ST. PAUL - State laws that preclude discretionary language and pre-existing condition limitations in group health and disability plans did not negate an abuse-of-discretion standard of review or application of a disability plan's pre-existing condition limitation provision, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Dec. 29 in ruling that an insurer did not abuse its discretion under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in denying buy-up benefits due to the plan's pre-existing condition provision (Karen Brake v. The Hutchinson Technology Incorporated Group Disability Income Insurance Plan, No. 13-3421, 8th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 24489).
MINNEAPOLIS - An insurer was entitled to have its decision denying disability benefits reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard of review under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because a reasonable person would consider that the policy incorporated the grant of discretion in the summary plan description (SPD), the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 30 in upholding the insurer's denial of benefits (Vicki Johnson v. United of Omaha Life Insurance Company, No. 13-2645, 8th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 24557).
ATLANTA - A wage dispute against Eli Lilly & Co. belongs in state court for the time being because the employer has failed to prove that the amount in controversy meets the minimum requirements under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 29 (Leslie Pinciaro Dudley, et al. v. Eli Lilly and Company, et al., No. 14-13048, 11th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 24504).
ALBANY, N.Y. - A New York appeals court on Dec. 31 reversed a board's decision to award a maintenance worker benefits, finding insufficient evidence to show that his respiratory issues were caused by occupational exposure to mold (Edward Connolly v. Covanta Energy Corp., et al., No. 518493, N.Y. Sup.; App. Div.; 3rd Dept.; 2014 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 8995).
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A judge must instruct a jury on the intended-user doctrine and conduct a new trial absent "each and every" exposure to asbestos testimony, a divided en banc Pennsylvania appeals court held Dec. 23 in vacating a $14.5 million verdict and ordering a new trial (Darlene Nelson, executrix of the estate of James Nelson v. Airco Welders Supply, et al., Nos. 864 EDA 2011, 866 EDA 2011, 867 EDA 2011, Pa. Super.).
CHICAGO - In the fifth appeal to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the appeals court on Dec. 24 dismissed a class action suit that alleged that a defined-contribution pension plan was partially terminated under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Robert J. Matz v. Household International Tax Reduction Investment Plan, Nos. 14-1683, 14-2507, 7th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 24448).
NEW YORK - A New York justice on Dec. 18 declined defendants' motion to renew, reargue or stay a ruling allowing punitive damages in New York City's asbestos litigation (In re: New York City Asbestos Litigation, No. 40000/88, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.).
SAN DIEGO - A federal judge in California on Dec. 17 granted class action status to a case accusing J.C. Penney Corp. Inc. of violating state law, including the unfair competition law (UCL), by failing to pay vacation benefits as required (Raymond Tschudy v. J.C. Penney Corporation Inc., No. 11-1011, S.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 174382).
NEW YORK - The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 17 ordered the further reduction of a jury's punitive damages award in an employment bias and racial harassment suit that was already reduced to $5 million by the federal judge from the original $24 million (Elijah Turley v. ISG Lackawanna, Inc., No. 13-561, 2nd Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 23705).
BOSTON - An employer that offered to eliminate swing shifts to an employee seeking a medical accommodation, but denied a request to provide only daytime hours, engaged in an interactive process with the employee, a divided First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Dec. 19 (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Kohl's Department Stores, Inc., No. 14-1268, 1st Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 24043).
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 16 withdrew its prior opinion that a pension plan participant who challenged the termination of benefits following the plan's rediscovery that he had not met the plan's vesting requirements failed to demonstrate that he was entitled to any equitable remedies under Employee Retirement Income Security Act Section 502(a)(3), and the appeals panel filed a superseding opinion remanding to the district court to consider whether the participant was entitled to surcharge (Gregory R. Gabriel v. Alaska Electrical Pension Fund, et al., No. 12-35458, 9th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 10553).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Office of the General Counsel announced Dec. 19 that it has filed multiple consolidated complaints against McDonald's USA LLC and the company's franchisees, as joint employers, alleging violations of employees' rights.
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - Participants in two of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s 401(k) plans reached a provisional settlement on their claims that the plans' fiduciaries breached their duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by causing the plans to pay excessive administrative expenses, by investing in a stable-value fund (SVF) that did not result in a rate of return that was sufficient for a retirement asset and by mismanaging the plan's company stock funds (CSFs), a Dec. 16 notice issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois indicated (Anthony Abbott, et al. v. Lockheed Martin Corp., et al., No. 06-cv-701, S.D. Ill.).
