807 F.2d 1560 (11th Cir. 1987), 86-7401, Howard v. Parisian, Inc.

Docket Nº:86-7401.
Citation:807 F.2d 1560
Party Name:Vann K. HOWARD and Kathryn D. Howard, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. PARISIAN, INC., etc.; Parisian Employees Health Care Plan; Hahn Shoe Company, et al.; Protective Life Insurance Company, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:January 20, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 1560

807 F.2d 1560 (11th Cir. 1987)

Vann K. HOWARD and Kathryn D. Howard, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

PARISIAN, INC., etc.; Parisian Employees Health Care Plan;

Hahn Shoe Company, et al.; Protective Life

Insurance Company, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 86-7401.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 20, 1987

Page 1561

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1562

Stephen D. Heninger, Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, Birmingham, Ala., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Lee H. Zell, Berkowitz, Lefkovits, Isom & Kushner, Birmingham, Ala., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Before RONEY, Chief Judge, JOHNSON, Circuit Judge, and ESCHBACH [*], Senior Circuit Judge.

JOHNSON, Circuit Judge:

This case involves an appeal from two orders dismissing a count alleging certain state law claims and striking a jury demand for the other count. We affirm the dismissal of the count alleging the state law claims and dismiss the appeal concerning the jury demand for lack of jurisdiction.

BACKGROUND

On February 28, 1986, Vann K. Howard and his wife ("Howard") filed a complaint in Alabama state court against Parisian, Inc., Parisian Employees' Health Care Plan ("Plan"), and Hahn Shoe Company. Howard, an employee of Parisian and a beneficiary of the Plan, was severely injured in an automobile accident. A few days later Parisian terminated Howard's employment, causing Howard's coverage under the Plan to cease six months later. Parisian refused to pay any of Howard's medical expenses after his coverage ceased. In his suit, Howard sought the recovery of additional health care benefits under the Plan (Count I). Howard also sought compensation for the bad faith refusal to pay such benefits and the outrageous and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count II). He demanded a jury trial for both counts.

Because the Plan is regulated under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), the defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Parisian and the Plan then filed a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss Count II and a motion to strike the jury demand as to Count I. Before ruling on these motions, the district court granted Howard leave to file an amended complaint. In his amended complaint, Howard joined Protective Life Insurance Company ("Protective"), the claims administrator of

Page 1563

the Plan, as a defendant and added a conspiracy count as to all of the defendants.

After Howard filed his amended complaint, the court granted both motions in the same order. Concluding that the Plan was an "employee welfare benefit plan" within the meaning of ERISA, the court dismissed Count II because it asserted state law claims preempted by Section 514(a) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1144(a). The court also struck the jury demand for Count I. The court entered final judgment on this order under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). The court denied Howard's motion to reconsider the striking of the jury demand.

Parisian, the Plan, and Protective then moved to dismiss the amended complaint. The court dismissed without prejudice all claims against them added by the amended complaint. However, the court required Protective to answer the allegations of Count I of the original complaint charging it with a violation of ERISA. The court also certified this order as a final judgment under Rule 54(b). Howard now appeals both orders.

DISCUSSION

  1. PREEMPTION OF STATE LAW CLAIMS

    There is no doubt that the Plan is governed by ERISA. ERISA applies to all employee benefit plans established by any employer engaged in interstate commerce or in any industry affecting interstate commerce. 29 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1003(a)(1). An employee benefit plan can be either an employee welfare benefit plan or an employee pension benefit plan. 29 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1002(3). An employee welfare benefit plan is:

    any plan, fund, or program ... established or maintained by an employer or by an employee organization, or by both, to the extent that such plan, fund, or program was established or is maintained for the purpose of providing for its participants or their beneficiaries, through the purchase of insurance or otherwise ... medical, surgical, or hospital care or benefits, or benefits in the event of sickness, accident, disability, [or] death....

    29 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1002(1).

    Established by Parisian in order to provide health care benefits to participating employees, the Plan is a self-funded employee welfare benefit plan. Parisian is engaged in interstate commerce. Therefore, the Plan constitutes an employee benefit plan established by an employer engaged in interstate commerce and is governed by ERISA.

    With exceptions that are irrelevant here, 1 ERISA "supersede[s] any and all State laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan...." 29 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1144(a). Because Congress intended the regulation of employee benefit plans to be exclusively a federal concern, Alessi v. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., 451 U.S. 504, 523, 101 S.Ct. 1895, 1906, 68 L.Ed.2d 402 (1981), the Supreme Court has broadly interpreted the "relate to" language of Section 1144(a) as encompassing any state law that has a "connection with or reference to" employee benefit plans. Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U.S. 85, 97...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP