The Power of Dicta—Make-Whole Relief Under ERISA Comes to the Fourth Circuit

On July 5, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court issued a significant opinion concerning the liability of insurers (and, potentially, employers) that are alleged to have provided misleading or faulty summary plan descriptions (SPDs) to employees.  The case, McCravy v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (“MetLife”), addressed the question of damages available to a plaintiff who sues a plan fiduciary (such as the trustees of the plan, or the plan’s insurer) under Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  Under the ERISA statute, a participant and plan beneficiaries can sue a plan fiduciary to enforce the terms of the plan, as well as “to obtain other appropriate equitable relief” to redress violations of the terms of an ERISA plan.  This is the first decision to be issued by a circuit court in the wake of the Supreme Court’s CIGNA Corp. v. Amara 8-0 decision of 2011.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will soon address similar issues in a case called Kenseth v. Dean Health Plans, Inc.


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