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Grace Granted Summary Judgment in ERISA Case

July 15, 2013

Kathryn A. Grace (Associate-McLean) were granted summary judgment in an ERISA case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The plaintiff was a widow seeking to recover life insurance benefits under her late husband’s employer-sponsored life insurance plan. She filed suit against the employer/plan administrator, as well as Wilson Elser’s client, the insurer of the policy/claims administrator, alleging breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA, along with various state law claims. At the heart of the case was the employer’s enrollment of the deceased in the plan and deduction of premium payments despite the fact that he did not meet the eligibility requirements for enrollment under the plan. The plaintiff sought more than $800,000 in benefits plus attorney’s fees.

Wilson Elser filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that, despite the employer’s error, the insurer did not abuse its discretion in denying the claim because the deceased did not qualify for benefits under the plan. The court agreed and ruled in favor of the insurance company, granting the motion for summary judgment. The court, however, ruled against the employer, finding it breached its fiduciary duty to her.

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