TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Answering three certified questions from the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in the affirmative, the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 4 found that although the estate of a deceased employee of an insured has standing to bring a breach of contract lawsuit against the insured's employer's workers' compensation and employer liability insurer, a workers' compensation exclusion and release prevent the estate from collecting a $9.5 million wrongful death judgment from the insurer (Leticia Morales, et al. v. Zenith Insurance Co., No. SC13-696, Fla. Sup.; 2014 Fla. LEXIS 3555).
ST. LOUIS - An employee who retired at 55, citing health issues, failed to prove his claims of constructive discharge, harassment and bias, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 2 (Donald Rickard v. Swedish Match North America, Inc., No. 13-3729, 8th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 22741).
SAN FRANCISCO - An employee who was terminated after requesting an accommodation for his hearing impairment failed to prove that his employer's proffered reason - a long history of making threats to co-workers - was pretextual, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 2 (Michael P. Curley v. City of North Las Vegas, No. 12-16228, 9th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 22658).
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - An Alabama federal judge on Dec. 2 dismissed a disability claimant's allegations against her employer because the employer is the plan sponsor and not subject to liability under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (Susan Saunders v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, No. 14-1181, N.D. Ala.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166876).
SEATTLE - An injury arising from potential exposures both as a direct employee and as a contractor is indivisible, and the employer is immune under Washington state law, a federal judge held in rejecting plaintiffs' "dual persona" argument on Dec. 2 (Alan McMann and Donna McMann v. Air & Liquid Systems Corp., et al., No. 13-5429, W.D. Wash.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166984).
OKLAHOMA CITY - A federal judge in Oklahoma on Dec. 3 modified an order enjoining the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptive mandate, expanding it to prevent the government from interfering with insurers or third-party administrators (The Catholic Benefits Association LCA, et al. v. Sylvia M. Burwell, et al., No. 14-240, W.D. Okla.).
SAN FRANCISCO - A long-term disability plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act properly offset a firefighters' workers' compensation settlement, but remand is necessary to determine the amount of salary continuation benefits that the plan can properly offset under the plan terms, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 2 in an unpublished opinion (David Barboza v. California Association of Professional Firefighters, et al., Nos. 12-17439 and 13-16652, 9th Cir.).
NEW YORK - The Employee Retirement Income Security Act does not preempt New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) Section 5205, which shields a savings incentive match plan for an employee's retirement account/individual retirement account (SRA/IRA) from garnishment by judgment creditors, a federal judge in New York ruled Dec. 1 (VFS Financing, Inc. v. Elias-Savion-Fox LLC, et al., No. 12 Civ. 2853, S.D. N.Y.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166240).
SCRANTON, Pa. - Because the plain language of a long-term disability policy grants the insurer a discretionary duty to review disability benefits, the denial of a claimant's benefits is subject to review under an arbitrary and capricious standard, a Pennsylvania federal judge said Dec. 1 (Jason Jabara v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 13-CV-02041, M.D. Pa.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166268).
COLUMBIA, S.C. - A South Carolina federal judge on Dec. 1 granted a motion to consolidate two complaints filed by exotic dancers seeking unpaid wages (Kaleigh R. Dittus, et al. v. KEG, Inc., et al., No. 14-300, Nicolet Arcieri v. Shadow Management Company, Inc., et al., No. 14-3029, D. S.C.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166116).
MIAMI - An orthodontics company lacks standing to challenge the delay in implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s employer mandate, a divided 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held Dec. 2 (Kawa Orthodontics LLP v. Secretary, U.S. Department of the Treasury, et al., No. 14-10296, 11th Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) when it refused to accommodate an employee's lifting restrictions that were caused by her pregnancy even though it provided accommodations for other employees with lifting restrictions, the employee's attorney told the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments on Dec. 3 (Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 12-1226, U.S. Sup.).
