Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

FORYS v. SWIFT INDEPENDENT PACKING CO.

May 23, 1986

LEONARD FORYS AND JANET FORYS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SWIFT INDEPENDENT PACKING COMPANY, SELF-INSURERS BENEFIT SERVICES, A CORPORATION, RYAN INSURANCE GROUP, A CORPORATION, BETH ELKIN AND UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKER'S INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO AND CLC, A VOLUNTARY UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Foreman, Chief Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on defendant United Food and Commercial Worker's International Union's (Union) motion to dismiss or strike (Document No. 29). Plaintiffs are employees of co-defendant Swift Independent Packing Company (Swift) and beneficiaries of Swift's health insurance plan which is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

The Union denies that its responsibilities regarding Swift's health plan confer a fiduciary status as contemplated by ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1002(21)(A)(iii). The Union further submits that even if it is a proper defendant, ERISA allows neither punitive damages or damages for emotional distress, nor does it require that a jury trial be afforded the plaintiffs. The Union mistakenly has moved to dismiss Count I in addition to Counts II and III. Since the plaintiffs have not named the Union as a defendant in Count I the Court has disregarded the argument relating to this Count.

Section 3(21) of ERISA defines a fiduciary. In relevant part, action 3(21) provides:

  (A) Except as otherwise provided in subparagraph
  (B), a person is a fiduciary with respect to a
  plan to the extent (i) he exercises any
  discretionary authority or discretionary control
  respecting management of such plan or exercises
  any authority or control respecting management or
  disposition of its assets, (ii) he renders
  investment advice for a fee or other
  compensation, direct or indirect, with respect to
  any moneys or other property of such plan, or has
  any authority or responsibility to do so, or
  (iii) he has any discretionary authority or
  discretionary responsibility in the administration of
  such plan. Such term includes any person designated under
  Section 1105(c)(1)(B) of this title.

29 U.S.C. § 1002(21). The plaintiffs contend that the Union is a fiduciary as a result of subsection (iii). Thus, the Union herein is a fiduciary with respect to a plan to the extent it has any discretionary authority or discretionary responsibility in the administration of the plan.

Section 11 of Swift's health insurance plan provides that section 42 of the Master Agreement between Swift and the Union governs the claims handling procedure in situations such as the one presented here. Three paragraphs of section 42 of the Master Agreement are pertinent in the instant case:

  The company will designate a representative . . .
  at each plant who will be available for
  consultation with beneficiaries or a Local Union
  representative . . . with respect to the
  disposition of claims.
  In the event the beneficiary or the Local Union
  representative is not satisfied with the outcome
  of the consultation, the Local Union
  representative may refer the matter to the
  International Union for discussion with the
  Director of the Industrial Relations Department
  of the Company. . . .
  In the event no decision is reached in the above
  step, the International Union may submit the
  matter to the Arbitrator, whose decision shall be
  final and binding on all parties above.

Once the Union receives a benefit complaint from its Local, section 42 of the agreement requires that the Union discuss the matter with Swift's Director of Industrial Relations. One of two courses of action follow these conferences. (1) The union will agree with Swift's position or it will reach a compromise, on behalf of the employee, with Swift. The matter is pursued no further or; (2) The union will disagree with Swift or be unable to compromise. When this happens, section 42 vests the Union with the sole power to refer the matter, on behalf of the employee, to binding arbitration if it so chooses.

Defendant Union urges that the authority granted the Union by section 42 is no greater than that assumed by a Union representative in any grievance process; and because the Union is not ultimately responsible for deciding the merits of beneficiaries' claims its authority is not "discretionary" as contemplated by ERISA. To support this point, the Union asserts that the plain language of section 42 permits it only to present the claim to Swift, not to grant or deny that claim. The Union additionally urges that it should not be held to the fiduciary standard imposed by ERISA ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.