January 01, 2020

Jim Jorden and Glenn Merten Discuss ERISA Cases to Watch in 2020

In their report on significant benefits law cases to watch in 2020, Law360 turned to Washington, D.C. partners Jim Jorden and Glenn Merten for insight into several cases.

According to the legal industry publication, 2020 is shaping up to be a banner year for benefits law, with three ERISA cases already on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket and a number of other high-profile lawsuits at the circuit court level that could attract the justices’ attention.

In the Supreme Court case Intel v. Sulyma, Intel’s retirement committee argued that the three-year statute of limitations should be triggered on the date a worker receives financial disclosures from the retirement plan. Attorneys say that if the high court agreed with the committee, the three-year deadline would become standard, but some believe the high court didn’t seem to be leaning that way during oral arguments.

“The justices were skeptical that just being provided the plan documents would be sufficient to satisfy the ‘actual knowledge’ test,” Merten noted.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court asked U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco to speak to whether the justices should review two high-profile ERISA cases: Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association and Putnam Investments LLC v. John Brotherston. According to Law360, Francisco advised the court to take up Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which involves whether ERISA preempts a state drug-pricing law, and to skip Putnam Investments LLC v. John Brotherston, which involves who bears the burden of proof in fiduciary-breach suits. Jorden and Merten discussed the issues associated with both cases.

Jorden discussed the Rutledge case, telling Law360 that “It’s certainly a very important issue right now in terms of price-setting by the states. There’s a lot of controversy associated with it.”

As for Putnam Investments LLC v. John Brotherston, Merten highlighted the significance of the circuit split caused by the underlying issue in the case, telling the publication that “The government really downplayed the circuit split that exists. They suggested it wasn’t that much of a split.”

“It seems to me this is a good opportunity, given the 5-4 split, to resolve this issue,” he added.

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