No announcement yet.

ERISA Preemption of State Law Claims: W.D. La.

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • ERISA Preemption of State Law Claims: W.D. La.

    In a case from the Western District of Louisiana, the court examines an instance in which ERISA preempts state law claims. The magistrate noted that there are two distinct types of preemption under ERISA: complete, and conflict or express preemption. In this case, the court found that complete preemption existed:

    From plaintiff’s complaint, the court discerns state law claims for recovery of benefits purportedly due under a group disability plan, plus penalties/punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. Plaintiff does not cite statutory or codal authority for her claim to recover unpaid benefits. The omission, however, is of no moment, because whether the claim derives from Louisiana Revised Statute § 22:1821, Civil Code Article 1994 for breach of contract, or some other source, the end result is the same. It is manifest that Downs could have brought her claim for failure to pay benefits under ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B).8 Furthermore, Omaha’s duty to pay benefits does not arise independently of ERISA or the plan terms. Indeed, there is no indication that § 22:1821 or Article 1994 impose any liability upon Omaha so long as Omaha acted in compliance with Plan terms. Thus, consideration and interpretation of plan terms is necessary for a claim for denial of benefits under these state law provisions. As plaintiff’s state law claim for denial of benefits is not entirely independent of the federally regulated contract, it necessarily falls within the scope of ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B) and is thereby completely preempted.
    As a result of the court finding that ERISA completely preempted the Plaintiff's state law claims, the court held that any other state law claims, including those for punitive damages and/or penalties be dismissed, the Plaintiff's request for a jury demand be stricken, and that the Plaintiff's claim for fees be dismissed as well. When faced with the completely preempted claim, the court held:

    Omaha contends that complete preemption requires dismissal of plaintiff’s state law claims. However, “[a] court presented with a claim that is completely preempted by ERISA has
    two options: allow the plaintiff to amend the complaint to expressly assert an ERISA claim or simply treat the state-law claim as a claim under ERISA.” Hogan v. Jacobson, No. 12-0820, 2015 WL 1931845, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 28, 2015), aff'd, 823 F.3d 872 (6th Cir.2016). In this case, given that complete preemption is providing the jurisdictional foundation for the court’s consideration of the instant motion, the undersigned will exercise the latter option, and construe plaintiff’s state law claim for breach of contract and request for attorney’s fees as a claim under ERISA.
    The Order and Report and Recommendation are attached below.
    Attached Files