Two Recent Cases Put ERISA In The Spotlight

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Without much fanfare, the United States Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit each recently rendered a significant decision under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). The Supreme Court's decision in Black & Decker Disability Plan v. Nord [i] addressed the scope of a disability benefit plan administrator's authority. The Second Circuit's decision in Gerosa v. Savasta & Co. [ii] focused on the scope of damages available under ERISA. Kenneth Nord, a participant in the Black & Decker disability plan submitted a claim for disability benefits, which the plan administrator denied. Nord submitted supporting documentation from his treating physician stating that he suffered from a degenerative back disease that made him unable to work. Black & Decker referred Nord to its own physician who concluded that, with pain medication, Nord could perform sedentary work. The administrator recommended that Nord's claim be denied and Black & Decker's accepted the recommendation.

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