CAMDEN. N.J. - A named trustee of a multiemployer welfare arrangement (MEWA) and the marketer of the MEWA breached their fiduciary duties with regard to diverted funds that were plan assets within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a federal judge in New Jersey ruled on remand from the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in an opinion filed Dec. 1 (Secretary of Labor v. James Doyle, et al., No. 05-cv-2264, D. N.J.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166354).
CHICAGO - An employer must pay the withdrawal liability assessed by a multiemployer pension plan because the employer's demand for arbitration was not timely under the rules of the American Arbitration Association (AAA), the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Nov. 26 (Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, et al. v. Allega Concrete Corp., No. 14-2512, 7th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 22406).
FRESNO, Calif. - A California federal magistrate judge on Nov. 26 granted preliminary approval to a $2.3 million settlement to be paid by a California grape grower and a labor contractor to end a class complaint filed by workers seeking unpaid wages (Margarita Rosales, et al. v. El Rancho Farms, et al., Angel Lopez Cruz, et al. v. El Rancho Farms, et al., No. 09-707, E.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165711).
SAN FRANCISCO - A California federal magistrate judge on Nov. 26 preliminarily approved a $1 million settlement to be paid by Tractor Supply Co. to resolve a wage-and-hour class complaint filed by a former store clerk (Patrick Bellinghausen v. Tractor Supply Company, No. 13-2377, N.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165529).
SEATTLE - According to its docket, Washington state's top court on Nov. 25 denied a motion for rehearing, leaving stand a ruling that an employer did not trigger the deliberate intent exception to the workers' compensation statute by ordering employees to return to an asbestos-contaminated workspace (Gary G. Walston and Donna Walston v. The Boeing Co., No. 885117, Wash. Sup.).
PHILADELPHIA - The policy reasons behind the severance of punitive damages in the federal asbestos litigation remain, various defendants argue in Nov. 26 briefs urging the judge overseeing the litigation to continue the practice (Kenneth McAfee and Shirley McAfee v. 20th Century Glove Corporation of Texas, et al., No. 13-6856, Gerald Morris and Barbara Morris v. Honeywell International Inc., et al., No. 13-6591, E.D. Pa.).
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge in California on Nov. 26 certified for interlocutory appeal his ruling that a retirement plan sponsored by an employer associated with a church does not qualify as a church plan exempt from the requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Starla Rollins v. Dignity Health, et al., No. 13-1450, N.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165531).
HOUSTON - A Texas federal judge on Nov. 24 allowed late opt-in filings by nearly a dozen exotic dancers in a class complaint accusing the clubs where they dance and the clubs' owners of denying them wages by improperly classifying them as independent contractors (Paulita Coronado, et al. v. D N.W. Houston, Inc., et al., No. 13-2179, S.D. Texas; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164151).
ATLANTA - A disability plan participant's cause of action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act based on the termination of his benefits accrued when the participant had reason to know that the claims administrator clearly repudiated his claim for benefits, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 25 in concluding that the participant's complaint was time-barred (Don L. Witt v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 14-11349, 11th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 22321).
PHILADELPHIA - The judge overseeing the federal maritime asbestos docket included punitive damages in a Nov. 24 order remanding 50 asbestos claims. Sources said it is believed to be the first time the judge has remanded punitive damage claims (In re: Asbestos Products Liability Litigation [No. VI] Various -plaintiffs v. Various defendants, No. MDL 02-875, E.D. Pa.).
SAN FRANCISCO - A California federal magistrate judge on Nov. 20 granted a motion for class certification in a lawsuit filed by delivery drivers who claim that they were improperly classified as independent contractors and are owed unpaid wages (Daniel Villalpando, et al. v. Exel Direct Inc., et al., No. 12-4137, N.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162755).
LOS ANGELES - Imposing liability on a premises owner for household exposures to asbestos threatens "limitless liability," a divided California appeals panel held Nov. 21 in affirming judgment for the company (Wanda L. Beckering v. Shell Oil Co., No. B256407, Calif. App., 2nd Dist.; 2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8363).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Restaurants, retail food establishments and vending machines with more than 20 locations will need additional nutritional labeling under rules finalized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Nov. 25 in compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).