Naming a Defendant in an ERISA Action

Transactions: Tennessee Journal of Business Law, Vol. 9, 2008

25 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2008 Last revised: 25 May 2009

See all articles by Candace Budy

Candace Budy

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law

Richard A. Bales

Ohio Northern University - Pettit College of Law

Abstract

When an employee participating in an ERISA benefit plan files a claim, someone must determine whether the assets of the plan will be used to pay the claim or whether the claim will be denied. Sometimes the employer makes this decision; sometimes the employer delegates the decision to a plan administrator. If the claim is denied, ERISA permits the employee to sue, but does not specify who may be named a defendant. The federal circuit courts are split three ways on the issue, some holding that only the plan itself may be sued, others holding that both the plan and the plan administrator may be sued, and still others holding that both the plan and the employer may be sued. This article argues that courts should permit suit against any entity that played a role in denying the claim. This approach (1) is consistent with the plain language of ERISA, (2) is consistent with the legislative intent behind ERISA which was to protect employees from underfunded plans and from erroneous benefit denials, (3) is consistent with Supreme Court precedent permitting fiduciaries to be sued under ERISA, and (4) creates an incentive for entities making benefits determinations to make those determinations correctly.

Keywords: ERISA, defendant, plan, benefit plan

Suggested Citation

Budy, Candace and Bales, Richard A., Naming a Defendant in an ERISA Action. Transactions: Tennessee Journal of Business Law, Vol. 9, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1109059

Candace Budy

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law ( email )

Nunn Hall
Highland Heights, KY 41099
United States

Richard A. Bales (Contact Author)

Ohio Northern University - Pettit College of Law ( email )

525 South Main Street
Ada, OH 45810
United States
419-772-2205 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.onu.edu/node/3073

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