Price v. Bd. of Trs. of IN Laborers’ Pension Fund

The Fund, a multi-employer pension plan under ERISA, has a Plan, providing for administration by a Board with authority to make benefit determinations and amend the Plan, including retroactively. No amendment may result in reduced benefits for any participant whose rights have vested, except in specified circumstances. Price began receiving Plan disability benefits under the “Total and Permanent Disability Benefit” category in 1990, after work-related injuries left him unable to work. In 2001, the Fund notified Price that he no longer qualified for benefits under this category, but that he could continue receiving benefits under provisions for “Occupational Disability Benefit.” His benefits were discontinued after 2006, according to an Amendment. Price became eligible for early retirement in 2012. The Board rejected an appeal. The district court granted Price judgment in his suit under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B). On remand from the Sixth Circuit, for review determination of vesting under the arbitrary and capricious standard, the judge again ruled in favor of Price. The Sixth Circuit again reversed; the court failed to look to the terms of the plan but instead found that because the Board’s decision letter did not discuss whether the benefits vested, the Board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious.

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