Supreme Court Stays Relief in Dignity Health Plan Case

An appellate court agreed with a district court that Dignity Health’s pension plan was not a “church plan” under ERISA, and ordered it to get into compliance with ERISA.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has granted a stay of a court’s mandate that Dignity Health get its pension plan in compliance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) until a decision is made on the health care provider’s petition for writ of certiorari of its lawsuit.

In July 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a motion for partial summary judgment against Dignity Health, finding its pension plan was not a “church plan” as defined under ERISA. The court took a step toward granting plaintiff Starla Rollins’ ultimate appeal for declaratory and injunctive relief directing Dignity Health to bring its pension plan into compliance with ERISA—including its reporting, vesting and funding requirements. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court’s findings.

Dignity Health then petitioned the Supreme Court to weigh in on the case. According to the high court’s docket on the case, should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the issuance of the judgment of this Supreme Court.

Advocate Health Care and St. Peter’s Healthcare System have also filed petitions for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court for their cases.