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AETNA HEALTH INC., fka AETNA U. S. HEALTHCARE INC. et al. v. DAVILA, 542 U.S. 200

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AETNA HEALTH INC., fka AETNA U. S. HEALTHCARE INC. et al. v. DAVILA

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

No. 02-1845. Argued March 23, 2004--Decided June 21, 2004*

Respondents brought separate Texas state-court suits, alleging that petitioners, their health maintenance organizations (HMOs), had refused to cover certain medical services in violation of an HMO's duty "to exercise ordinary care" under the Texas Health Care Liability Act (THCLA), and that those refusals "proximately caused" respondents' injuries. Petitioners removed the cases to federal courts, claiming that the actions fit within the scope of, and were thus completely pre-empted by, §502 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The District Courts agreed, declined to remand the cases to state court, and dismissed the complaints with prejudice after respondents refused to amend them to bring explicit ERISA claims. Consolidating these and other cases, the Fifth Circuit reversed. It found that respondents' claims did not fall under ERISA §502(a)(2), which allows suit against a plan fiduciary for breaches of fiduciary duty to the plan, because petitioners were being sued for mixed eligibility and treatment decisions that were not fiduciary in nature, see Pegram v. Herdrich, 530 U. S. 211; and did not fall within the scope of §502(a)(1)(B), which provides a cause of action for the recovery of wrongfully denied benefits, because THCLA did not duplicate that cause of action, see Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. v. Moran, 536 U. S. 355.

Held: Respondents' state causes of action fall within ERISA §502(a)(1)(B), and are therefore completely pre-empted by ERISA §502 and removable to federal court. Pp. 4-20.


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