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Bafford v. Admin Comm. Of the Northrop Grumman Plan (9th Cir. 22-55634 5/9/24) ERISA

By May 9, 2024June 30th, 2024Uncategorized

The panel reversed the district court’s dismissal of an action brought by pension plan participants, alleging that the plan administrator violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by not providing pension benefit statements automatically or on request, and by providing inaccurate pension benefit statements prior to the participants’ retirements.

In an earlier appeal, the court affirmed in part and vacated in part an earlier dismissal. On remand, plaintiffs filed amended complaints. The panel held that the court’s prior mandate did not preclude plaintiffs from pleading, on remand, their claim for violation of 29 U.S.C. §1025(a)(1)(B)(i) in the plan administrator’s failure to provide them with pension benefit statements every three years or with annual notices of the availability of such statements. The panel further held that plaintiffs stated a § 1025(a)(1)(B)(i) claim.

The panel held that plaintiffs also stated a claim under § 1025(a)(1)(B)(ii), which requires administrators to furnish pension benefit statements in response to participants’ written requests. The panel concluded that plaintiffs’ claim that the administrator provided substantially inaccurate pension benefit statements was cognizable under § 1025(a)(1)(B)(ii). The panel also concluded that plaintiffs adequately pleaded an ERISA violation based on their allegation that they made written requests sufficient to trigger the duty to produce pension benefit statements. The panel rejected the administrator’s argument that there were no remedies available for the ERISA violations plaintiffs alleged.

Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims under §1025(a)(1)(B)(i)- (b)(ii) and remanded for further proceedings.