Montanile v. Board of Trustees of the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan

Supreme Court Rules Against Enforcement of Equitable Liens in ERISA Case

Term: 2015 Term
Oral Argument Date: Nov 9, 2015
Vote: 8-1
Opinion: Thomas
Questions Presented: 

Does a lawsuit by an ERISA fiduciary against a participant to recover an alleged overpayment by the plan seek "equitable relief" within the meaning of ERISA section 502(a)(3), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3), if the fiduciary has not identified a particular fund that is in that is in the participant's possession and control at the time the fiduciary asserts its claim?

U.S. Chamber's Position: 

The U.S. Chamber filed a merits-stage amicus brief with the IBEW-NECA Southwestern Health & Benefit Fund asking the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the judgment of the Eleventh Circuit that a plan fiduciary may enforce an equitable lien under Section 502(a)(3) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA") to enforce its reimbursement rights to cover the costs of medical expenses incurred by plan participants.

The Chamber’s brief argues that health and benefit plans are not-for-profit entities that exist solely to serve their participants and that impediments to reimbursement impose real costs that the plan participants must bear.  The brief also discusses that the right to recover against the beneficiary for dissipated funds is the most efficient and effective protection against double recovery. 

David I. Schiller, Aaron M. Streett, and J. Mark Little of Baker Botts L.L.P. served as co-counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center in this case.

Outcome Content: 

The Supreme Court held by an 8-1 vote that an ERISA plan may not bring suit to attach the assets of a plan participant who was required to reimburse the plan for medical cost payment recovered from third parties and nonetheless dissipated the recovered funds before the plan brought suit.

Justices in Minority: 
Procedural History: 

Cert petition filed 12/16/2014; granted 3/30/2015.

Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae Supporting Petitioner filed 7/13/2015. 

U.S. Chamber amicus brief filed 10/2/2015.

Argued 11/9/2015.

Decided 1/20/2016.