Obsolete mortality rates trigger ERISA case

| Oct 21, 2020 | Erisa & Employee Benefits |

Conglomerate Huntington Ingalls Industries must defend claims of underpaying former workers for their retirement benefits. A U.S. district court judge in a Sept. 29 ruling denied the firm’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the case. The matter potentially affects steelworkers and others working for Hunter Ingalls Industries’ subsidiary companies in Delaware and other states.

Decades-old data used to pay retiree benefits

The crux of the ERISA case involves use of mortality data from 1971 to pay benefits nearly 50 years later. A worker who participates in the company’s defined benefit plan accuses Hunter Ingalls Industries and its fiduciary administrators of underpaying retiree benefits based on the outdated mortality data used.

The complaint only regards workers participating in the legacy plan, which provides pension benefits for workers who began their employment prior to June 7, 2004. The plaintiff says that plan participants received and continue to receive less than they should because the outdated data does not correlate to current conditions in the United States. The plaintiff says the use of outdated actuarial tables causes plan participants to receive “monthly payments that are materially lower than if defendants used reasonable, current actuarial assumptions.”

Magistrate review spurred ruling

A federal magistrate judge reviewed the matter in August and recommended that the district court judge deny the defendant’s request for summary judgment in its favor and dismissal of all claims against it. The district court judge agreed that the case has enough merit to proceed and denied the motion to dismiss. The ruling means the matter will proceed to trial in the federal court. The ruling could have a significant impact on how retirement plans determine valid payouts.

ERISA cases can be very tricky

Employee retirement benefits are very important to help ensure a reasonably good quality of life during senior years. When workers wind up getting less than they earned, a federal case might be in order. A Delaware attorney experienced in ERISA cases against corporations and other big employers may help assess the merits of your case and present your side if the matter winds up in court.