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Penalty Charged Under ERISA, Failure to Provide Summary Plan Description

In Latimer v. Washington Gas Light Company, No. 1:11 cv 571 (GBL/TRJ)(E.D. Va. June 6, 2012), the Court imposed a total penalty in the amount of $37,510 or $110 per day for 341 days against the plan administrator for violating Section 104(b) of ERISA.  To be awarded the statutory penalty allowed by Section 502(c)(1) of ERISA, a plaintiff need only show that the plan administrator did not comply with the statute.  Further, under section 502(c)(1), each failure or refusal to comply with a request for any information is to be treated as a separate violation.  The amount of the penalty to be imposed, if any, is left to the discretion of the court.  The court will typically consider the following factors:  prejudice to the plaintiff and the nature of the plan administrator’s conduct in responding to the participant’s request.  Frustration, trouble, and expense, including the trouble and expense of engaging an attorney to induce the defendant’s compliance, are treated as prejudice to the plaintiff for this purpose.