Supreme Court Seeks Input About ERISA Lawsuit Venue

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in on whether a retirement plan may dictate the venue in which participant lawsuits are filed.

The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the U.S. Solicitor General to weigh in on whether the top federal court should agree to hear a case regarding whether a clause in a retirement plan document restricting the venue of lawsuits filed against the plan is enforceable.

According to the high court’s docket sheet on the case, it has asked the U.S. Solicitor General to submit the government’s opinion about whether a plan participant’s choice of venue for filing a lawsuit under the venue provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) can be rejected based on a restriction of venue provided for inside the plan documents.                     

Last November, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the venue selection clause in Aegon Companies Pension Plan is not in conflict with ERISA. The appellate court refused to give deference to a brief filed in the case by the Department of Labor (DOL), saying the agency’s interpretation was not made with the force of law. The 6th Circuit noted that the DOL’s interpretation has been expressed only once previously, in one other amicus brief filed in a circuit court, and the agency has not issued any additional guidance or regulation about ERISA’s venue selection provisions.

A district court had dismissed the case because it was not filed in the federal district court dictated by the plan document. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal.