969 F.2d 142 (5th Cir. 1992), 92-4154, Hogan v. Kraft Foods

Docket Nº:92-4154
Citation:969 F.2d 142
Party Name:Jasper HOGAN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. KRAFT FOODS, et al., Defendants, Southwestern Life Insurance Co., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:August 21, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 142

969 F.2d 142 (5th Cir. 1992)

Jasper HOGAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

KRAFT FOODS, et al., Defendants,

Southwestern Life Insurance Co., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 92-4154

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 21, 1992

Page 143

Ronald W. Uselton, Uselton & Fry, Sherman, Tex., for plaintiff-appellant.

Clyde Moody Siebman, Siebman & Reynolds, Plano, Tex., for defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court For the Eastern District of Texas.

Before POLITZ, Chief Judge, KING and DEMOSS, Circuit Judges.

POLITZ, Chief Judge:

Jasper and Barbara Hogan appeal an adverse summary judgment rejecting their state law claims as preempted by ERISA and declaring their ERISA claims time-barred. For the following reasons we affirm.

Background

Jasper Hogan was employed at Anderson Clayton Foods, Inc. from March 1948 to January 1984. On November 1, 1983 the trustees of Anderson's Hourly Paid Employee Pension Plan purchased five annuity insurance policies from the appellee, Southwestern Life Insurance Company, to fund Hogan's accrued retirement benefits.

In both February and March of 1985 Hogan requested that Southwestern allow him to cash in or receive a lump sum payment

Page 144

on the five annuity insurance policies. In March of 1985 Southwestern denied those requests. Hogan then wrote letters to the State Board of Insurance and the Plan Administrator complaining of Southwestern's denial and of the fact that several co-employees had been allowed to cash in or receive a lump sum payment on their annuity policies.

Hogan and his wife sued Southwestern claiming that Hogan was entitled to cash in or receive a lump sum payment on the policies. Specifically, they alleged violations of 29 U.S.C. § 1001-1461 (ERISA), contending that Southwestern had denied their rights under the terms of the plan and had breached its fiduciary duties. In addition, they asserted various pendent state claims including breach of contract, violation of Tex.Ins.Code art. 21.21, violations of Tex.Bus. & Com.Code ann. § 17.50 ("DTPA"), breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Southwestern moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the entire cause with prejudice, holding that the ERISA claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that the state law claims were preempted by ERISA. The Hogans timely appealed.

Analysis

We review a summary judgment under the same rules that prevail in the district court, that is, "whether the pleadings, discovery, and affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, such that a moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." 1 In making this assessment we examine the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. 2

The Hogans insist that their state law claims affect the Pension Plan in only a tenuous or remote manner and are not preempted by ERISA. Further, they claim that the district court erred in determining that their ERISA claims were barred by limitations.

"ERISA applies to any 'employee benefit plan' if that plan is established or maintained by any employer or employee organization engaged in interstate commerce." 3 According to section 514(a), the rights, regulations and remedies created by ERISA "supersede any and all state laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan." 4 The Supreme Court has adopted a broad construction of section 514(a), holding that "ERISA's civil enforcement remedies were intended to be exclusive" in order to prevent the remedies available to ERISA beneficiaries from being "supplemented or supplanted by varying state laws." 5

Accordingly, "a state law 'relates to' a benefit plan, 'in the normal sense of the phrase, if it has a connection with or reference to such a plan.' " 6 The Hogans' state law claims for breach of contract, violations of Tex.Ins.Code art. 21.21...

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