925 F.2d 142 (5th Cir. 1991), 90-8290, Total Plan Services, Inc. v. Texas Retailers Ass'n, Inc.

Docket Nº:90-8290.
Citation:925 F.2d 142
Party Name:TOTAL PLAN SERVICES, INC., Carroll Stewart, and George Washington Life Insurance Company, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. TEXAS RETAILERS ASSOCIATION, INC., Texas Retailers Association Group Benefit Trust, and James T. Odiorne, Texas State Board of Insurance, Liquidation Division, as receiver of Texas Retailers Association Group Benefit Trust, Defendants
Case Date:March 06, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 142

925 F.2d 142 (5th Cir. 1991)

TOTAL PLAN SERVICES, INC., Carroll Stewart, and George

Washington Life Insurance Company, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

TEXAS RETAILERS ASSOCIATION, INC., Texas Retailers

Association Group Benefit Trust, and James T. Odiorne, Texas

State Board of Insurance, Liquidation Division, as receiver

of Texas Retailers Association Group Benefit Trust,

Defendants-Appellees.

No. 90-8290.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

March 6, 1991

Page 143

Michael Diehl, Austin, Tex., R. James George, Jr., Eric G. Behrens, Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, Austin, Tex., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Joseph P. Kelly, Victoria, Tex., Kelly, Stephenson & Marr, Victoria, Tex., for George Washington Life Ins. Co.

Mark L. Kincaid, Joe K. Longley, Long & Maxwell, Austin, Tex., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Before REAVLEY, JONES, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

JERRY E. SMITH, Circuit Judge:

Appellees filed suit in state court, seeking adjudication of their pension and fiduciary claims. After that court held that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 1001 et seq., did not preempt the claims raised by the parties, appellants sought to have the state court proceedings enjoined and to have the federal district court issue a declaratory judgment that the claim was covered by ERISA and thus preempted by federal law. The federal district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2283, prohibited it from enjoining a state court's consideration of the matter. The district court also indicated its intention to award attorneys' fees to defendants but reserved a final decision on the issue of fees. Finding no reversible error, we affirm and remand for consideration of attorneys' fees.

I.

The Texas Retailers Association (TRA) is a group of retailers who band together to perform certain functions, such as bill collecting, lobbying, and providing insurance for members through its Group Trust (the TRA Trust). By 1985 the TRA Trust faced insolvency and invited several companies, including plaintiff George Washington Life Insurance Co. (George Washington), to submit proposals for improving its financial condition.

George Washington proposed to provide insurance that would liquidate the TRA Trust's accrued liabilities and stabilize the program. TRA and the TRA Trust construed this as a binding agreement; George Washington thought it only a proposal. Pursuant to an earlier deal with plaintiff Total Plan Services, Inc. (Total Plan), George Washington began to contact individual TRA members, offering them direct insurance for lower premiums. This induced many TRA members to withdraw from the Trust.

TRA and the TRA Trust filed suit in state court, alleging breach of contract and equitable estoppel, unfair insurance practices, deceptive trade practices, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, tortious interference with contractual relations, and gross negligence. George Washington, Total Plan, and plaintiff Carroll Stewart filed motions for summary judgment, alleging that the TRA Trust and its fiduciaries were governed by provisions of ERISA and that the suit thus could be brought only in federal court. The state court denied the motion. Three weeks later, the same parties filed suit in federal district court, again alleging that under ERISA the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over this matter. Characterizing the declaratory judgment suit as "a patent attempt" to skirt the state court proceeding, the district court dismissed the...

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