ERISA-STANDING

June 28th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Miscellaneous

Boley v. Universal Health Servs., 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 15001 (3rd Cir. June 1, 2022) (Scirica, C.J.)  In this interlocutory appeal, fiduciaries of a retirement plan appeal the District Court’s certification of a class of participants who allege the fiduciaries breached their duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). At issue in this case is whether the typicality requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) is satisfied when the class representatives did not invest in each of a defined contribution retirement plan’s available investment options. We will affirm. Because the class representatives allege actions or a course of conduct by ERISA fiduciaries that affected multiple funds in the same way, their claims are typical of those of the class. Since the Named Plaintiffs allege concrete injuries traceable to the challenged decisions and courses of conduct of the defendants, they have met the requirements for standing. Article III does not prevent the Named Plaintiffs from representing parties who invested in funds that were allegedly imprudent due to the same decisions or courses of conduct. In Sweda v. University of Pennsylvania we held that participants in a defined contribution ERISA plan have standing to bring claims alleging the fiduciary’s “process of selecting and managing options must have been flawed” even though the class representatives did not invest in every fund. 923 F.3d 320, 331 (3d Cir. 2019). We noted in Sweda that the class representatives alleged they had invested in some of the underperforming funds, and “[t]his allegation links the named plaintiffs with the underperforming investment options and is sufficient to show individual injuries.” Id. at 334 n.10; see also Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 593 (8th Cir. 2009) (noting that as long as the named plaintiffs have alleged individualized injuries with respect to all of their claims, they “may proceed under § 1132(a)(2) on behalf of the plan or other participants” even if relief “sweeps beyond [their] own injur[ies]”). Indeed, we have held that ERISA “breach of fiduciary duty claims brought under § 502(a)(2) are paradigmatic examples of claims appropriate for certification as a Rule 23(b)(1) class.” Schering Plough, 589 F.3d at 604. Consistent with the basic principles underlying Rule 23(b)(1), certification of an ERISA class as a (b)(1) class is not dependent on the degree of individual proof that will be required for individual plaintiffs to recover, but rather on the recognition that deciding one plaintiff’s claim might mean other plaintiffs might be unable to bring their own claims separately. Id. (holding “it is simply not relevant to the Rule 23(b)(1)(B) inquiry” that plaintiffs’ claims “present individual issues”). Accordingly, Universal’s concerns about the individualized proof that will be required for plaintiffs to recover are not a reason here to prevent certification of a (b)(1) ERISA class that meets the requirements of Rule 23(a).  For these reasons, we will affirm the judgment of the District Court.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]