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HEALTH COST CONTROLS v. SKINNER

January 20, 1994

HEALTH COST CONTROLS, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD L. SKINNER, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MILTON I. SHADUR

 Health Cost Controls ("HCC") has filed this multi-count multi-defendant lawsuit, seeking to invoke federal jurisdiction under a provision of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA")--its Section 1132(a)(3). *fn1" Based on its initial review of the Complaint, *fn2" this Court sua sponte dismisses not only the Complaint but this entire action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

 HCC attempts to bring itself within ERISA's right-to-sue provisions by identifying itself as a "fiduciary" under the definition of that term set out in Section 1002(21)(A) (Complaint P 10). By way of explanation, Complaint P 3 alleges that HMO Illinois, Inc. ("HMO Illinois") has been the provider of "managed care services" for some participants under an employee welfare benefit plan established by Mobil Oil Corporation ("Mobil")--in this instance such services were provided for a family member of a Mobil employee. Complaint P 8 then alleges that HCC has been designated by HMO Illinois "to prosecute all of its rights to subrogation and reimbursement under the [Mobil] Plan." *fn3"

 On that scenario HCC's self-description does not at all appear to qualify it as an ERISA "fiduciary." And if that fundamental doubt were to be resolved against HCC (as would appear likely), that alone would be enough to dispatch this lawsuit. But because HCC's claimed "fiduciary" status is used as the springboard for its asserted action under Section 1132(a)(3), and because HCC's ability to bring this lawsuit under that provision is so clearly nonexistent, this opinion will pass for the moment the question as to the propriety of HCC's wrapping itself in the "fiduciary" mantle.

 Instead this Court turns directly to Section 1132(a)(3), which reads this way:

 A civil action may be brought--

 
* * *
 
(3) by a participant, beneficiary, or fiduciary (A) to enjoin any act or practice which violates any provision of this subchapter or the terms of the plan, or (B) to obtain other appropriate equitable relief (i) to redress such violations or (ii) to enforce any provisions of this subchapter or the terms of the plan.

 Two things should be noted about that provision:

 
1. Fiduciaries are entitled to seek only equitable relief. Although the Section 1132(a)(3)(B)(ii) phrase "to enforce any provisions of . . . the terms of the plan" speaks in generic terms, it is expressly cabined by the predecessor limitation: a fiduciary is entitled only "to obtain other appropriate equitable relief" for that purpose. *fn4"
 
2. By direct contrast, fiduciaries are not listed among the permissible plaintiffs in Section 1132(a)(1). Although that provision does confer broad-based and unqualified plan enforcement powers, it bestows those powers only on plan participants or beneficiaries. "Fiduciaries" are conspicuous by their absence from that general power of enforcement.

 In this instance the definitive teaching as to the reading of ERISA's remedial provisions under such circumstances comes from no less than the Supreme Court in Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Russell, 473 U.S. 134, 146, 147, 87 L. Ed. 2d 96, 105 S. Ct. 3085 (1985) (emphasis in original, citations omitted):

 
The six carefully integrated civil enforcement provisions found in ยง 502(a) [Section 1132(a)] of the statute as finally enacted, however, provide strong evidence that Congress did not intend to authorize other remedies that it simply forgot to incorporate expressly. The assumption of inadvertent omission is rendered especially suspect upon close consideration of ERISA's interlocking, interrelated, ...

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