in Philadelphia.
Maurais sent a bill to Guardian for professional services in the amount of $75,750.
After several months, Guardian sent a check to Snyder for $38,002, with an explanation
of benefits stating that the payment concerned medical services provided by
Maurais. Snyder deposited the check into his own account and used the funds
for personal needs. Maurais sued Snyder and Guardian in federal district court
in Pennsylvania, asserting claims against Snyder for implied contract, quantum
meruit, unjust enrichment, conversion, and punitive damages, and against Guardian
for implied contract and negligent misrepresentation. Guardian moved to dismiss
the two state law claims against it for failure to state a claim, arguing that
Snyder's plan with Guardian was governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security
Act ("ERISA"), which pre-empted the state law claims.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
denied the motion, holding that ERISA did not have extraterritorial application
and was therefore inapplicable under the facts of this case. The court cited
the EEOC v. Arabian Am. Oil Co., 499 U.S. 244 (1991), in which the U.S.
Supreme Court found that Title VII did not apply to American citizens employed
by American employers outside of the United States. In Arabian, the Court
reasoned that "[i]t is a longstanding principle of American law 'that legislation
of Congress, unless a contrary intent appears, is meant to apply only within
the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.'" According to the Supreme
Court, this creates a presumption against extraterritoriality unless there is
a clearly expressed intent on the part of Congress to the contrary. In the instant
case, the court found no language in ERISA that evinced a congressional intent
to apply the statute extraterritorially; thus, the court determined that the
presumption against extraterritoriality controlled. Because this case concerned
an American citizen operated on in Canada by a Canadian surgeon, the court concluded
that ERISA was inapplicable. Thus, the court denied Guardian's motion to dismiss.
Maurais v. Snyder, No. 00-2133, 2000 WL 1368024 (E.D.
Pa. Sept. 14, 2000) (10 pages).