Herinckx v. Sanelle

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Trusts and Estates
  • Date Filed: 10-26-2016
  • Case #: A159249
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Shorr, J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; & Egan, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Egelhoff v. Egelhoff, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) preempts any State law that impermissibly connects with ERISA by way of (1) governing a central matter of plan administration, or (2) interfering with nationally uniform plan administration.

The Herinckxs (Plaintiffs) appealed from a judgment dismissing their claim against Standard Insurance Company (“Standard”). Plaintiffs filed an action against Standard to establish a constructive trust over the proceeds of decedent’s insurance policy pursuant to ORS 112.515, which prohibits a life insurance beneficiary from collecting on a decedent’s policy if the potential beneficiary is a slayer of the decedent. The trial court dismissed the complaint based on the determination that ORS 112.515 is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), but did not address Plaintiffs’ request for leave to amend their complaint to assert an ERISA claim based on federal common law, should the motion to dismiss be granted. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued the trial court erred in finding that ORS 112.515 was preempted by ERISA.  By its terms, ERISA preempts State laws that (1) govern a central matter of plan administration, or (2) interfere with nationally uniform plan administration.  See Egelhoff v. Egelhoff, 532 US 141 (2001).  Because ORS 112.515 (1) governs the payment of benefits from an ERISA plan by altering the plan’s beneficiary, and, if applied, (2) would interfere with a plan administrator’s ability to make payments via identification of listed beneficiaries, the Court found it was impermissibly connected to, and thereby preempted by, ERISA.  However, the Court also found the trial court abused its discretion in dismissing the complaint without addressing Plaintiffs’ request for leave to amend. Judgment of dismissal reversed and remanded for filing of amended complaint. 

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