Lane Powell attorney Mike Baylous writes an excellent summary here on big changes to ERISA in the 9th Circuit.
Remember that old argument that equitable claims should be dismissed because they are duplicative?
Not so anymore in the 9th Circuit (or the 8th Circuit for that matter).
FACTS: Former employees eligible for ERISA governed retirement benefits claimed they were wrongfully denied past service credit for time worked. In this class action Plaintiffs asserted a variety of claims, including (1) claims for benefit payments for past service credit under Section 1132(a)(1)(B); and (2) equitable remedies under Section 1132(a)(3).
ISSUE: Whether Plaintiffs’ claims for payment under Section 1132(a)(1(B) and equitable claims under Section 1132(a)(3) were duplicative?
9th CIRCUIT HELD: Claims for payment under Section 1132(a)(1(B) and equitable claims under Section 1132(a)(3) are “alternative” claims and not “duplicative” claims.
- Plaintiffs can present § 1132(a)(1)(B) and § 1132(a)(3) as alternative – rather than duplicative – theories of liability. P. 20.
- The Ninth Circuit agreed with the Eighth Circuit’s application, in Silva v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 762 F.3d 711 (8th Cir. 2014), of CIGNA Corp. v. Amara, 563 U.S. 421 (2011). P. 23.
- “Some of our pre-Amara cases held that litigants may not seek equitable remedies under § 1132(a)(3) if § 1132(a)(1)(B) provides adequate relief. However, those cases are now “clearly irreconcilable” with Amara and are no longer binding.” (Citations omitted). P. 25.
- “This approach not only comports with Amara and Varity, it also adheres to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires that “[a] pleading that states a claim for relief must contain … a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(3) (emphasis added). P. 26.
- “Finally, allowing plaintiffs to seek relief under both § 1132(a)(1)(B) and § 1132(a)(3) is consistent with ERISA’s intended purpose of protecting participants’ and beneficiaries’ interests. See, e.g., 29 U.S.C. § 1001; see also Varity, 516 U.S. at 513 (“ERISA’s basic purposes favor a reading … that provides the plaintiffs with a remedy.”).” P. 26.