PHILADELPHIA - A medical expert opined that a woman's fatal disease arose from take-home exposures, but he never linked her specific exposures to the disease as required by the asbestos multidistrict litigation guidelines, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held in affirming dismissal of the case on Dec. 17 (In re: Asbestos Products Liability Litigation [No. VI], Angie Smiddy, et al. v. Alcoa Inc., No. 13-4423, 3rd Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 23735).
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - A woman's request for a new trial fails because she made a tactical decision to forgo such relief after a defendant violated an evidence order, an Illinois appeals court held Dec. 16 (Carol Holloway v. Sprinkmann Sons Corp. of Illinois, No. 4-13-1118, Ill. App., 4th Dist.).
CHICAGO - An Illinois federal judge on Dec. 15 certified a class of steakhouse workers alleging that their employer improperly administered its tip pool but denied the workers' partial motion for summary judgment, finding that a reasonable juror could determine that the operation of the tip pool was proper (Amy Starr, et al. v. Chicago Cut Steakhouse, LLC, No. 12-4416, N.D. Ill.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172645).
NEWARK, N.J. - A New Jersey federal magistrate judge on Dec. 12 granted final approval of a $250,000 settlement of a class complaint accusing a New Jersey employer of failing to pay for travel time and the correct prevailing wage rate (John Mulroy, et al. v. National Water Main Cleaning Company of New Jersey, No. 12-3669, D. N.J.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171904).
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A split Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Dec. 15 rejected a claim of "trial by formula" and upheld the certification of 187,979 Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Sam's Club (collectively, Wal-Mart) workers who brought a wage-and-hour suit and a more than $187 million award for those workers (Michelle Braun, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., et al., No. 32 EAP 2012, Dolores Hummel, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., et al., No. 33 EAP 2012, Pa. Sup.; 2014 Pa. LEXIS 3324).
PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania federal judge on Dec. 11 granted conditional certification in a wage suit filed by a home health care aide but limited the class to those individuals within Pennsylvania, finding that the lead plaintiff failed to produce evidence supporting a nationwide class (Markisha Gordon, et al. v. Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc., No. 13-7175, E.D. Pa.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172054).
SAN DIEGO - A California appellate panel on Dec. 10 upheld a trial court's denial of certification to two classes of workers who allege that they were denied lawfully owed breaks, required to perform work off the clock and subjected to improper rounding of work time (Emerita V. Chavez, et al. v. Angelica Corporation, No. D063199, Calif. App., 4th Dist., Div. 1; 2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8767).
NEW ORLEANS - Even five days of alleged asbestos exposure constitute a potential substantial cause of a man's asbestosis, a Louisiana appeals court panel held Dec. 10 in reversing summary judgment for an employer (Edward Anthony Alberes, et al. v. Anco Insulations Inc., et al., No. 2013-CA-1549, La. App., 5th Cir.; 2014 La. App. Unpub. LEXIS 706).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 15 invited the solicitor general to weigh in on whether the court should grant review of a divided Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act preempts Vermont's health care data collection law as applied to a self-funded ERISA benefit plan (Alfred J. Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, No. 14-181, U.S. Sup.).
ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands - A Virgin Islands federal judge on Dec. 11 found that the court did not err when it previously refused to allow an internal revenue worker's experts to testify on causation in relation to her alleged mold-related injuries and refused to grant her a new trial (Lorraine Smith v. Sydney Katz, No. 2010-39, D. Virgin Islands; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47493).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Labor Relations Board majority on Dec. 11 overruled its divided 2007 decision in Register Guard (351 NLRB 1110) to the extent that it holds that employees can have no statutory right to use their employer's email systems for personal use and granted limited statutory protection (Purple Communications, Inc. and Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Nos. 21-CA-095151, 21-RC-091531 and 21-RC-091584, NLRB).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A pro-life employer and the government filed supplemental briefs on Dec. 10 in the District of Columbia federal court on the impact of a recent District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptive mandate (March for Life, Jeanne F. Monahan and Bethany A. Goodman v. Sylvia M. Burwell, et al., No. 14-1149, D. D.C.).