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United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
November 13, 2006, Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California ; May 18, 2007, Filed
[*622] PAEZ, Circuit Judge:
Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston ("Liberty Life") appeals the district court's award of disability benefits to Vorris Blankenship, following a court trial on his claims under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") § 502(a)(1)(B) and § 502(a)(3). 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a). Liberty Life does not challenge the district court's ruling that Blankenship was entitled to long-term disability benefits. Instead, Liberty Life argues that the disability benefits owed Blankenship should have been reduced by the amount of retirement benefits transferred to his Individual Retirement Account ("IRA") upon his retirement. Liberty [**2] Life also challenges the use of a 10.01-percent interest rate to calculate prejudgment interest. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.
FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The facts are not in dispute. Vorris Blankenship, an attorney employed by KPMG LLP ("KPMG"), developed cancer. He suffered severe complications as a result of his medical treatment. Blankenship's treating physician informed him that, although he could undergo surgery to attempt to improve his situation, it was not advisable because the surgery could cause further complications and exacerbate his condition.
[*623] Liberty Life, administrator and fiduciary of the KPMG Employee Long-Term Disability Plan ("Disability Plan"), of which Blankenship was a member, initially determined in June 1998 that Blankenship qualified for long-term disability benefits under the Disability Plan. However, on April 20, 2000, Liberty Life sent Blankenship a letter informing him that his benefits would be terminated because it had determined that there were alternative treatments that could improve his condition. Blankenship appealed the decision to Liberty Life. Five months later, in September 2000, Liberty [**3] Life rejected Blankenship's appeal, reaffirming its prior decision to terminate benefits, and adding additional reasons for the determination. Liberty Life also informed Blankenship that he had exhausted his administrative remedies and that its decision was final.
On September 13, 2000, KPMG terminated Blankenship, who was 64 at the time, for failure to return to work. Upon termination, Blankenship became eligible to receive retirement benefits from several of his retirement plans with KPMG. In a written letter, KPMG informed Blankenship of his options for distribution of these benefits. The KPMG Pension Plan offered the benefits as either a joint and survivor annuity for the lives of Blankenship and his spouse or as a lump-sum payment. The lump-sum payment could be distributed directly to Blankenship, or he could elect to "roll it over into an IRA or other tax qualified vehicle." The KPMG Personal Account for Retirement ("PAR Plan"), a defined-contribution plan in which the employer contributed an amount equal to 1.5 percent of Blankenship's salary each year, also allowed for an annuity, a lump-sum payment, or a lump-sum direct rollover to an IRA, with the additional options of payment [**4] in monthly installments or deferred distribution of the funds until Blankenship reached the age of 70 1/2.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
486 F.3d 620 *; 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 11621 **; 40 Employee Benefits Cas. (BNA) 2239
VORRIS BLANKENSHIP, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. LIBERTY LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY OF BOSTON, as Administrator and Fiduciary of the KPMG Employee Long-term Disability Plan and the KPMG Employee Long-term Disability Plan, Defendant-Appellant.
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California D.C. No. CV-03-01132-SC. Samuel Conti, District Judge, Presiding.
Blankenship v. Liberty Life Assur. Co., 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17116 (N.D. Cal., Aug. 20, 2004)
funds, benefits, Disability, disability benefits, district court, prejudgment interest, transferred, retirement benefits, retirement fund, insured, retirement, receives, terms, long-term, retirement plan, terminate, awarding, Pension, elected, monthly, argues
Pensions & Benefits Law, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, De Novo Standard of Review, Insurance Law, Policy Interpretation, Ambiguous Terms, Coverage Favored, Handling of Claims, General Overview, Tax Law, Tax Accounting, Retirement Plans, Individual Retirement Plans, Business & Corporate Compliance, ERISA, ERISA Pension Plan Qualification Requirements, Payment of Benefits, Labor & Employment Law, Age Discrimination, Discriminatory Employment Practices, Pension Benefits, Civil Litigation, Causes of Action, Suits to Recover Plan Benefits, Civil Procedure, Remedies, Judgment Interest, Prejudgment Interest