Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, called “ERISA” for short, if an employer promises you certain benefits, and then either mismanages those benefits, improperly advises you in regards to those benefits, or wrongfully denies you promised benefits, then you may be able to sue your employer.
Although the Department of Labor (DOL), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) all play a part in the administration of ERISA legislation, many times enforcement will be left to you. Under ERISA, there are four classifications of parties who may sue for violation of a benefits plan and they are:
In most cases, a plan participant or a plan beneficiary will bring lawsuits filed under ERISA because these are the people who are generally deprived of benefits.
ERISA defines a plan participant as an employee or a former employee who is or would be eligible to receive benefits under an employment welfare benefit plan or an employment pension benefit plan. In most situations, the plan participant will be the individual with the direct relationship to the employer.
While a plan participant is generally the person who is currently in or was in the direct employee/employer relationship, an ERISA qualified plan beneficiary will be a person or group of people who are able to receive benefits under the plan. For example, a child who receives healthcare through a mother’s employee provided health insurance will be a plan beneficiary.
What if you are a child’s aunt and although you are not entitled to receive benefits through the mom’s employer provided healthcare, you know the plan administrator wrongfully denied to pay for such benefits? Would you be able to sue for the denied benefits? The answer is no.
The issue of whether or not a person has standing to sue goes beyond ERISA and is a sweeping rule applicable in all courts. Article III, of the U.S. Constitution along with several United States Supreme Court cases have resulted in a complex test for determining standing to bring legal action in court. Boiled down to its most basic elements, the doctrine of standing requires that the plaintiff must have suffered an injury due to the defendant’s actions and further, that that the requested relief will redress injury. In addition, a third party may not raise a claim for the rights of another.
If the wrong person brings a lawsuit that would otherwise be valid, the judge will dismiss the case on the grounds of standing. Although the appropriate plaintiff will still have standing to bring action against the defendant, a skilled ERISA attorney will identify all of the proper parties to the lawsuit so as not to waste your time or money. Barrington’s passionate ERISA attorneys at Bartolic Law will help you determine if you have standing to sue under the law and then, help you identify exactly who to sue. Please call us today for a free initial case evaluation.