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Summary Judgment Against Participants?ÇÖ Claims Regarding Inaccurate Benefit Calculation in SPD Affirmed

March 30, 2012
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a summary judgment against claims of participants who received summary plan description materials which incorrectly described the calculation of benefits based on the plan terms. Citing the U.S. Supreme Court?ÇÖs decision in Cigna v. Amara, the court stated that the discrepancy between the summary plan description and the plan document did not create a triable issue, because the summary plan description did not constitute the terms of the plan. The court found that reformation of the plan document was improper because there was no evidence that the plan document contained a mistake or that its terms were induced by fraud. Although Amara suggested that reformation might be appropriate if the employer intentionally misled employees, in this case there was no evidence that the employer materially misled employees, and even if it had misled employees, appellants conceded that they did not rely on any of the misleading information. The court also found that breach of the committee?ÇÖs duty to provide accurate information, that breach was not actionable unless the committee gained a benefit or caused a harm, and that there was no evidence the committee gained a benefit or that appellants relied on the inaccurate summary plan description that resulted in harm. Skinner, et al. v. Northrop Grumman Retirement Plan B, et al., No. 10-55161 (9th Cir. March 16, 2012).
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