ERISA Litigation - Forum Selection Clauses
2017.08.07 Seventh Circuit Agrees with Sixth - Enforceable. The 7th Circuit held as follows, in In re Mathias: "We ... join the Sixth Circuit in holding that ERISA’s venue provision does not invalidate a forum-selection clause contained in plan documents."
2017.04.10 Forum Selection Clause Upheld for ERISA Plan. The 7th Circuit has joined the 6th Cir. in holding that ERISA's venue provision, § 1132(e)(2), is permissive, and does not invalidate a forum-selection clause contained in plan documents. SeeIn re Mathias, which endorses the following rationale:
2016.07.08 ERISA Policy Tilts Balance Against Enforcement vs Plan Participants. A majority of courts have enforced ERISA plan provisions enforcing plan provisions designating specific forums for litigation, and their inclusion can better position plan sponsors to reduce their litigation costs. An Illinois district court comprehensively reviewed relevant cases in Harris v. BP Corp, and found that enforcement of a forum selection clause against plan participants "contravenes the strong public policy set forth in ERISA (in contrast to enforcement by "insurers and employers who would be best served by including such a clause in any plan for cost-saving purposes"). The Illinois court explained its decision as follows: "We believe that ERISA's legislative history unquestionably demonstrates that Congress did not intend to allow a plan participant/beneficiary who worked for a company for 30 years in Maine . . . to be required to litigate his [benefits] claim in Los Angeles."
2016.Summer Forum Selection Clauses in ERISA Plans - This excellent article from the Benefits Law Journal begins with the following recap of possible strategies by which employers may limit their ERISA litigation risk and costs:
2013.Dec.05 Forum Selection Clauses within ERISA Plans . . . Promising Future?
When it comes to designating a forum for ERISA litigation, and obtaining employee consents to personal jurisdiction there, the real question for employers is "why not"? Benefit plans may do that, and a recent Supreme Court decision indicates that such forum selection clauses should be enforceable in the absence of extraordinary circumstances. That Supreme Court case (Atlantic Marine) did not involve ERISA, but a subcontract for federal construction work. Nevertheless, the Court's reasoning carries over to employers that design and sponsor benefit plans. See the following quote from Justice Alito's opinion:
See "Forum Selection Clauses in ERISA Plans" (6/3/2013) for 16 district court cases that enforce such clauses, for a heads-up that the Department of Labor disagrees with that, and for analysis reiterating the observations above.2013.May.29 Reciting Key Elements to Justify Forum Designations (DE Sup. Ct.)
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