A Georgia U.S. district court has awarded summary judgment to an ERISA plan on its claims to reimbursement from funds acquired in a personal injury settlement. In the Eleventh Circuit, plan language must conform to several requirements that are essentially judicial gloss on the ERISA statute. This case illustrates a successful clearing of each hurdle.
The opinion rejects the argument that “appropriate” equitable relief requires implicitly the incorporation of “make whole” notions. As is necessary under existing Eleventh Circuit law, the plan language explicitly rejected the make whole doctrine, so no issue arose under Cagle v. Bruner.
The court noted that the plan language limited the reimbursement claims to the recovery and disclaimed responsibility for attorneys’ fees. Under these circumstances, the parties contracted for full reimbursement, in the view of the court, and the plan terms effectively created an enforceable equitable lien by agreement.
The case is Zurich v. O’Hara & Ross & Pines, LLC, (Ga. N.D.) (November 3, 2008).
Thanks to Max C. Ramsey, Esq., Associate General Counsel at Ingenix, for forwarding this order to me.
( I uploaded the order at erisaboard.com where this is cross posted in the Subrogation forum.)