Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Eleventh Circuit Dismisses ERISA Appeal For Lack Of Standing Under § 1132

In Dunn v. Harris Corp. (08-13847), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's ERISA claim.
“Section 1132 is essentially a standing provision [that] sets forth those parties who may bring civil actions under ERISA and specifies the types of actions each of those parties may pursue.” Gulf Life Ins. Co. v. Arnold, 809 F.2d 1520, 1524 (11th Cir. 1987). The only parties authorized to bring a lawsuit under § 1132 are participants, beneficiaries, fiduciaries, or the Secretary of Labor. ERISA defines a beneficiary as “a person designated by a participant, or by the terms of an employee benefit plan, who is or may become entitled to a benefit thereunder.” 29 U.S.C. § 1002(8). “Standing represents a jurisdictional requirement which remains open to review at all stages of the litigation.” Nat’l Org. For Women, Inc. v. Scheidler, 114 S. Ct. 798, 802 (1994).
The only basis for Dunn to have standing to sue Harris and Fidelity in this case is if she is deemed a beneficiary. Dr. Cox has already been determined to be the proper beneficiary of Buddy’s 401(k) plan, and that determination has been affirmed by this Court. In light of that judgment, Dunn cannot become entitled to the 401(k) plan benefits, so she is not a beneficiary or potential beneficiary who has standing to bring a claim under § 1132. See Arnold, 809 F.2d at 1524. Dunn does not have standing, so we dismiss this appeal.


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