Third Circuit Issues Opinion On Arbitrability Of Direct And Assigned, Or Derivative, Claims


The Third Circuit recently vacated a lower court’s decision granting a motion to compel arbitration of (1) direct claims by certain cardiac services health providers against CIGNA and (2) claims by those providers on behalf of employee benefit plan participants who were initially denied coverage of the cardiac services by CIGNA but subsequently provided such services by the providers in exchange for assignment of their rights and claims under ERISA against CIGNA to the providers. After observing that the plain language of an arbitration agreement controls and that the presumption of arbitrability applies only where an arbitration provision is ambiguous, the Court of Appeals first held that the alleged facts underlying the direct claims unambiguously did not concern “the performance or interpretation” of the administrative agreement between CIGNA and the providers, as required by the arbitration clause, because the claims involved a CIGNA policy update document distinct from, and sent years after, the administrative agreement. As for the derivative claims, which related to CIGNA’s decision to deny coverage of the cardiac services to the participants, the court concluded that such coverage decision was subject to the terms or conditions of the applicable benefit plan and governed by ERISA, not the administrative agreement. The participants’ rights to pursue their ERISA claims in court could not be diluted through compelled arbitration just because the providers, as assignees, had promised to arbitrate certain of the direct claims they might bring against CIGNA. CardioNet, Inc. v. CIGNA Health Corp., No. 13-2496 (3d Cir. May 6, 2014).


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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