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09/21/87 T. J. Kennedy Et Al., v. Deere & Company

September 21, 1987

T. J. KENNEDY ET AL., APPELLEES

v.

DEERE & COMPANY, APPELLANT



SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

514 N.E.2d 171, 118 Ill. 2d 69, 112 Ill. Dec. 705 1987.IL.1392

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Third District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Rock Island County, the Hon. David De-Doncker, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE WARD delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WARD

The plaintiffs, T. J. Kennedy, Terry Burke, Michael Hurst, Stephen Miner and James Woods, who are chiropractors, filed actions in the circuit court of Rock Island County against the defendant, Deere & Company, to recover damages under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (29 U.S.C. sec. 1001 et seq. (1982)) . The defendant moved to dismiss the suits, alleging that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue under ERISA. After consolidating the suits, the circuit court granted the defendant's motion and dismissed the actions. The appellate court reversed (142 Ill. App. 3d 781), and we allowed the defendant's petition for leave to appeal under Supreme Court Rule 315 (103 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)).

In substantially similar complaints, the plaintiffs allege that they provided chiropractic services to several of the defendant's employees who are covered by its health and welfare plan (the plan) which is subject to the provisions of ERISA. (See 29 U.S.C. sec. 1002(1) (1982).) They allege that these employees assigned to the plaintiffs their rights to benefits under the plan which here consist of the right to reimbursement for medical care. The complaints set out that the plaintiffs submitted claims to the plan for payment and that the trustees of the plan refused to honor certain of the assignments. When considering a motion to dismiss, all facts properly pleaded in a complaint and the exhibits will be taken as true in deciding whether to grant the motion. State Bank v. A-Way, Inc. (1986), 115 Ill. 2d 401, 404; Soules v. General Motors Corp. (1980), 79 Ill. 2d 282, 284.

The plaintiffs claim that they are entitled to recover under ERISA because of the defendant's failure to honor the assignments. The plaintiffs assert that they are "beneficiaries" as defined in section 2(8) of ERISA (29 U.S.C. sec. 1002(8) (1982)) and entitled to file an action under sections 502(a)(1)and 502(e)(1) (29 U.S.C. secs. 1132(a)(1), (e)(1) (1982)).

Under section 502(a)(1)of ERISA:

"A civil action may be brought . . .

(1) y a participant or beneficiary . . .

to recover benefits due to him under the terms of his plan, to enforce his rights under the terms of the plan, or to clarify his rights . . . under the terms of the plan . . .." (29 U.S.C. sec. 1132(a)(1)(1982).)

ERISA defines a "participant" as:

"ny employee or former employee of an employer, or any member or former member of an employee organization, who is or may become eligible to receive a benefit of any type from an employee benefit plan which covers employees of such employer or members of such organization, or whose beneficiaries ...


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