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From Roger Baron: 5th Circuit rules in favor of ERISA beneficiary and his wife where funds are in a structured settlement

Reprinted with Permission from Roger Baron

The 5th Circuit handed down ACS Recovery Services, Inc. v. Griffin today, April 2, 2012.  Mr. Griffin was seriously injured in an auto accident. The ERISA plan paid medical bills of $50,076.19.  The plaintiff’s attorney secured a settlement of $294,439.82 and arranged for a structured settlement annuity “in an effort to avoid any equitable lien assertion” by the ERISA Plan.  Mrs. Griffin received $40,000 for loss of consortium.  The ERISA plan sued Mr. Griffin and his wife, as well as the trustee and the trust designated to receive the annuity payments.  The trial court “dismissed the claims against all of the defendants.”  This decision by the 5th Circuit affirms that dismissal.  The dismissal as to Mr. Griffin and the trustee and the trust is appropriate because “no defendant ever had ‘possession’ of the disputed funds.”  The dismissal as to Mrs. Griffin is appropriate because the ERISA Plan lacks authority to “seek reimbursement out of an award for loss of consortium or out of an award made separately to a beneficiary’s spouse… This money was compensation paid to [Mrs.] Griffin for the loss of her husband’s society and companionship, not as compensation to [Mr.] Griffin for his injury.”

To view the opinion click HERE

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