Court Dismisses Suit of Children Not Named as Beneficiaries

September 21, 2005 ( - A district court judge has found that a deceased participant's children lack standing to sue the participant's retirement plan for denying them benefits.

BNA reports that US District Judge John Koeltl of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York said that the children did not qualify as beneficiaries since, under ERISA, a person must be designated as a beneficiary by the plan participant.

The children claim that Sallie Ann Park, after being diagnosed with cancer and taking medical leave, attempted to contact the plan to designate them as beneficiaries.   The plan stated that, if a participant died prior to retirement and was married, the spouse was entitled to benefits in the form of a qualified pre-retirement survivor annuity.   Park died prior to retiring, but court documents say her death certificate listed her as a widow, according to BNA.

When the attorney representing Park’s children sent a letter to the plan saying Park’s husband, Uon Suk Park had waived his rights to benefits, the plan responded by saying that, because Park had not applied for her pension benefits prior to her death, her spouse was entitled to those benefits once he made an application for such benefits, the court said, according to BNA.

Uon Suk Park did not apply for benefits but instead joined the children in their suit claiming that the plan violated ERISA by not paying them benefits.  

The case is Park v. Trustees of the 1199 SEIU Health Care Employees Pension Fund, S.D.N.Y., No. 04 Civ. 5228 (JGK), 9/15/05.