It’s rare for a case from Connecticut to make it all the way to the United States Supreme Court. But this week, a case did just that.
I’ve previously discussed the case of Cigna v. Amara in many posts which you can read here. The case ultimately concerns the receipt of retirement benefits and whether documents about those benefits were misleading. But the narrower issue the court is now deciding concerns the type of proof and allegations that need to be presented in a class action of this type and what remedies are available.
The American Bar Association has prepared a summary of the case and has summed up the issue that the court is to decide:
Must participants who are members of a class action suit prove detrimental reliance on an inaccurate summary plan description in order to receive a remedy under ERISA, or is the mere proof of “likely harm” enough to justify equitable relief?
Oral argument from that case is now available online. A decision is expected sometime this spring.
For those involved deeply with ERISA issues, it’s definitely worth a read. There was an interesting back-and-forth discussion about what should happen when a summary plan description conflicts with the underlying plan documents. Indeed, as noted in the argument, CIGNA conceded that its summary plan descriptions were deficient. But the issue, according to CIGNA, is what is the proper remedy:
My point I guess in this is that, yes, Justice Kagan, the statute requires the SPD to contain certain information. We accept the fact of the conclusions of the court below in this case that they did not do so. There are two SPDs. They failed to live up to the requirements of ERISA. There is a remedy for that.
For everyone else, keep an eye on this case. It may provide some guidance to employers about how to oversee some plan issues when the case is decided next year.
(Note: See a prior post for my familiarity with one of the class representatives. I have no involvement whatsoever in the case.)